Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

11 January 2013

Namibia: New Kid On the Art Block

23-year old Silvanus Mushimba, a Vocational Training Centre student who, after many setbacks, still manages to continue making a name for himself in local arts circles.

As a young boy living in the Oshikoto Region, Mushimba made wire cars for himself and his mates. And after completing his secondary schooling, he moved to Windhoek and this is where he started his career.

"I wanted to do something worthwhile in my spare time and I started off with painting, but that was time consuming and as an upcoming artist, it really is difficult to make a living from it."

He said that his kind of work does not need selling on the streets but is more suitable for exhibitions as his products are special pieces which focus on the specific needs of an individual. Mushimba said it takes up to four days to complete a bench, depending on its size.

Mushimba said the benches are one his most popular items. "What makes my products so different is that you are not only contributing to a greener Namibia, but having a piece that no one else has.

He said that his idea is to combine décor with renovations, "because by recycling I am actually renovating a piece so that it can be used for office or home decorations."

Mushimba currently operates from home and depends on used material ranging from old oil drums to wood material which he obtains from CTM at an affordable price.

He said his hobby got a big push when he took part in the National Youth Week Expo, in April last year. "That was my first serious exhibition and it won me a whooping N$10,000 but was withdrawn because my company wasn't registered at that time." He was also set to take part in the International Craft Exhibition in Italy earlier in 2012 but due to the fact that his company is not registered, he could not make it either.

Now fully registered and trading as Naqushe Home Décor, Mushimba said that the setbacks have not prevented him from doing what he loves best, transforming waste material into beautiful designs.

Besides that, Mushimba also sells traditional baskets which he buys from the women in his home village, and said that there is a high demand for hand made goods.

He pointed out that SME, marketing is difficult and relies on word of mouth as well as existing clients to promote his work. "People that buy my products are mostly the ones that know me and this is how I have marketed myself as I am still small, and do not employ or have my own workshop yet."

The young man emphasized the importance of arts,"our artwork defines and distinguishes us from the other countries." He said that breaking through to the market is a tough task as firstly his business is a little different from that of many other enterprises and locals do not really support local-made products. "Places such as hotels and restaurants that can enhance craft work opt to buy their collections from outside the country rather than from the locals. Even their décor is done by people not Namibian."

"Local crafts must be supported, because our pieces differ from that of someone else in another country and it is truly Namibian," said Mushimba.

His dream is to open a craft shop for himself and other upcoming artists so that they have an affordable platform from which to market themselves."As an artist, you need to exhibit yourself and most of the popular places are expensive and we cant afford it, and it can even happen that that you do not sell anything. All in all, Mushimba said that 2012 was a favourable year.

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