Arts, culture sector dead

HARARE - While Zimbabwean artists have always advocated for their own full ministry, the creation of the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture seemed to have quieted them for a while as they accessed its impact on their sector.

Now in its second year, artists say the ministry has not helped improved their status and that of the sector.

In particular, they believe the appointment of Sport, Arts and Culture minister, Andrew Langa, has also not helped their plight as he seems clueless on the way forward.

Others have called for an urgent indaba on the ministry’s role in the sector and specifically they want time framework and funding structures clarified by Langa and his officials.

Controversial Bulawayo playwright and producer Cont Mhlanga has already hinted that he will not attend a National Arts Council of Zimbabwe indaba on the arts set for October 29 and 30 if they were not discussing the ministry’s role.

And he wants Langa and his officials to spend the whole two days there and not just present papers and dash off.

Actor Obrian Mudyiwenyama said the creation of the Sport, Arts and Culture ministry has not done anything to the arts sector at all.

“There is absolutely no benefit at the moment. As long as the arts are sustained by foreign funds only then there is a huge problem.

“We need our own governments to support us as well. I believe the government should be the biggest investor in the arts. But as long as the top guys do not realise that culture is the bedrock of economic development then they will continue to look at the arts as an inferior sector in this country.”

He added that our values as a people are entrenched in culture and we can only understand our selves in any sector if we know who we are.

“All the developed economies have succeeded because they have values deeply rooted in their culture. The Americans use film and music very well for global domination in any other sector. We can do the same, but first the leaders must understand that this is serious business too.”

Producer Silvnaos Bhanditi Mudzvova said the ministry’s creation has not improved anything at all. “The quality of personnel in that ministry is pathetic they have any idea at all about arts. They have not yet signed any twinning agreement with any country for artists yet they have already renewed the Zifa deal with Germany.”

Mudzvova said the ministry failed to convince the ministry of finance to increase resources to the arts sector.

“They should start with restructuring the National Arts Council staff and board in line with other regional boards.

“The current arts council staff they have no clue at all to find resources on behalf of the artist. The board is poorly composed selected on political lines that should change and put in an board based on performance and the desire to see the art sector scaling up.”

Playwright Daves Guzha says the biggest undoing of the ministry has been its lack of interest in engaging captains of industry.

“The mere fact that Langa was given carte blanche to setup a new ministry by President Robert Mugabe meant he was in a very excellent position to give meaning and direction through engagement and consultation.

“Luckily for the ministry, they were coming into a space which already had practitioners with real and tangible examples and issues as well as thoughts on how to tackle and grow the sector,” said Guzha.

He added his recommendation is for the ministry to invite change makers in the sector to a secluded place for two to three days so that issues can be interrogated and use the opportunity to come up with a roadmap which has input from the sector and practitioners themselves. For after all, we know what needs to be done and what the fault lines are.”

Arts practitioner Masimba Biriwashi: “I think it is great to have a standalone ministry but much work needs to be done to ensure that the arts and culture are fully supported.”

Music lecturer and dancer Clayton Ndlovu said it is important that finally the government has a standalone ministry of Arts and Culture even though they are still sharing with Sport.

“We welcome this move and embrace it wholeheartedly. However, it is now up to the ministry to guide government on conducive policies that will assist in developing the creative industries.

“It takes time to have a viable arts industry but what is key there should be visible steps taken by the ministry towards a better arts industry.

“For starters, the ministry has culpable officials who understand the needs of the industry, but they have to make an effort of changing some of the policies that affect our arts sector.

“The first one being offering companies a tax relief for supporting the arts. This will benefit the creative industries particularly the film industry. So the ministry should work on this policy to present to the government.”

Ndlovu said the ministry should look at empowering the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe by beefing up their annual budget.

“Honestly the National Arts Council does not fulfil its mandate due to lack of resources.

“For instance the Murewa Cultural Centre is an important asset that should be taken care of. Nacz can make revenue from that entity but they need to support it tremendously.”

He added that the ministry should at least look at getting a government National Arts Centre going. “The blue prints are there and they have been with the Nacz for a long time.”

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