Namibian Doyenne of Arts and Culture Honoured

namib times 21-07-15

Retha-Louise  Malherbe Hofmeyr, who has been Director of Arts, at the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture for more than 2 decades, and who has been a Walvis Bay inhabitant periodically for years, received a very special award from the French Government in Windhoek the past week.

It was the second time that the French Government awarded Malherbe Hofmeyr in this regard.

“The first was the chevalier/knight dans l’ordre

palme ace’demique.”

This time she received the French Government’s  award ‘officer in the Order of Arts and Letters (officier dans l’ordre des artes et des lettres)’  for the exceptional achievement in the promotion and practise of the arts in Namibia, and for her dedicated service and contribution made to the arts on national and international level.

“It entails a citation and the awarding of the medal by the Ambassador of France at a national function, such as Bastille Day, the French National Day, 14  July.

One also signs receipt of a certificate. This one was signed by the Minister of Culture, while the previous was signed by the Prime Minister of France,” said Malherbe Hofmeyr.

Malherbe Hofmeyr has played an integral part in preserving and developing the arts and culture of Namibia’s people over more than 25 years.

“I was a founder member of staff of the Minis-

try of Education and Culture in 1990 and part of the process to unite 11 second tier authority systems into a single educational depart-


I was appointed as Director of Arts with the mandate to develop arts education and training as well as the arts industry.

That entailed the administration and maintenance of the College of the Arts, the Katutura Community Arts Centre, the Theatre School, the implementation of the National Arts Extension Programme and School- and Community support programmes, the financing and maintenance of the National Theatre of Namibia, the National Art Gallery of Namibia and the National Arts Council.

For Malhebe Hofmeyr there has been many unforgettable career moments…

“The Namibian Independence celebrations in 1990 and 2015 were highlights because of the high level involvement of artists in the celebrations.

The reintegration of Wal-

vis Bay into Namibia was another highlight, with a very emotional performance by the National Youth Choir.

The passing of the Acts for the establishment of the College of the Arts, the National Art Gallery and the National Arts Council; the inaugura-

tion of the Katutura Community Arts Centre; the inauguration of the FNCC (Franco Na-

mibian Cultural Centre) building in the presence

of President Chirac and

the Founding Father; representing Namibia on

international Arts and

Culture Summits and

the negotiations of va-

rious cultural agree-


A recent highlight was the accreditation of the College of the Arts’ Applied Arts Diploma programmes by the NQA.

Other highlights are the achievements of our artists on national and international fronts, es-

pecially the winning of the first prize for best exhibition in the In-

ternational Architecture

Design Showcase

(IADS) at the London Festival during the Olympics in 2012, of the exhibition of the Architecture Faculty of the Polytechnic which was commissioned by our

directorate, and the achievements of Nami-

bian artists, such as our choirs in choral festivals and  Elemotho winning the Radio France International ‘New Disco-

veries’ programme.”

Malherbe Hofmeyr has a vast knowledge of the music – traditional and other – of Namibia….

“I was music producer for the SWABC (SWA Broadcasting Corporation) in the early 80s and I travelled through Namibia to record music for the different language services.

The most memorable and moving experience was in 1983 when Mr Alex Kaputu of the Otjiherero service and I recorded six hours of praise songs in honour of chiefs, cattle, and all who died in the Waterberg, sung by Menesia Puriza who was already in her eighties then.”

The namib times wanted to know what, according to her, should be priorities regarding arts and culture, and the youth, in Namibia.

“Arts should be implemented in all schools because the arts develop cognitive and emotional skills which lead to improved concentration, memory, self-esteem and sense of identity.

The arts also teach people how to express themselves and lay the foundation for opportunity recognition and innovation which can contribute to the posi-

tive mindset we need for the achievement of Vision 2030.

The arts are also essential in the development of industries such as tourism, film, advertising needed to promote Namibia.

The arts can contribute substantially to sustained socio-economic development, job creation and poverty alle-


And what, and who has inspired her most in her bright career as musician and custodian of arts and culture in Namibia?

“My parents were my greatest inspiration and they gave me a strong and well balanced foundation in the arts, with ample multi-cultural exposure. Namibia’s rich cultural diversity has also been an ongoing source of inspiration.

Several Namibian ar-tists have inspired me through their dedication and setting of high standards, too many to mention here.

It is important, how-

ever, to recognise the efforts of educators such as Ena Venter, Ernst and Valerie Van Biljon and others who have generously given so many Namibians the opportunity to participate in national and international events.

I am very inspired by arts developments in the Erongo region, such as the Swakopmunder Musikwoche which draws amateur and professional musicians as well as a large audien-

Choirs from this region have really excelled, such as the Mascato, Namib Youth Choir, Westerners Youth Choir, and the CGals.

The Senior Arts Education Officer in this region, Ms Christiana Matsuis is very active in the community, and Erongo has the biggest representation in the Namibian choral and brass networks.”

On a question, what the award meant to her personally, she said, “I appreciate the recognition from the French Go-

vernment and it has great meaning to me because I am a descendent of the Huguenots who came to Africa in 1688 as religious and political refugees following the revoking of the Edict of Nantes which had granted civil liberties to Protestants.

I have dedicated it to my father, Francois Etienne Malherbe who was an activist for equal opportunities in education.”
And what does she see as the greatest challenge(s) for artists/arts and culture in Nami-bia?

“Recognition of the role of arts by he political authorities will always be a challenge because the contribution of the arts to the  GDP is hidden in other sectors such as  tourism, retail and manufacturing.

The return on investment of public funding needs to be monitored more closely.”



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