Government has failed the fine arts industry

28 September 2018
Author   Selma Taapopi
Wire sculptor and visual artist, Engelhald Rooisanasie (39) said that government has failed the fine arts industry in Namibia. 
He said this during a live demonstration of wire sculpturing at the Namibian Heritage Week event that was held from 17 to 23 September at the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN).
Rooisanasie sells his artwork of wire sculptures of different animals, such as elephants, rhinos and birds.  He doesn’t have a fixed sales shop, he markets his products at the side of the road.
One of the challenges facing him is that he does not have a proper space where he can create, sell and showcase his artwork.  The City of Windhoek requires the public to have a permit in order to sell goods in the streets.  “It is not easy for those of us who are making a living from selling our work on the street as we cannot afford those permits. It’s a challenge to get one, you need to apply and its long procedure that costs money, plus there are also transportation costs involved, if you don’t have a permit then you will be chased away like a dog,” the struggling artist said.
Rooisanasie adds that government and the Ministry of Education, Arts and culture have done a poor job of promoting the arts sector as they do not make opportunities available to artists; specifically those in the fine arts industry who he feels have been neglected.
“I know of many of artists who have raised their concerns numerous times to them, but only to have their complaints fall on deaf ears. The government must also look at us,” the discouraged sculptor said.
He further suggested that workshop spaces for sculptors be made available at airports or tourist attractions where tourists can buy their artwork.
The road side sculptor started his craft from the tender age of seven years and has since grown to love and improve his talents.  He recalls a time he attended the Tulipamwe Art Workshop hosted by the NAGN which he says taught him a lot about fine arts.
 “This art makes me happy when I have successfully completed a sculpture. There is nothing in the world that I enjoy doing as much as this,” he said confidently while working hard on his wired piece of art.
When he is not busy sculpting, he cleans yards to make extra money to buy material for his sculpting work. “I have to do this because I don’t make enough money through selling my art works. I don’t want to give up on it; doing art really completes me,” he said.
The struggling visual artist has received a number of invitations from the National Arts Gallery of Namibia (NAGN) to showcase his sculptures but says his educational background and financial constraints hold him back.   He says that he doesn’t understand how to fill out the entry forms for the art exhibitions because he wasn’t taught this in school.  Also, he claimed to not have enough taxi money to attend the events.
Rooisanasie however encouraged youth to also look into arts as a potential career path. He says although the industry has its challenges it’s something that brought him a lot of joy. Speaking about his future plans the visual artist plans on growing his skills in fine arts industry and taking his artwork abroad where he can attract more consumers with his artwork.
Heritage Week is an annual opportunity for Namibians to showcase their and traditional art and crafting techniques and focus attention on the natural beauty and history of Namibia.  The Week encourages all Namibians to celebrate and commit themselves to protect our picturesque cultural resources.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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