Arts and craft is a huge foreign exchange earner for Namibia. Reports say the once bubbly Mbangura Woodcarvers Craft Market in Okahandja in central Namibia is now a shadow of its old self.
According to xinhuanet.com, most stalls have remain closed, with only a few woodcarvers lending on the hope of purchase by locals to generate an income.
“But local buyers are hard to come by,” said Jo Ngoma, a representative at Mbangura Woodcarvers Cooperative, on Tuesday.
The art and craft trade in Namibia, highly dependent on international visitors, has been driven to a slump. Due to travel restrictions, the international visitors, who are their main clients, no longer travel to Namibia.
Namibia has been a popular destination for international visitors. The 2018 Tourist Statistical Report published by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism showed that the country received over 1.5 million tourists in 2018, an increase from 1.49 million visitors recorded in 2017.
The art and craft traders are thwarted this year. “No international visitors means no trade,” said Mathew Sikongo, a woodcarver.
They have not generated ample income in about five months. “From making on an average of 1,000 Namibian dollars (about 60 U.S. dollars) on a good day,” Sikongo said, adding that they are struggling to make ends meet nowadays.
Woodcarvers in Okahandja are not the only ones affected.
Maria Munjuku, who hails from Opuwo in the northwest Kunene region has been selling handmade crafts such as bands, wooden carvings, bracelets and necklaces among others in the central business district area in the Namibian capital, Windhoek.
“This COVID-19 has negatively impacted our ventures,” Munjuku said.
According to her, income has dwindled drastically. Before, on a good day, she could make 600 to 1000 Namibian dollars.
“But now in a week, I make less than 500 Namibian dollars or nothing at all in a day. I have never experienced this before,” Munjuku added.
This has impacted their livelihoods, as they are struggling to pay rent, school fees and cover basic needs.
“It is pushing us back to the villages where we came to the urban areas to eke out a living,” she added.
Meanwhile, Patrick Sam, chairperson of the National Arts Council, said that COVID-19 outbreak has adversely affected the arts industry.
According to Sam, although the government has relaxed the restrictions, it may take time for the artists to yield substantial income streams.
“This would require artists and creative sector to do things differently,” Sam said.
In the interim, Munjuku said she has turned to social media to market her products.
“I will continue to see if I can devise new ways of trading,” she added.
A report by the African Union noted that COVID-19 will have a high impact on Africa’s tourism industry.
Namibia is one of the most fascinating and diverse countries in the world and a number 1 travel destination. Namibia is world famous for the highest dunes in the world at Sossusvlei and for the Etosha National Park, one of world’s greatest conservation areas.