Poetry – a side dish

• By Rosalia David

WITH more people turning to poetry to express themselves, different local poets have come out to say that poetry in Namibia is not sustainable as it is treated like an accessory to other art forms.

Speaking to Confidente, multidisciplinary creative consultant, art director, writer and performer Ashwyn Mberi described local poetry as an unsustainable form of art compared to other industries such as music.

“It is difficult for me to call poetry an industry as it mostly finds itself as an accessory to other creative events,” he said.

Although poetry is quite popular in other countries, Mberi said Namibia has a long way to go before poetry could be regarded as a business that can compete on an international level.

He however added that he would make a few coins from the poetry shows that he initiated in the past at the Warehouse Theatre.

“Ever since I started poetry, it opened my eyes a couple of years ago and there was a bit of popularity but when it comes to making a living from it, it is very difficult as it is not often that poets are hired to do poetry and people hardly go out for poetry’s sake only when there were shows in the past,” he said.

On what could be done to improve the state of the poetry industry in Namibia, he further urged poets to apply for different festivals currently happening.

He stated that there are currently different online opportunities on the internet for poets to make money.

Mberi said local poetry could get better if it gets the necessary support it deserves.

“It could really get more support considering that people love poetry … it helps explain emotions that one doesn’t have words for and can fit into any atmosphere and enhance that particular atmosphere, it has the potential to heal many as it is considered as therapy.

“I mean, it has made sure that other art forms are appreciated through being an accessory or a filler over the years. If poetry grows, everything else will grow, recognition of poets means there is recognition of better writing.”

Mberi went on to say that, just as musicians are appreciated so should poets be valued too.

“Musicians are poets, writing poems and turning them into music. What if we make sure that those who are really writing poetry for a living, it will allow it to finally be considered as an industry because right now it is just a couple of individuals who have been fortunate enough to establish themselves and get booked here and there but not as often as other artists,” he said.

Stylist and poet Silvanus Ndiweda, also known as Kati Cottoneater shared the same sentiments saying that doing poetry in Namibia is a waste of time.

“No matter how much one can love poetry, it is discouraging to focus on it in Namibia as it has no money and if one is asked to perform, you are paid peanuts,” he stressed.

He however further urged his fellow industry peers to not give up doing what they love as he believes that the industry has the potential to grow in future.

Confident about his art, Ndiweda said there are a few poetry lovers who support his art and therefore believes that in order for it to fully penetrate into the entertainment industry more exposure should be given to those who have been consistent.

Aina Nghipuilepo who has also been doing poetry for close to two years said what helped form her art is the international audience.

“I was studying abroad and people in other countries really appreciate art compared to here and during my time outside, I would make a few coins through performing at different events. I can’t say the same for here though, it is an invisible industry,” she said.

Meanwhile writer and poet Anne Hambuda had a different opinion saying that she has strategies on how to make a profit from her art.

“Well, being a poet is a very broad skill I think. There are many ways to profit off of it. Poetry is something I use a lot and in so much of my writing and presenting. For me it is sustainable because I make a living off of writing,” she said.