Arts industry slows down

HARARE - As Zimbabwe celebrates 37 years of independence I would like to acknowledge the accomplishments of our arts industry in so far as promoting our work overseas where we have been holding successful exhibitions and musicals.

In showcasing our works as artists overseas, we are indeed working as the country’s cultural ambassadors.

While the touring aspect has been a positive development, there are several grey areas that still haunt our industry 37 years into independence.

Piracy has been a cancer in the local arts that has eaten into our creative work as pirates cash in on our productions.

The late 1990s saw music piracy creep into the market and destroyed whatever music sales musicians used to enjoy. A number of affected musicians left the industry altogether to start new careers.

And because of piracy most notable record companies have died a natural death owing to lack of business. Musicians that used to sell hundreds of thousands album records suddenly found themselves faced with an uphill task in that they had to rely on live music shows.

The stone sculpture industry has not been spared as pirates are also cashing on as they produce imitations of established sculptors. The copycats are mass producing popular trademarks and selling them very cheap, hence reducing the work’s value.

Domestic tourism which was powered by the tourism industry used to bring thousands of tourists who bought our sculptures, but in recent years few are coming, hence those buyers are gone.

In my case I have set up some strategic business partnership in America and Europe where I have galleries and hold sculpture exhibitions and workshops from time to time.

While overseas I have discovered one disturbing practice in which galleries like Tengenenge had over the years flooded markets there by mass producing sculptures in hoods of containers shipped overseas without proper valuation which has impacted badly on the value of the Zimbabwe stone sculptures.

But then again that has not stopped us putting the Zimbabwe Stone sculpture on the world map as we had managed to broker some land mark commissioned works.

As a stone sculptor I have made the memorabilia Zimbabwe bird sculpture which was presented to former FIFA President Sepp, I have pieces I made for President Robert Mugabe, boxer Mike Tyson, musician R. Kelly, footballer Austin Jay-Jay Okocha and many others  including of late the current FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

Since I double in sculpture and music, I would like to air my displeasure at how some music promoters are exploiting local musicians who they pay $50 a band to have them perform at their open air concerts which are free of charge to the public.

We have a classic case of an open air venue at Machipisa Shopping Centre in Highfiled that is doing this and because of the harsh economic environment we living in, musicians are exposed to exploitation.

Musicians are allowing themselves to be manipulated by agreeing to play week in week out on such contracts. Yes, they may have been paid but you can’t allow people to watch live music for free because at this rate no one will pay to watch live shows.

It is unlike at corporate or state functions which you can be paid to play for a number of people or a large crowd.

One thing that seems to be killing local bands here is that everyone thinks he or she is a musician. I think it is time to rethink this and possibly streamline those who are not musicians.

You find most times even dancers who had once being engaged to dance, breaking away and forming their own bands. These bands never last but what is happening is that this is destroying the foundations of established bands as they witness endless splits.

As we grew up we used to hear of the likes of Leonard Dembo, The Four Brothers, John Chibadura and a number of other bands that did not witness splits.

The future of the arts in Zimbabwe lies in the hands of artists with the involvement of all the stake holders. Government needs to step in since they are the major stake holders in trying to implement some policies which enable the proper growth of the Arts industry.

And I would like to say that after travelling all over the world the past 16 years, I am back home to help uplift the arts. First, I am currently on my ‘Historic Ndabvakure Tour’ which has already taken me to Mutare and Chipinge.

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