'Culture Fund now a monopoly'

HARARE - Artists and arts practitioners are concerned that the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe is increasingly turning into a monopoly on the local donor market as most foreign donors are now opting to only channel funds through the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida)-funded institution.

Since 2006, the fund reportedly extended support to over 600 projects in Zimbabwe’s sub-sectors that include film, audio-visual and multimedia production, cultural heritage, fine arts and craft, cultural industries, literature languages, and  performing arts.

Zimbabweans or residents of Zimbabwe with legal status can apply for grants from the fund and this includes individual cultural agents operating independently, individual cultural agents operating as a registered company, artists or work groups, cultural organisations and institutions.

But controversial playwright Cont Mhlanga, contributing to debate during the Arterial Network All Stakeholders Conference held in Harare on Saturday warned that the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe’s monopoly on donor funds meant for the arts and creative industries is suffocating institutional growth as its funding model is outdated.

The playwright, who is also the director of Amakhosi Arts Centre in Bulawayo said those foreign countries pouring funds into the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe were ignorant of the priorities of the local arts and creative industries.

“Those countries’ priorities (when they allocate funds) are misplaced as they mainly focus on things like exhibitions while ignoring crucial aspects that have to do with building sound arts institutions.

“These countries are well developed, they have arts and creative industries that have been built over time, hence their concentration on showcasing products,” said Mhlanga. The playwright said in Zimbabwe they need funds to develop industries.

“Culture Fund of Zimbabwe should fund projects that uplift communities — they should fund for example the painting and refurbishing of community halls around the country. That is what we want, not exhibitions.”

He added that Culture Fund of Zimbabwe’s monopoly on all foreign incoming funds for the arts and creative industries creates a dangerous scenario where all grants are put into one basket.

The playwright urged Culture Fund of Zimbabwe to urgently create separate grant funds that will stand alone from the main fund. “This then can allow the funding of other aspects apart from what the donors would have prescribed for the main fund, even banks do it.”

Mhlanga said over the years he has held numerous discussions with the fund’s executive director Farai Mufunya expressing to him that their funding model is outdated.

“The fund’s funding model where individual artists are asked to produce proposals so they get grants is long overdue. As Zimbabweans we want funds that can build institutions. “That money would be well spent as it cements our institutions than what is happening now were 70 pecent of the total grants are free money,” said Mhlanga adding that of all the donor funds his institution received, 70 percent went to develop the institution — building studios, rehearsals rooms, performing halls and buying equipment.

Nhimbe Trust director Josh Nyapimbi urged the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe to revisit its funding priorities. “As it stands it looks like the funders are anti-industrialisation because nothing is being earmarked for that. The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe should equip institutions and not just support individual artists.”

Theatre producer and Arterial Network Zimbabwe official Daves Guzha suggested that instead, Culture Fund of Zimbabwe should create a fund that allows artists to borrow funds and repay back.

“What we need are funds to build the industry because without a foundation we will not achieve much. We need an arts development fund like what we used to have at the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe. We used to borrow funds for productions from that facility and repay it back, it used to work.”

Guzha said the future of the arts and creative industries in Zimbabwe depends on content development, hence the need to fund institutions.

Nigel Munyati said he was still to fully understand “this animal called Culture Fund because what the donors funding it want is not what the local arts and creative industries want.”

Mufunya, in response to these raised issues said they were aware that their funding model was overdue. “We are in the process of renewal of the funding model and we are moving towards engaging the sector.”

He said their funding is tied to the global agenda and it has been difficult to align it with the local needs.

“In South Africa for example, a similar fund is run but the government there puts an equal grant to that put in by donors. This has given power to the government there to demand the alignment of the grants to their national policy.”

Mufunya said their bid to have a fund or facility through which artists can borrow funds was turned down by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

“We have been talking to a number of banks and building societies so as to come up with a borrowing facility.”

The director said Culture fund of Zimbabwe emerged from the sector where 100 practitioners came up with the operational framework.

Comments (3)

It is disingenuous for little Jah Prayzah to claim that he wasignorant about copyright when he is a member of ZIMURA. Why did he join the organisation ? To protect his intellectual property of course ! He says he was "tempted" to use the song. Well, that means he knew about the wrongness of the crime i.e. intellectual property theft is as heinous as someone stealing someone's children in my book ! Zim artists cry about being oppressed by society but here they are, perpetrating the same offense. Jah Prayzah must return the award. He has committed fraud just like Obadiah Matulana who misrepresented that he is the engineer of his own album when in fact it was Joe Maseko. Matulana has since refused to return the award or at least come clean and ZIMA has been mum about it though having been alerted to the con ! Jah Prayzah's meteoric rise is possibly based on one big con. He could be Zimbabwe's own Milli Vanilli. Prayzah, do the right thing and return the awardand apologize. That is the noble thing to do.

the watcher - 17 December 2014

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