Enemies of progress
I remember coming to town one Sunday afternoon. My cousin was going back to the North the following Friday and my mom and I were showing her a little bit of the city. Unfortunalely, from all the boasting she had heard about the Big City, Windhoek did not really live up to my fourteen-year-old cousin’s expectations.
Admittedly, Sunday in Windhoek is perhaps the most quiet day of the week. With Windhoek’s small population and not a lot to do on a day like this, there wasn’t much to show her. There were malls – which they have in the North, and people – which the North also has.
While walking through the quiet passageways of Town Square, the aim was to get to Independence avenue, where I would merely point across the street and say something like, “and that’s the Zoo Park,” … “That over there is our post office”.
However, this exciting tour plan was disrupted by the sound of music coming from a mysterious place. Too beautiful to be overlooked, we had a new mission. To find the source of the music. Now this excited me, because it reminded me of some other countries where you could pass through the subway, and over all the usual murmurings of a railway station, you would hear some of the most beautiful music.
We turned the corner and saw an elderly man emitting a lovely melodious sound through his saxophone. Jazz. If I had the change to give him, I would. Because I feel strongly that the arts, especially in this country, should be encouraged. Anything that adds to the richness of the culture of the country is something beautiful that should not be hindered or stifled.
One can describe Windhoek as a cosmopolitan city, and the city is expanding. With more malls and chill spots available now, it is not as boring as I found it to be when I was younger. But still, more can be done.
In a broad sense, I don’t really detect a hunger to support or explore much when it comes to artistic and cultural endeavours. There are only a handful of people who are trying to build a bigger platform for themselves and others, and with the little support that the arts industry has, only a few manage to make it through the cracks.
However, I was really disappointed when I learned that the City of Windhoek is prohibiting musicians from performing in public areas. According to an article that was published last week, these musical performances are seen as a nuisance to the City Police as they cause noise pollution for passers-by and store owners.
I do understand that music can be disruptive for some businesses and I do think that people need to respect certain boundaries. But I do not understand how someone who is singing or playing an instrument in a public area should be stopped, when throughout the week, streets are filled with noises such as cars and loud conversation. Out of all the things that happen on a daily basis, I highly doubt that a street performer is the most offensive.
I think this is a weird regulation. Should the freedom of expression not be encouraged? Especially when someone is using it to make a living in a productive way. And the fact that people are expected to pay a fee for picking up and playing an instrument on a public space makes no sense to me, when street performing can already be seen as a desperate means of income.
Our population already does not provide the most fertile ground for the creative scene to grow. And I think a lot of these rules and regulations are like weeds; enemies of progress to the freedom of creativity and expression. If we want more of our youth to be excited about staying home and building our country, some of these rigid regulations will have to go.