Is Bulawayo still the cradle of Zim arts?

BULAWAYO – Artists and critics in Bulawayo generally agree that Zimbabwe’s second largest city has lost its status as the hub of the country’s arts sector.

Reasons for the slump of the City of Kings’ arts sector cited include the death or self-imposed exile of some of music veterans from the city.

Blessing Vava, a social commentator and arts critic, says de-industrialisation has stuffed life out of the city’s once vibrant arts.

“I think the assessment is fair in the sense that arts-wise Bulawayo is no longer what it was before.

“Unfortunately, most companies have collapsed or relocated which means business generally is low,” said Vava.

The arts critic adds that the slow down in business activities in the region is the main reason why funding for the arts has almost dried up.

“De-industrialisation is a huge setback for the arts. Most musicians from Bulawayo once he or she becomes popular they relocate to Harare or abroad where there are better opportunities because people in the city have no real disposable income,” he said.

Vava also believes that South African influence has undermined artistic creativity in Zimbabwe’s second biggest city.

“Imitating South African artistes has destroyed many talented artistes from Matabeleland region; originality has been compromised,” Vava said.

Khulekani “Khuxxman” Bhethule, the Bulawayo Musician Association (BMA) chairperson has hit out at the “half-baked” musicians emerging out of the City of Kings which he feels has no capacity to compete on the national stage.

“The negative assessment is very true because in terms of quality our music has fallen,” Khuxxman said.

“Artistes here are no longer recording their music with professional recording companies.

“We only have two serious recording companies ? Ingwe and Moonlight studios here in Bulawayo for that matter.”

The Vumelani Sangoma singer believes the slump in music quality results from a combination of raw musicians and inexperienced producers.

“And what do you expect from such an arrangement?” queries Khuxxman.

“This is sad because the current generation emerging in the city do not care about quality.

“All they want to hear is their voices. But music is not like that.

“It takes a lot more for a musical product to go out there into the market, and endure,” he added.

Khuxxman is convinced that the city’s musicians will easily regain competitiveness through a united front.

“It is unfortunate that as Bulawayo Musicians Association we have failed to save our city from further losing its status simply because we are not united and we are not organised.

“I am not shy to say this but the truth is we are wandering like a headless beast”.

Voti Thebe, the director of the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo, disagrees with the notion that Bulawayo is no longer the hub of Zimbabwe’s arts scene.

“And that cannot be taken away from us,” Thebe said.

“If you are born from a pioneering stock you are bound to remain a pioneer. That is what we are, still are in the field of art.”

The award-winning visual artist though admits that music in the City of Kings has somewhat lost lustre.

“Of course the city’s musicians appear unable to match the standards set by those departed but the gap is slowly being closed because we still have the talent.”

“We need to continue mentoring upcoming and emerging artists in order to maintain the city’s status as a hub of art,” said Thebe.

Comments (2)

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Fondazione Sarenco - 31 October 2013

Can you be so kind to send me your mail? I need to contact you in relation with a huge project by BENETTON for Zimbabwe young artists?

SARENCO - 31 October 2013

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