Nama awards getting better

HARARE - Reports that 664 National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) entry forms have been submitted for the 13th edition of Zimbabwe’s premier arts awards set for Bulawayo in February next year, is proof that the gongs are now getting wider acceptance.

It is encouraging to note that, though music still accounts for the bulk of the entries, other disciplines like literature, dance, visual arts, film and television, theatre, media, spoken word and special awards have also generated notable participation.

Though the increased participation by the country’s artists is a cause for celebration, it must also spur organisers of the awards — the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) — and the arts community in general to improve the awards so that they become a brand that the corporate sector will be proud to be associated with.

One of the areas that the NACZ and its stakeholders must strive for over the long term is to ensure that the awards are accompanied by cash prizes. The Namas in their current state are still fairly attractive but most people will agree that cash incentives will make them even more competitive.

The NACZ must find ways of raising funds that will be used to provide the cash prizes.

In addition to corporate sponsorship, one way that can help generate much-needed funds could be through asking musicians and various other artists to donate their services and artistic products to the cause of raising funds for the awards.

Musicians and other performing artists like theatre actors could feature for free in fund-raising shows while sculptors and other visual artists could donate pieces that the NACZ can auction to raise cash.

Artists can only freely take part in the proposed Nama fund-raising shows if they have confidence in the way the awards are run. The NACZ must endlessly explain to the artiste how the laureates are chosen.

They must reach out to the artistic community and show that they are willing to take advice from the artists who take part in the awards.

A recent Arts Agenda column in our sister paper the Daily News on Sunday contributed by the NACZ director Elvas Mari conceded that some artists were not submitting their works for consideration due to unproven claims that the awards are biased towards Harare.

In the same article, Mari poured cold water on these assertions of bias towards artists in the capital city while at the same time emphasising the fact Namas are meant to reward creativity and originality of one’s work regardless of the origin of the artist or his experience.

With the buy-in of the artists who are rewarded by the Namas, it will be easier to get corporate support and more mileage for the awards.

The ball is in the NACZ court and it is entirely up to them how they play it.

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