Namas: More still needs to be done

HARARE - Nominees for the 16th edition of the National Arts Merit Awards (Namas) released on Thursday have predictably elicited mixed feelings.

As has become the norm since the awards were introduced by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (Nacz) in 2000, critics and art lovers alike have bemoaned the inclusion and exclusion of certain artists. While it is both necessary and welcome for the local arts community to critically analyse the nominees for the awards to be held on February 18 at the 7 Arts Theatre in Harare, this should not cloud the bigger picture.

In addition to giving their verdict on the current crop of nominees, arts stakeholders must also push for the continuous refinement of the entire process from the nomination stage right up to the adjudication. The awards can only improve and gain wider acceptance if transparency of the whole process is enhanced.

To their credit, Nacz has shown over the years that it is fairly responsive to suggestions. The adjudication panel has been made public for the past few years in response to suggestions by arts lovers.

For example, last year’s adjudication panel featured respectable and experienced arts personalities who included visual arts guru Saki Mafundikwa, film director Patience Tawengwa, music producers Peter Muparutsa and Clive Mono Mukundu as well as poet and editor Chirikure Chirikure.

In response to suggestions from the wider arts community, the chairperson of the 2016 Nama adjudication panel, film-maker Ben Mahaka, gave a report explaining how the various award winners for last year were selected.

These changes should therefore encourage the arts community to continue making more positive suggestions.

While Nama organisers should be praised for the positive changes and for continuing to hold the awards without fail, against the backdrop of difficult economic circumstances, it is important to remind them that a lot still needs to be done to take the gongs to the next level. The organisers must continue to go out of their way to address concerns which artists and critics are raising.

The multidisciplinary nature of the Namas incapacitates the awards from honouring many deserving artists across the genres.

This therefore, should encourage associations and bodies spearheading certain arts genres to come up with their own gongs which will reward more people within these sectors. In line with this, individual artists and associations like the Zimbabwe Writers Associations, which is the umbrella body for local writers, should follow in the footsteps of the Zimbabwe Music Awards which honours local musicians.

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