Culture at Work Africa Programme kick off

BULAWAYO-BASED arts organisation Nhimbe Trust is one of 15 organisations from Africa selected as beneficiaries of the first call for funding under the Culture at Work Africa programme.

The Nhimbe project dubbed “Linking Communities through Culture” which will roll out in earnest this year is co-funded by the European Union and implemented in partnership with Savanna Trust.
In February,

Nhimbe’s executive director Josh Nyapimbi and Savanna’s Daniel Maposa attended a meeting in Burkina Faso of the Culture at Work Africa consortium, led by Interarts Foundation, with the partners of the project, and the ministries of Culture, Arts and Tourism, the General Delegation of Fespaco, and the Delegation of the European Union. 

The purpose of the meeting was to offer the beneficiaries of the 15 projects selected from the First Call, a space for exchange and training, workshops, seminars and visits to the cultural spaces in the city of Ouagadougou. The event was opened by Abdoul Karim Sango, minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism, of Burkina Faso. 

On the ground in Bulawayo, the project is coordinated by Lisa Sidambe. She says intercultural dialogue, as a tool and medium of providing linkages between different belief systems, traditions, value systems, linguistic identities and ethnic identities, has gained prominence globally in efforts aimed at achieving much greater cohesion between and within communities. 

“It bridges cultural divergence, promotes cultural distinctiveness and mends cultural fragmentation. “By granting validation to cultural identities that are consistent with human rights and principles of justice, intercultural dialogue forges a national identity that recognises the significance of culture and cultural diversity in the promotion, protection and defence of fundamental freedoms,” said Sidambe.

She says “Relinking Communities Through Culture” is a process oriented strategy that employs intercultural dialogue to facilitate engagements on cultural and ethnic identities.

“It operates within a Zimbabwean landscape that is punctuated by ethnic polarity, ethnic fragmentation and the politicisation of the cultural identity of two major ethnic groups, the Ndebele and the Shona. 

“By engaging media and cultural practitioners aged between 18 and 35 who identify as either Ndebele or Shona, the project uses world café and pro-action café processes to facilitate truth telling participatory dialogue and interaction on issues of ethnic/cultural identity and polarity. “The creation of truth-telling platforms responds to concerns that the prevalent and longstanding acrimony between the two major ethnic groups (based around Harare and Bulawayo respectively), imbues suspicion and intolerance, erodes social cohesion and dilutes national identity.

“The objective of the project is to enhance empathy and build social cohesion between the Shona and Ndebele ethnic groups of Zimbabwe, through the provision of safe and inclusive enabling platforms, for meaningful conversations on ethnic identities. 
“The primary target groups are youth cultural and media practitioners based in the urban centres of Harare and Bulawayo, and the cultural community. The final beneficiaries are festival audiences and consumers of creative work across the ethnic divide,” she says.

Culture at Work Africa programme kicks off
Introductory field visits in north and south Matabeleland are continuing in the Unesco-funded project for Safeguarding Intangible Heritage, “Nyawo Lwami”. 

The first Tsholotsho visit on January 5 began after a 6-hour wait at the long-distance bus terminus — Entumbane, in Bulawayo, and a 6-hour journey of hard roads and heavy rain.  
Regrettably it was abandoned after a bus breakdown 40km from their destination — Phe-landaba.  The second visit February 20-22 also started with a gruelling 8-hour journey at low speed due to extremely bad road conditions, followed by a 2-hour wait for the headman who had not been contactable.  

The headman welcomed and praised the initiative, and agreed to consult with community leaders.  The field team learned that the Koi San still practise their dances as groups, there is an association representing the ethnic group who welcome the Nhimbe Trust programme and the community are readily available to participate.

From February 12-14 the field team travelled to Beitbridge, where they met with officers of the Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation ministry, and the district administrator, who directed them to chiefs Sitaudze and Matibe from the east and west of Beitbridge. The chiefs welcomed the project and would meet to discuss  and select participants for the March inventory workshop meeting.

The mission reached its objectives by engagement of local leaders, and in particular, a valued linkage with  the active and readily available organisation working with the San Community, Tsoro Soro San Community Trust.

Objectives which were met were to engage with traditional leaders and raise awareness of the 2003 Convention; create awareness on the importance of the preservation of culture and heritage; identify sources of information for production of documentation; identify participants for the March inventory workshop meeting; mobilize focal persons, and prepare the ground for the inventory process.

The visits are led by Trust Gumbo, research officer, and accompanied by Johane Mpofu, documentation officer. . . . as visits commence in Matabeleland

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