ARTS & CULTURE in Zimbabwe _ WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE ??

The year 2018 is gone and we are one month into 2019, the narrative remains the same. The Zimbabwean arts sector just like the country seems perpetually dogged by bickering, struggles and is in a defacto survival mode. Whether we have an industry or not remains debatable.

By Plot Mhako
The recent events at the late Dr. Oliver Mtukudzi send-off concert are just a glimpse into the bigger crisis in our midst.

A music industry at war with itself, a sector under siege from bosses and cabals. Politics that threaten to douse any voices of dissent. Elders that are bitter and quick to spite the young ones.

How do we move forward and build a viable, professionally run and paying industry? Should we continue like this and for how long can we go on?

I think we can not continue to play the same tune and hope to get different results. Maybe lets pause, reflect and reconfigure ourselves. Maybe we need a plan, defining our short to longterm national artistic/cultural vision now that we have new brooms in the higher office, a new Director of the National Arts Council Mr. Nicholas Moyo and also the new Minister of Youth, Arts and Sports Honorable Kirsty Coventry developments that received a great welcome. Will they make an impact? Time will tell!

There is an urgent need for a new collective vision for the arts and culture that helps build an industry whilst fostering social cohesion, peace, unity, development, and promotion of our cultural and creative Industries in Zimbabwe as a whole.

Our beautiful country desperately needs this and the cultural leaders must make deliberate efforts on this.

To address the challenges we need to honestly look ourselves in the mirror and address the challenges, from promoters, artists, media, government, the corporate and the fans.

There is a desperate need for cultural devolution and real funding for the arts. Most things can not only happen in Harare!

Get radio stations working again! It’s more difficult for a new musician to get airplay now when we have 17 radio stations as compared to when we had only 4 Radios. A few artists dominate the airwaves for years. Female artists are an extremely rare feature on the posters. A lot of amazing talent going unnoticed.

Radio stations defaulting on royalties to ZIMURA with impunity and ZIMURA retaining 40% of collected royalties for administrative purposes.

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Book piracy in Harare – pic VOA

Books, artworks, films, songs are sold on the streets by people making money from work they did not invest in leaving the creators wallowing in abject poverty. Piracy continues unabated. This cancer is a global phenomenon but can be curtailed if real efforts are made.

The emergence of digital platforms has given artists more freedom, control, and opportunity but in Zimbabwe, it’s not easy to fully monetize and also limited by the cost of the internet and a dysfunctional RTGS banking system incompatible with VISA/MASTERCARD transacting.

Artists are poor! Yes a lot of them and it’s no laughing matter.

Events are poorly organized, save for HIFA and a few others.

How can the Ministry of Arts, Sports, and Youth, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Information and Ministry of Industry & Commerce have a synchronized approach towards arts promotion and development?

There is a need for unison of purpose and vision, one that can be inspired by the players in the industry and inspire confidence for working together and value beneficiation for artists and help sell of Brand Zimbabwe globally.

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We need a new informed and progressive culture of doing things from top to bottom. A move away from Government officials` penchant to officiate, cutting ribbons, endless conferences, workshops but walk the talk for the good of our country.

Imagine if our cities represented our cultural spirit, if our villages were embraced into our tourism, our schools genuinely taught cultural and artistic programs if local artists were funded and supported at home? I have no doubt the sector could be making a meaningful, measurable contribution to the GDP.

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Let’s bring back the provincial arts festivals we had. Let’s grow grassroots talent and have more stars celebrating our heritage and culture. Reviving community arts spaces, drama & theatre, dance, film, music, crafts, and visual arts.

If South Africa has Vilakazi Street as a cultural village what stops us from having one in Makokoba, Guruve, Dangamvura or Mbare! It’s our imagination and lack of a common vision that is limiting us.

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Vilakazi St

We have great narratives that need to be told, our stories of defiance, resilience, and love are unique and could translate to millions if captured through film and video. The world awaits to hear our unfiltered stories.

This is not possible with only 1 state-controlled TV station. With new TV stations coming soon there is need to have a deliberate effort to promote local content and ultimately pay for it and ensure the survival of the artists but also the growth of our film industry.

It is saddening to see one of the most watched TV shows Wenera extending a begging bowl to save it from extinction. Such should never happen if ZBC valued the content it broadcasts and paid for it deservingly. The announcement of more 6 stations coming has been received with great excitement but this will not mean much if the local creatives are impoverished to produce great exciting content.

The fact that people are subscribing to foreign cable TV is a testimony of the hunger and cravings that Zimbabweans have for the film but sadly it’s being serviced by others at a US dollar value.

Our promoters still believe in investing and doing business with artists from outside. Nothing wrong since they are in business and they will put their dollar where it brings value but if for one day we could give the same respect and appreciation to local we can definitely grow our own international stars and pay them handsomely too. The artists need to be as innovative, entertaining and as relatable as possible.

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Our arts are literary mortgaged to foreign missions and civic organizations. They fund, are involved and informed the most.

Local companies never really put in money towards the arts but are quick to jump in to steal creative content for the promotion of their products and services.

Artists giving away their content copyrights to cunning online distributors.

….and awards! We need to bring sanity and restore credibility on awards shows. Organizers can no longer afford the arrogance they often exhibit anymore.

Zimdancehall has been around for six years as the most dominant music genre and in other developed countries, this would definitely have created interest from the government for research, investment and development for capacity building, growth and further job creation.

I could go on and on. Until next time #theplotthickens

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