Visual artists struggle in Covid times

• By Rosalia David

MAKING a living as an artist in Namibia is almost impossible and for visual artists, 2021 has been a year of hardship to get their artwork off the shelves.

In an interview with Confidente this week, visual artist Ellen Emvula described how difficult it was to sell her paintings last year.

“The unprecedented times truly had a negative financial impact on the art industry. People were and are still scared to spend on art because no one knows when this pandemic will end. Spending money on art seems like a waste of money to many,” she said.

Emvula further said that she was fortunate enough to have made approximately N$5 000 to N$6 000 in a month and could cover all her expenses.

“These are clients who have built a relationship already with me that were supporting me but the clientele base keeps growing on a slow phase, however sometimes one can sit with a painting for many years without it being sold,” she said.

Visual artist and owner of Gweri Vintage clothing line Zulu Boy, real name Pinehas Shikulo, also supported Emvula’s sentiment saying that their work has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

He said the pandemic comes at a time when the industry of arts was already stumbling.

“When Covid-19 started events were put on hold such as exhibitions, so which means that we could not show our art to the masses but rather keep them in our homes for better days. There was apparently a grant that was supposed to be given to artists but until now we don’t know if there are some who managed to get funds or not, we still don’t know,” he further stated.

Hoping that the situation changes, Shikulo said he has started finding other ways of making money from his art.

“Some have started doing a few projects on their own just to make money to survive while I have also seen some artists now looking for fulltime jobs and rather do art part-time. We are always talking with colleagues and these are some of the things they are resorting to.”

He however mentioned that there is a need for measures to be put in place for the industry to recover.

Ndahafa Andili who has been a visual artist since 2019 said she is now discouraged to take her art to the next level as not much profit is generated through the work.

“With the way things are going, I would rather get a job and only draw when I am not busy because this industry will make you depressed, yet it has so much potential for employment creation as many young people are into art. Imagine how many people are into paintings and actually dedicate so much time to perfect the art and then it doesn’t get sold,” she said.

Meanwhile, Samuel Garoeb believes that there is still hope for the industry to grow.

“We can actually make a living out of it if people start to appreciate and value our work,” he added.