Culture at the heart of Nhimbe Trust

BULAWAYO - Against a background of the stark realities of life in Zimbabwe in 2017, Bulawayo-based Nhimbe Trust managed to address key priorities for improved freedom of artistic expression, improved socio-economic status of artists, positive attitudes of society towards artists and their work, and enhanced gender equity in the culture sector.

Nhimbe Trust chairperson Lupwishi Mbuyamba said last year was significant for the Trust as it operated with added depth and coherence, hence conceptual clarity was achieved across all programme activities reaffirming that culture is at the heart of positive transformative change, as both a driver and an enabler of sustainable development.

“Prominent on our calendar has been the establishment of the Bluez Café, and we are proud to be the leading partner of this exciting new initiative.

“As well as serving as a creative hub for the arts and culture community and audiences of Bulawayo, Bluez Café also provides an ecosystem at the intersection of culture and development to foster progressive interventions in the promotion of economic and social justice.

“We thank the authorities involved for their cooperation in the creation of this unique platform,” remarked Mbuyamba as he gave a review of last year’s activities.

He said the profile of the organisation has expanded both locally and internationally, with executive director Josh Nyapimbi being elected to the steering committee of the African Cultural Policy Network (ACPN); appointed patron of the newly-formed Southern Filmmakers Society koBulawayo; invited to a meeting of experts contributing towards the development of the Rwandan creative sector national action plan for arts and culture in Kigali, Rwanda; invited as an observer to the 11th session of the intergovernmental committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, at Unesco Headquarters, Paris, France.

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

“We value and appreciate the support for our endeavours by government ministries, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Bulawayo City Council and all our cultural partners.

“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,” said Mbuyamba.

The Nhimbe Trust chairperson said their main programming areas include “Public Policy Dialogue” which entails facilitation of platforms to amplify the voice of creative civil society in the establishment of national policies that recognise, enhance and foster the contribution made by the arts to national, social and economic development.

Then there is the “Creative Economy Outlook Zimbabwe (CEOZ)” which 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.

“Arts Education” which nurtures talented high school students with rights-based professional training, mentoring and resources to produce plays and short films based on themes pertinent to their social and educational endeavours.

“Gender and Women’s Rights in the arts and culture sector” entails working towards equal rights for women through cross-cutting programming activities including contributing to policy formulation and review processes, thereby promoting women’s capacity to participate in decision-making processes that affect their social and economic interests.

“Nhimbe Trust 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.”

Highlights for 2017

From January to May, the play Tellers — The Musical took centre stage in Nhimbe activities with rehearsals and staging, leading to a debut Harare performance on the fringe of Hifa on May 5-6 at Gallery Delta, where it was well-received by leading members of the cultural community.

The Women in Theatre and Television (WiTT) project forged ahead providing support for Narratives from the Dark tour to Masvingo and Norton, and Lady Tshawe’s poetry event Revelations of You in August.

In September the partnership with the Young Vic Theatre, London, unfolded with The Unified Women Project and WiTT ended their exciting year with the staging of Blood Tongue — The Musical in Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mpumalanga, South Africa, in December.

In September, the Bulawayo cultural affairs office (a partnership project between Nhimbe Trust and City of Bulawayo) was established, with the first consultative meeting being held at Bluez Café in November.

From March plans for the establishment of the Bluez Café unfolded with the engagement of Ian White and Penny Yon to help set up a multi-dimensional space for creatives in the Bulawayo city centre. Bluez Café opened on Africa Day, May 25, with dazzling performances by 40 artists and a substantial crowd of people from the arts community of Bulawayo and visitors from Harare.

The Children in Theatre and Television (CiTT) project trained 32 participants over the course of 24 lessons/rehearsals at Bluez Café from June to December, and in August CiTT students won several awards at the first edition of the Doug Hill High Schools Drama Festival, Masvingo, supported by Nhimbe Trust.

Nhimbe Trust provided support for the attendance of two African cultural experts to speak at the 2nd International Conference on African Cultures (ICAC), which was held on September 11-13, 2017 in Harare, marking the 60th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

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