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Art school seeks to paint a better future for Namibian youth
From:ChinaDaily  |  2022-07-12 08:09

WINDHOEK-At a structure made out of corrugated iron in the Havana informal settlement on the outskirts of Windhoek, capital of Namibia, children are drawing images of idyllic scenes of society that reflect their aspirations.

"This is a poster of a lady. I used an old magazine, a discarded box, which I pasted on paper, and then colored it. I like drawing beautiful ladies; imagining a world where society protects women," 13-year-old Lavinia Tobias says as she interprets her drawing.

Tobias is one of the 40 youngsters hosted at the Frans Nambinga Art Training School there, one of Windhoek's most populated informal settlements. The school, that started in 2018, teaches art techniques amid challenges in informal settlements.

"We offer performing and visual arts classes to people in the community. Not only to nurture talent but to avoid children being pushed into sly activities on the streets," says Frans Nambinga, artist and school founder.

He lends industry experience and qualifications from the College of Arts and John Muafangejo Art Centre in Namibia to impart skills.

The school fuses art education with culture in the form of history, dance and food to transmit traditions across generations, says Letisia Hamukoto, a trainer at the school. The school has since given a chance to feed the dreams of young people, with many keen to make art their mainstay.

Tobias, who started the program at age 6, says it had become her escape.

"I feel safer here rather than being on the street. Art allows me to dream and share my artistic passion with friends and neighbours. I hope to go far with it, even China or America, to showcase my craft and learn from others," Tobias says.

The youngsters also learn social skills there.

"Being here teaches me how to mix and work in a team with others," says 12-year-old Leticia Ndamekele, who has been with the program since 2019.

What is more, extramural activities at the art school have an effect on improved academic performance in mainstream schools, especially in art subjects.

"We received feedback that school-going children develop a different way of thinking and exhibit more confidence in presentation," Nambinga says.

Moreover, it creates employment and study opportunities for the youth.

"The youth maximize skills learned to make a living through music or visual arts. We also provide those who wish to pursue further studies with a certificate and portfolio that would qualify them for admission into art colleges," he adds.

In the interim, the art center has registered an increased demand for arts education in the area, but faces some challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, inadequate space, resources and funds to expand. The school is the main source of income.

"This is my lifeline. However, programs do not always generate substantial income as most locals and parents cannot afford to pay the standard 100 Namibian dollars ($6.72). I do not chase them away. I teach them regardless," Nambinga says.

Some support comes from collaborating with institutions on joint projects. Some institutions partner with the school to execute an idea through an exhibition or performing arts to raise awareness about a social issue, he says.

"Host institutions fund such projects, which brings in an income. But we need more support," he says, adding that he hopes to grow the school and accommodate more children.

"It is not easy being an artist in Namibia due to limited support and commercial prospects. But I am optimistic about the future. We hope to expand through continued strategic collaboration to nurture youngsters, so they succeed," he says.

The art school has trained about 100 young people since its inception.

Nambinga visited China in 2013, when he took part in a six-monthlong program under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. "In China, I learned a lot about the creative art industry, especially after visiting museums, galleries, factories, and observing how they run art programs for children," he adds.