N$600m lost in the arts sector

Andrew Kathindi

The chairman of the National Arts Council of Namibia (NACN), Patrick Sam says around N$600 million in potential revenue has been lost in the Namibian arts and entertainment sector due to the COVID-19.

He attributes this to a number of shows, events, arts sector based public gatherings that have been cancelled or postponed as well as advertising firms’ projects called off due to the lockdown.

“We currently have 143 individual members and 22 organizations registered. There are no statistics available to gather the data of the wide-reaching impact of the pandemic because the sector has not been prioritized on a national development level to provide those figures but the impact can be felt and seen,” he said.

Sam said conversations have been ongoing with relevant government bodies to bring in measures of protecting incomes for players in the sector during the lockdown.

“There’s nobody to buy products, albums, go to shows, and galleries. In this situation, the solution is to have a stimulus package to help artists carry the burden. Some examples of keeping the sector moving during this period is commissioning new work during this time that will be ready when the lockdown lifts. As you know, there is a lot of pre-production that goes into art.”

He also said the council is planning to reduce the fragmentation of artists in the industry and to monetize online sale of art and creative outputs.

“Currently the NACN offers Arts Grants to Namibian individuals, groups or Namibian-based art organizations, for both contemporary and traditional art forms that are usually given in October each year.

“In 2018 N$1.1 million was paid out to the sector in disciplines such as dance, music, photography and others. There are now discussions to bring up that grant several months ahead as artists need it more now but artists need to register with the NACN as that is how they will be able to benefit,” Sam said.

Namibia Film Commission (NFC) board member Marinda Stein echoed the same sentiments. She stated that NFC registered filmmakers who have their businesses listed as taxpayers and Social Security Commission (SSC) members will benefit from the stimulus package which was proposed by the SSC earlier this week.

“Those are not registered will fall through the cracks. The arts industry is a huge industry and it is one of the biggest contributors to the GDP and it should be recognized as an industry hard hit by the pandemic. We did a survey and 94 percent of our industry’s practitioners indicated that they have been negatively impacted by the pandemic,” said Stein.

Meanwhile the Namibian Society of Composer and Authors of Music (NASCAM) CEO John Max told Windhoek Observer that although N$3.4 million was collected last year, of which N$1.2m was royalties paid to its 500 local artists, N$400 000 to international artists and the remaining N$1.8m used for admin, the society could cease to exist within the next two months if the situation does not improve due to non-income coming in.

“We do not get support from government. Everything we make depends on the operation of the shebeens, restaurants and bars, who pay annual fees for the music they play so this period has hit us hard. The government should think of bailing us out, the same way South Africa has availed N$50m for its entertainment industry,” said Max. He also appealed to radio stations and television stations to stick to the mandate of playing 80 percent and 70 percent of local content respectively.

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