Bulawayo audience reluctant to pay for shows — Artists

BULAWAYO - Bulawayo artists have registered their views over the 2012 arts calendar citing a marked improvement in audience turnout as a big step last year.

However, they all decried a disappointing trend of the same audience not willing to pay for shows.

Over the years, the audience in the arts sector in Bulawayo has reportedly been dwindling apparently due to lack of appreciation of home-brewed products.

With 2012 having been one of the busiest years in the sector, the Daily News spoke to some renowned artists in the city who shared their views.

Styx Mhlanga, a renowned playwright and director says the audience in Bulawayo was amazing but cited lack of willingness to pay as a massive draw back.

“I think 2012 was a fairly good year in terms of arts here in our city. The audience responded very well to almost all activities that took place but the challenge we had was that people are still not prepared to part ways with their dollar for the acts,” said Mhlanga.

“Besides, we really had an improvement in terms of programming, publicity and even the way our products were packaged in their various genres, but the problem remained the paying audience.

“So it is the area that we need our audience to appreciate that paying for our events is promoting the arts industry in the sense that will get the resources to come up with quality products,” explained Mhlanga. He also appealed to the corporate world to fund the fraternity which he likened to the fish and water scenario where a fish cannot do without the precious liquid.

Raisedon Baya the Intwasa Arts Festival Director is convinced that the year 2012 brought a new dimension in as far as art audiences were concerned.

“Actually I am impressed at the way audience levels recorded a remarkable growth in the year 2012.”
“This was also witnessed during this year’s edition of Intwasa Festival.

“Actually it signifies that people are gradually beginning to appreciate our work as artists although we still have a challenge of people who are not willing to pay for our shows,” said Baya.

Baya said lack of funding had dealt a major blow to the creativity levels in the city’s arts fraternity.

“Most organisations that fund arts project are head quartered in the capital and they haven’t been spreading their wings to other cities making us run our projects on zero budgets,” he said.

The award-winning playwright also took a swipe at the government for not playing a part in sponsoring arts activities in the country as is the norm in other countries.

“It’s very unfortunate that we have a government whose only duty seems to be paying the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (Nacz) salaries only yet the standards of arts continue to fall by each passing day,” said Baya.

Baya added that as a result of lack of funding, the film industry has been the hardest hit as very few films have been produced for the past decade He also attributed the decline of the genre to lack of proper training of filmmakers which he said was a necessity for the revival of filmmaking.

Poet-cum-playwright Mgcini Nyoni believes 2012 was a fruitful year for most artists.

“Personally I feel 2012 was a fruitful year, action packed and audience wise I think it was fair, we really can’t complain as we are actually going somewhere,” Nyoni said.

“Of importance is that we actually moved away from sensationalist art that had characterised our industry for the past decade, a sign that many of us now know what art is all about and its role in the society,” Nyoni added.

The former Amakhosi Academy student also sang from the same hymn book with Mhlanga and Baya on funding which he described as a sad chapter in the industry.

However, prominent Amakhosi Cultural Centre director Cont Mhlanga said this year could be counted as one of the good years in the industry.

“Generally I feel the industry is heading towards the right direction although the issue of funding is still one challenge that as artists, we have to continue grappling with,” said Mhlanga.

“We have seen different events across genres taking place with some recording full houses, a move that inspires us as artists.

“If there is anything that an artist needs most, it is an audience more than money itself. I should admit the audience is growing though at a snail’s pace,” he said.

“Our audience has unfortunately been disturbed by lack of such publicity medium as the television which can be used to promote local talent, in the process building a permanent audience,” he explained.

He underscored the need for multiple private owned television stations as the current two state owned stations have been turned into political party tools serving the interests of the few rather than the nation.

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