Reimagining the role of arts in society

Iréne-Mari van der Walt
"Why do you have a creative industry and creative artists, but the door is closed to them?"

This was a question posed by Papa Shikongeni, a lecturer at the College of the Arts (Cota), in the lead-up to the ‘New Beginnings’ exhibition that kicks off on Thursday at the National Art Gallery.

The exhibition is hosted annually by Cota alumni.

"Students who graduated in 2008 thought it would be good to have a New Beginnings exhibition. The new beginning helps them see what the impact of what they received at the College of the Arts was. This exhibition is also to bring back the spirit and network of Cota students because, with technology, we are so divided. We think that because I WhatsApp you, we are connected with each other, but we must be careful not to lose the sense of humanity," Shikongeni said.

"The most important thing is how we should approach the marketing of the visual arts and the arts and creative industry, and how they have developed their new techniques," he said.

Shikongeni believes that the application of arts in society should be broadened and that the narrow idea of the medium should change.

"Our buildings are designed by architects – they are artists. Our cellphones and computers – an artist designed them. The fashion designers who design our clothes are artists," he noted.

He believes that when our thinking about art shifts, a cultural shift will follow. "What makes our buildings beautiful? Why don't we start that culture – we have artists, and they have the talent?"

Work together

According to him, the New Beginnings exhibition is not just a gathering of Cota alumni but an opportunity for togetherness.

"It is very exciting, but mainly, it is a good opportunity to see if we are creating artists. When you are in school, there is a more theoretical and intellectual approach to art, so you sometimes fear that they will just become lecturers or curators. It is something one must realise – some of them will become curators, some of them will become artists, and some do it just as a hobby while others truly have a gift," he said.

Shikongeni believes that the various branches of art, including the creation of marketing materials and graphic design, must join hands and work together for the success of the art industry.

"They have graduated, so the next thing for me is sustainability. We need to see how we, as corporate companies, can get involved in this as a unit. How do we develop this industry? It has become an individual growth where we only look at artists, but the artists are the creators. Someone has to look at it, even if they try to force artists to do marketing and be entrepreneurs. You take someone out of their comfort zone just so that they can appear for the market's pleasure, but there are those who truly have a gift for [marketing], but they don't do it," he said.

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Namibian Sun 2024-06-25

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