The next 48 hours the conversation within the Zimbabwean arts spaces will evolve around the just held Zimbabwean Arts Awards (ZIMA) awards.
By Plot Mhako, EARGROUND
As has been the tradition, most awards result in Zimbabwe get people talking. Winners celebrate, even those undeserving and losers together with their fans go on a troll. This pattern may not be synonymous with Zimbabwe alone. The revived ZIMA awards’ return after a four-year break got some the industry players adopting a “wait and see mode”, ultimately the show might have hit a damp squib. Confidence might have hit the lowest score!
I will start with the positives, the effort was very noble & the style in design impressive. Whoever did the visual announcements for nominees and winners deserve an award? The graphics were on point, simple and futuristic.
Given the difficult economy, the team behind ZIMA deserves applause.
Now on the key part (awards), there were some sticking anomalies on the nominees but this was pardonable since the majority seemed ok!
My review will not focus on who won and who didn’t deserve to win but on the possible plot behind the results. Remember this is not factual but a school of thought.
The general show choreography was lukewarm, a careful look at the direction will give you an impression of an event produced by the same hands that produced the last NAMA awards and also BAA. I think Zima awards displayed a bit of creative fatigue.
RESULTS: The 2020 ZIMA results give an indication of an attempt to correct a national creative crisis. Yes, we have a crisis but instead of addressing the real issues we have seen deliberate attempts to fix things through awards, committees, appointments, location of venues, performance selections, policy documents, Indabas, etc.
…………Tokenism, favoritism, populism, a balancing act!
The effort to paint a picture of inclusion, national cultural cohesion, gender balance, racial balance, tribal balance, generational balance, populism is visible on most of our key artistic events. It has nothing to do with MERIT. Whilst the reasoning behind may be noble but the execution stinks.
National cultural cohesion requires more than a cosmetic approach at awards or events. The processes have to be broad, continuous and most importantly sincere.
I know this is a sensitive issue so I will try to stick to awards more!
I addressed some of these things in my review of the RADIO ZIMBABWE Top 50 and ZTV Top 50 of 2020. Some of these things will most likely play out again at the StarFm Awards and at NAMA.
Most of the results we saw last night are a work of fiction whilst some are genuine.
Instead of awards organizers trying to create a balance using some key elements highlighted above, there is an urgent need to open up the creative space, let more new players and voices be heard. e.g To let regional stations broadcast on the National bandwidth. For instance, there are names of artists and groups that we only get to know when it’s awards time, beyond that nothing. Some of the super talented.
There are categories that appear only during awards. Women mainly feature and win in the best Gospel, best female or best jazz category. Not to mention a certain monopoly!
When you dig deeper you realize we have hundreds of Zimbabwean artists whose works are super impressive but will never be heard except for a few lucky ones who manage to tour outside the country or have found their local market niche and don’t bother about the big stage or gongs.
It’s easier for a foreign artist to get a gig and get played in Zim than an average Zim artist unless ……
Instead of promoting growth and inspiring confidence and creativity through awards we may find ourselves discouraging the industry through unfairness.
If we don’t pause, look ourselves in the mirror, frankly converse and consciously chart new ways, new culture of doing things and work hard on evenly distributing the national stage, allowing more voices and the sound of integrity to reign we shall soon have no legit awards platform to Celebrate let alone an industry to talk of. Artists’ apathy may soon hit.
However, I am not outrightly condemning ZIMA.
Until next time, the plot thickens.