Staff Writer

“Art is something that makes you breathe a different kind of happiness.” – Conrad Dempsey, CEO: FirstRand Namibia.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has not discriminated and still does not do so: The lives and livelihoods of all and sundry have been affected and altered.

There is consensus, though, that the creative industry bore the brunt of the impact of regulations imposed to curb the further spread of the virus.

Acknowledging this and in accordance with its responsibility to support and plough back into the local economy, FirstRand Namibia took the intentional decision to support the country’s creative industry.

Conrad Dempsey, CEO of the FirstRand Namibia Group, explains that this step emanates from the value that the creative economy adds to the lives of the Namibian people.

At the unveiling of an art piece, Mother, by Namibian artist Kapena Joe, Dempsey this week remarked: “Why would we have art here? This isn’t an art gallery. Well, it’s inspirational and it helps creativity. It makes us breathe a little bit.”

He says this approach to provide support to the creative economy is an extension of the bank’s existing and continued support to the industry as a whole.

The FirstRand Namibia Foundation has been instrumental in supporting platforms such as RMB Song Night as well as to assist the local orchestra and the National Art Gallery of Namibia, he says. “We decided let’s take it a step further and buy a local piece or two of art per year. This will not only support those artists, but also create a stage for them. This is the first step on a long journey that we hope to walk with Namibian artists.”

The art piece will be displayed in FNB Head Office where staff members and clients can see and draw inspiration from it, Dempsey added.

Joe, who also attended the unveiling ceremony at the FNB headquarters on Thursday, relayed what trials and tribulations he has had to withstand to chase and pursue his dream of becoming a visual artist.

This former rugby player and son of Opuwo in the Kunene region admits that “going into the arts was not easy”.

What was particularly challenging was explaining to his family that he was giving up a potentially lucrative rugby career in neighbouring South Africa, he says.

Also, he says, one has to deal with naysayers all the time. “They say you cannot make a career out of this. But narratives shouldn’t be normative.”

Joe is a man with a mission. His plan is to change that narrative. “I want a child to look their parents in the eyes and say: ‘Dad, there is a future in visual arts.’”

Reflecting on Mother, he says there is no life without a mother. “And FNB is the best place for it, because of how the bank empowers humanity.” Support from them and others is crucial, he says. “Sometimes all you need is that one person to tell you to go for that thing that you are afraid to go after.”