Art can be used to promote tourism, social inclusion and national identity
Happiness Zengeni and Takawira Dapi
Zimbabwe has a long history of creative expression. This has been seen through the various rock paintings spread in Mashonaland and Matabeleland. It has also been seen through stone sculpture given prominence by Henry Munyaradzi, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Bernard Matemera, Joseph Ndandarika and lately Dominic Benhura.
Song and dance has also played a huge part in society and the rich history can be seen through the various co-ordination of dance types such as Jerusarema, Muchongoyo, Amabhiza, Mbakumba, Ingquza, Chinyobera and Ngungu.
However, the country has not been able to derive any significant value from this expressive sector and any successes that have occurred in the different sub-sectors are at an individual level.
In the case of traditional song and dance; the only significant promotion is through competition such as the Jikinya dance festival and the Chibuku Road to Fame.
On its part, Government has not provided significant funding to promote the arts since independence and yet Zimbabwe could reap major economic and social benefits if it efficiently develops and promotes its creative economy. According to a Yoruba saying: “Wealth that comes from creativity is true wealth”.
Globally, according to a report from Unesco in partnership with Ernst & Young, the creative economy employed nearly 30 million people worldwide and generated $2,25 trillion in revenue — or 3 percent of the world’s GDP—in 2013.
This is substantially more than global telecommunications ($1,57 trillion) and greater than the GDP of India, Russia, or Canada.
In Africa, however, only three countries derive significant contributions from the industry, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.
A successful creative industry builds the economy at a local level, enhances surrounding non-arts businesses and provides job opportunities and ways for individuals to participate in activities associated with the arts and cultural events.
Stone sculptor Leo Berekayi who was groomed by the late female sculptor Rachel Ndandarika is of the opinion that Government should play a significant role in the creative industry in order to make its contribution to GDP meaningful.
“While individually a few artists have broken into the global scene, the only way that the country can benefit from this and boost its economy is if Government takes a wholesome approach in marketing the arts.
“They have done programmes such as the carnival; but these are adopted events, which do nothing to celebrate Zimbabwean arts and therefore do not bring in the tourist numbers but are just an occasion for locals to have fun.
South Africa is quite dominant with its colourful beads and you see this in any of their national brochures; the Kenyan masai cloth is equally popular because promoting arts and culture has been done at a national level. This is not the case in Zimbabwe; our artists are frowned upon.
“Actually in Zimbabwe, being an artist is equivalent to being unemployed. There is that misconception that arts do not create jobs. In that regard, only Government has the capacity and machinery to promote arts.”
Musician Peace (Baba Shupi) Ndlovu said that only artistes from Matabeleland have achieved acclaim globally as that industry is well organised into groups as compared to the rest of the country. This results in most of the groups attracting funding at an international level because they sell the story of Ndebele arts and not individual art.
“Most artists from Matabeleland are in demand outside the country and have been the biggest ambassadors of the country’s rich traditional heritage, music, art and culture for the simple reason that they sell the story as a community.
“Matabeleland invested in it. All artists cashing from international arts and culture festivals are coming from institutes like IYASA school of arts, AMAKHOSI.”
He called on Government to invest in setting up community arts centres in order to make it easier to develop talent which can be compete at a global level.
The US, New York, Florida international jazz lead vocal artiste who once performed at HIFA, Jeff Motter, also said governments must put more budgets in arts and culture for African artistes, as they enrich lives and give nations, communities and societies unique identities.
“Art happens in communities everywhere, not only in symphony halls, opera houses, and regional theatres.
“The fact that minority and community-based groups are “plagued by chronic financial difficulties” is undisputed. But what isn’t being acknowledged is that these difficulties are the result of systemic economic inequality.
“It should come as no surprise that people in minority, disenfranchised, and rural communities don’t usually have access to millionaires and billionaires who they can cultivate as donors. Nor should it shock that these organisations will suffer if the public-funding system that was helping them build capacity, gain cultural legitimacy, and become sustainable is decimated.
“Art reflects the values, aspirations, and questions of a culture; it’s a mechanism for a society to articulate how it imagines itself.