The 19th NATIONAL ARTS MERIT AWARDS came at a time when arts & music awards ratings in Zimbabwe were at an all-time lowest. The memories of the previous sham were still vivid. Saturday night was a do or die moment not only for NAMA but for arts awards in the country.
The executive director a former radio station manager and DJ had fired shots ” it’s not going to be a prize-giving day but a production”. Expectations were high but most were in a wait and see mode. I was very confident in the process and the outcome based on the efforts I saw being put in the preparation, the involvement of Jacaranda Media & Cultural Corporation, Napoleon Nyanhi, Leonard Mapfumo, Prudence Muganiwa.
You should look up these names and you will get an appreciation.
1. Nothing beats a good plan, a great team and practice + rehearsal. I followed the process closely and got a glimpse of the amount of time they took to plan, resources and the great talent that came together.
2. Last month we saw how chaotic an awards event can be when all is poorly planned, executed in a rush and done by incapable hands.
3. Some of the big acts even turned up for rehearsal from Prudence Mbofana, Alick Macheso, Jah Prayzah, Ti Gonzi, Vabati vaJahovha.
4. Out of Harare artists were bused in a day or two before the event. They had cool accommodation & there was even a pre-awards cocktail for nominees, officials, sponsors, and press.
5. The PR started slow but went into overdrive. There was extensive coverage. Not sure about visibility on the streets. The organizers despite being busy were still very accessible & engaging to the press.
6. The effort put in defied a volatile economy that has rendered most projects and events poor, chaotic or no-shows.
7. Government support _ Great to see the state playing a role in making efforts to fulfill its mandate in supporting such an initiative.
8. Corporate support _ the amount of confidence and support were given by the corporate community towards the awards signifies a big turn. Something that artists have for long been yearning for. Credibility, integrity & growth is what will retain that support and increase it.
1. Redcarpet: This is still a new phenomenon for us at Zimbos. We are still learning and adjusting to the concept and the conduct. Artists, presenters & the media somehow still struggle on how this important part of the awards should function, be handled and how to capitalize on it. The scramble for selfies, Q&E by hosts, how the media captures the content, artists’ dressing. However this year there was a huge huge improvement. Most artists looked the part. NAMA put up an impressive and the best ever red-carpet set. Having performances outside was a cool idea.
2. OUTFITS:_ the global creative industry drives fashion trends, styles and sales. Artists are the drivers. They influence lifestyle and feed off this sector. Designers are a big prominent feature at awards through their works. It was great to see commercial clothing outlets supporting the event. That was a very commendable & great boost. Local designers missed the chance. The awards presented a rare and huge opportunity for local designers to bloom and grow. A few designers saw this window and ultimately owned the night; Madam Boss, Mbo Mahocs and a few other artists stood out with their custom made designs & stole the limelight. The fashion designers need to wake up and smell coffee. Maybe they need a category at NAMA too.
3. STARTING: The event started a bit late, not very late. There was an improvement from the general tradition.
4. OPENING ACTS: Too long & some not wow material (leave the stage when people still want more). This section of the event was reduced to a Dreamstar talent showcase. Whilst it was noble to have some acts from the organizers’ performing, the acts were too long and took away part of the energy. This needs rethink and rework. The starter can spoil the main course. On a very positive note: that entry by Leeroy Gopal was epic.
5. OFFICIAL GUESTS:_ It was a positive move to have all speeches pre-recorded however they were long & winding. The minister spoke so well.
6. PRESENTERS: – The best combination ever. The choice of the LEROY & MBO to co-host and also CHARLENE on the voice-overs was well thought & impressive. They flowed effortlessly & enjoyed what they did. Presenters are the lifeblood of the awards.
7. TECHNICAL: The lighting and behind the scenes team put in a great effort in ensuring a smooth flow. Events Evolution deserves a NAMA too.
8. STAGE: _ Setup was dope! Room for improvement & making an awesome themed design.
9. Organizers: Young, focused & hardworking visionaries. The entire production team put on their A-game and they deserve appreciation.
10. NGAIBAKE _ moment: Beautiful concept that however weighed heavily on the outcome. The coordination and Technics did not work out perfectly so well. Kudos to Alick Macheso for holding it up despite the mic breaking & suppressing his voice.
11. DANCERS _ I pay more detail to this part because I work more in dance. Choreography and execution were not really on point. For the first time, we had two categories in dance left out due to content that failed to meet NAMA standards. The show was an opportune redemption moment for the dancers and choreographers to shine and prove their work. Chipawo did the magic! They brought the A-game and something richly Zimbabwean. I am positive next year dancers will do magic.
12. ANNOUNCEMENT OF WINNERS: _ The near smooth process was well thought too. Having one set of presenters per category was a great move. The choice of presenters was also great. The deliberate effort to get multi-lingual announcers was super impressive. That worked magic! I marveled at how a beautiful & diverse nation we have. Imagine if all these languages interacted more in our daily lives! However, some may need to learn awards etiquette & how they can bring magic & excitement to the announcements. Chisale did that or overdid it!
13. PRIZES: _ Finally winners walked home with some monetary prizes. $10k ZWL! Some may say it could have been more but the move and gesture counts and is a great shot in the arm. Remember a lot of awards have not even a gong.
14. WINNERS: _ Great improvement on the adjudication. There was a major shift, we saw new dance-theatre directors winning, a dancer from Sungura winning, the diaspora based artists getting recognized, a young hardworking female musician befittingly getting appreciated, new voices getting space, quality over hype scooping album of the year, the hip hop culture making the biggest impact ever in local history, veteran authors being saluted visual art getting more visible & youthful, hardworking media voices rising to the top. I will not dwell much on this part but generally, this area helped NAMA regain its once lost confidence. A lot still needs to be done in some categories, on the initial nomination process but the overall outcome was almost fair. THE BIGGEST task is upon the industry stakeholders to get all the content and artists we often hear of only at awards and never again until the next one to get their work known, appreciated and consumed more at home. If the work remains obscure to the general populace the awards may become irrelevant.
15. THE PEOPLE’s Choice: _ Yes! Someone needs to tell Winky D to show up at awards like he did in the past. He may be snubbing his fans.
16. CLOSING PERFORMANCE: Jah Prayzah and the resident band (thoseGuysVacho) gave an awesome closing act.
17. RATINGS: _ the event was a major success and not only for them but for other awards organizers who could learn & also ride on the newly found goodwill to system overhaul and deliver next year.
18. RECOMMENDATIONS: Engage extensively, plan in time and keep improving.
Until next NAMA, the plot thickens…..