By Gift Munyanya
THE Tulipamwe International Artists’ Workshop is a non-profit making empowerment project coordinated as a community outreach project, under the auspices of the National Art Gallery of Namibia. The first Tulipamwe International Artists’ Workshop was initiated by the Visual Arts Department of the University of Namibia in 1994, when 10 international artists were invited to work alongside 15 local artists for a two-week period. Since then, at least 13 similar international and a number of regional workshops have been held in Namibia. Confidente had a one-on-one with Ndeenda Shivute, the curator of this year’s Tulipamwe International Artists’ Workshop which was held at Etupa to find out more.
Confidente: I understand this was your first time coordinating the Tulipamwe International Artists workshop; did it meet your expectations?
NS: I was very excited at the thought of coordinating the workshop; I was enthusiastic to take on the challenge of organising an international artists’ workshop. As I started to work on the project I would not say I was scared but I realised just how big a task organising the workshop was. Having been a participant in the last workshop I feel that I had a little insight on what the participants would need and the kind of support they would want from us.
Confidente: What challenges did you face coordinating this workshop and how did you deal with these challenges?
NS: There were so many challenges some greater than others, in hindsight, one of the challenges that is not as bad was getting stuck in the mud.
The workshop took place at Etupe, a farm that is 25 km north of Otavi nestled at the base of the Otavi mountain range. It had been dry all throughout the end of last year when I first visited the location and at the beginning of this year the situation hadn’t changed and the roads in the farm were still good but unfortunately the weekend we were scheduled to travel to Etupe was the same weekend Cyclone Dineo was predicted to make a fall.
As you can imagine I was a bit nervous with all the warning going around on social media. Nevertheless we kept to schedule and met at the gallery at the crack of dawn, we travelled until Otavi with no struggles. It had been raining the night before, when we got to the farm the roads were one big muddy puddle after the other. We got stuck! But we made it, we pushed, we pulled, we fell in the mud but in the end we made it up to the top of the mountain where we set up camp. Getting stuck on the way to the farm – this was stressful but luckily we got to the farm eventually.
The greatest challenge I would say that I faced was time. Unlike previous years where the workshop was planned over a period of five or so months the working group had little over two months to plan the workshop. I could list many more but the there were more pleasant moments than not. The entire experience was a positive in the end.
Confidente: What are some of the successes of Tulipamwe 2017?
NS: The 2017 participants were an amazing group that did not complain or fuss too much; they were just focused on their work-and were very helpful- comradely. There was a real spirit of ‘Tulipamweness’. Being in a space for two weeks with the same people you start to rub off on each other, and that is exactly what happened. The artists shared and merged ideas and created amazing artworks. The exhibition says it all, the art produced is always a great success and all I can say is: people should come and view the show and see the results for themselves.
Confidente: What have you learnt from this experience, on a personal level working with people from many kinds of nations, traditions and backgrounds? And also
as a young professional in an industry not so well advocated for?
NS: It was a real learning experience. Working with people from different backgrounds was something that was not new to me as the industry is filled with people from various backgrounds and traditions. All the working group and I did was to be prepared for the various needs of the participants in advance, but of course issues always arise but what I found works best for me is to approach every situation with a calm and open mind. This makes it easier to deal with situations as they arise. I also had to remind myself that when people criticised the workshop or the organisation they were not criticising me as an individual and that I should not get offended rather I should take it and try and use it to better the workshop. Tulipamwe is a massive project and one needs all the resources and help you can get.
As for an industry that is not well advocated for, I feel like we can join the line of other people in other nations that feel sorry for themselves and say no one is advocating for the arts or we stand up and start making noise and make sure people notice us. This takes a lot of time and dedication but I am willing to make the noise and let people notice. Worldwide there are people who will tell you that arts is not respected or seen with the same importance it holds.
Confidente: Tulipamwe started 23 years ago, but the number of participants hasn’t increased in that period, is this standard practice for Tulipamwe?
NS: I think that at this moment in time I cannot see the number of participants increasing; 25 creatives in one space for two weeks is already quite a task to manage, if we are to add artists we will not have the attention needed for each person.
Adding on, we would need a bigger organising team, a bigger work space and a massive budget. I think it would be best if we perhaps look into adding a number of workshops that branch off from the main workshop. Using the skills of the internationals to give workshops or presentations at schools, colleges and universities to students in the arts or who are interested in venturing into the arts, to have discussions and start a discourse about Namibian art in the wider international arena.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015