Nhimbe Trust: 15 years of services to creatives

BULAWAYO - Bulawayo-based Nhimbe Trust marks its 15th year of service to creatives in 2018, an achievement well worth celebrating as they managed to foster lasting, positive change to the status of the artists and creative industries in Zimbabwe and around the world.

Nhimbe Trust was founded in Zimbabwe by Josh Nyapimbi in 2003 to advance the status of the artist and creative industries. 

“Artists deserve secure employment and social protection,” he said. “We cannot run the risk that they should starve, despair and die in abject poverty. We must develop a creative industry which is not only sufficiently regulated and well-resourced, but where the rights and fundamental freedoms of artists are guaranteed and protected,” said Nyapimbi.

The history of Nhimbe Trust is more than the story of an agency’s growth from a small community-based arts organisation to one of the world’s leading international creative civil society organisations.

Nyapimbi added: "It is the story of children and women equipped with skills and knowledge necessary to be gainfully employed in creative industries — a chance that they may not have had if it weren’t for Nhimbe Trust. 

“It is the story of a creative civil society voice promoting the establishment of national policies that recognise, enhance and foster the contribution made by the arts to national, social and economic development.”

Fifteen years ago a group of like-minded individuals were sufficiently inspired by Nyapimbi’s vision to constitute the Board of Trustees.

The founding Board chair was Sennie Sheba Dube (late), who was succeeded by Bishop Pius Ncube, Tsitsi Choruma, and currently Lupwishi Mbuyamba.

At the heart of Nhimbe Trust’s philosophy, then and now, has been the concepts of self-help and self-reliance — the belief that “Nhimbe” is a process by which people take charge of their own lives.

“Nhimbe is a Shona word meaning ‘to help one another’, underpinned by solidarity, respect, trust, allegiance and reciprocity. The convener trusts that people will show up and those who show up also trust that should they need to do a nhimbe in the future others will show up too because they respect you.

“The notions of trust and respect are also embedded in reciprocity and how people share the tasks. Culturally, we pay our allegiances to people we respect and trust in our communities; so people would say if there is a nhimbe at Y’s and if I don’t go to this nhimbe; how am I going to look at Y in the eye when I didn’t attend their nhimbe when they needed my help. 

“At the nhimbe people come and participate as equal partners. To us, our cooperation with local and international partners epitomises Nhimbe. We believe that local and international agencies seeking to partner with us have a just obligation to take cognisance of local traditional cultural knowledge and practices where Nhimbe operates because culture matters in development,” said Nyapimbi.

As a medium for confronting social and economic injustices and inequality, cultural interventions provide alternative platforms in the development process for ‘citizen’s participation’ through freedom of expression. 

“The organic and fluid social nature of cultural processes, its intersection with human rights awareness and its creative integrity reflects the interests and themes of citizens, their concerns and dreams. If development can be considered an enabling process towards the enhancement of social and community capital, then culture plays an integral role in this process,” he said.

Today, Nhimbe Trust is a leading creative society player in AU and UN circles, contributing to achieving sustainable systems of governance for culture at local, regional and international levels; advancing Sustainable Development Goals; as well as promoting and protecting the diversity of cultural expressions.

“Nhimbe Trust sees its role as that of a facilitator, catalyst and innovator of cultural evolution. We favour a multi-disciplinary approach, acknowledging that the problems we address are complex and interrelated. Innovation and experience have been the keys to Nhimbe Trust’s success.

“In partnership with individuals, foundations, corporations, governments, national and international agencies, our programs focus on results and proven solutions. The proud history of Nhimbe Trust would be impossible without the enormous generosity of these many supporters.  

“We look forward to your continued commitment as we work to ensure that the Nhimbe Trust post 2018 refreshed Strategic Plan will offer positive change and opportunity for artists, and the ease of doing business for creative industries. 

“We acknowledge and thank our main partner Africalia (Belgium) for their renewed partnership for 2017-2021, building on a healthy and respectful partnership over several years, which has facilitated remarkable growth in Nhimbe’s activities in the creative sector of Zimbabwe.

“Nhimbe Trust is proud to have played a key role in some significant national and international successes for artists and creative industries during the past one and a half decades,” said Nyapimbi.

The Trust’s director said in pursuit of the Zimbabwe Creative Civil Society’s Strategy in the Formulation of a Plan of Action for Arts and Culture (NPAAC 2012-2015) they have achieved the following; new national Cultural Policy; new national Curriculum on Arts Education; government ministries responsible for Arts and Culture; ongoing alignment of legislation with the national Constitution; 2005 Unesco Convention — IFCD support, and preparation and input into the Country Quadrennial Report; aligned programming outputs towards the UN objectives of the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals; Creative Economy Outlook Zimbabwe (CEOZ online Portal) provides data, analysis and the necessary tools to promote and support the growth and development of creative industries in Zimbabwe to ensure an enabling cultural, political and legal environment for the ease of doing business; for improved investment, trade, employment and wealth creation.

“Cognisant of the economic potential of the arts and the need to create free, diverse means of cultural expression, Nhimbe Trust in partnership with Youth Contact Centre (YCC) established Bluez Café in Bulawayo as an inclusive enabling facility, at which performing artists and producers of culture may develop, promote and perform their works, and participate in furthering acceptance, tolerance, peace, and nation-building, by simply showing that ‘the arts’ is where the sanctity of the human spirit resides. In less than a year of its opening the Bluez Café has hosted seven public events involving 110 local and international artists.

“A total of 675 children and women have been supported with skills development, networking and showcasing opportunities nationally and with counterparts in South Africa and UK. We managed to establishment of the Arterial Network Zimbabwe Chapter; supported capacity building and South-South networking opportunities.

“The establishment of the African Cultural Policy Network (ACPN) and the CSO 2005 Convention Forum are important steps and milestones. Nhimbe is a member of both platforms.”

Nyapimbi added that the innovative partnership with Bulawayo City Council resulted in another milestone in our year — the establishment and staffing of the Bulawayo Cultural Affairs Office.

“For better systems of governance for culture, greater effort is needed to; resource the implementation of the new National Cultural Policy; build capacities of civil society organisations to effectively impact policy action; develop continuous, regular and structured participatory processes; encourage cross-sectoral partnerships, with cultural and non-cultural CSOs; adopt organisational and national digital plans and strategies to invest in local cultural production; improve digital literacy amongst creatives to ensure access to diverse digital content; address travel restrictions in current global security climate; address persistent imbalance in global flows of cultural goods and services; address under-representation of women in key creative roles and decision-making in the local culture sector positions and; improve efforts to guarantee freedom of artistic expression given the rise in reported attacks against artists and audiences.”

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