Govt must take arts, culture seriously


HARARE – As leaders in the art sector gather in Masvingo for a National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (Nacz) symposium next week, government must take the arts and culture sector seriously from both a funding and promotion point of view.

While a number of gatherings have been held before on these subjects, there is a feeling that there is no proactive action in ensuring that policies which can enhance the smooth flow of this sector are in place.

Bearing in mind that in other countries the arts and entertainment sector contributes hugely to gross domestic product, more can be done in Zimbabwe to ensure that the sector’s potential is properly harnessed and for the benefit of the nation.

In any society or other socio-economic setups, artistes are an important — if not integral — part of that community, as they help record or highlight — through their works, the history and aspirations of that society by invoking or shaping debate on many key debates on national issues, and others.

On the other hand, the entertainment and educational value of the arts sector must not be under-estimated, as it also brings joy, happiness and help generate emotions on certain key subjects or topics in any society’s everyday life.

Hence, the need for clear cut policies to promote artistes and the industry’s work cannot be over-emphasised.

Although a number of campaigns to ensure the sector’s viability have been launched such as anti-piracy crusade involving police, we are of the humble opinion that much more can be done to stop this scourge as it is still going on or flourishing unabated.

Again, the constant arrest and denial of artistes’ freedom of expression is another worry as fears also abound that people in this “free-will enterprise” are increasingly at the risk of being severely curtailed.

For instance, quite a number of visual artists have fallen on the wrong side of the law while exercising their constitutional duty of freedom of expression. A number of laws protect arts practitioners in Zimbabwe but some are facing the indignity of being banned and incarcerated.

This should stop.

As the arts and culture practitioners meet in Masvingo next week, they should also introspect on their funding sources and whether they should remain charity cases.

The practitioners should find ways of sourcing funding instead of being over-reliant on donors who prescribe their products.

He who pays the piper names the tune. So artists fall in the danger of neglecting society’s needs which will set them in a vicious circle of accepting donations for commissioned work.

Art and culture are a people’s life and it can build the economy if taken seriously.

It can also lead to the country’s recognition on the global map as these practitioners become ambassadors.

With proper support of arts and culture and the entrenching of ideas from lower levels of the education system, Zimbabwe can benefit from this sleeping giant.

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