Nama: Time to shift focus to content


BULAWAYO – I will not dwell on the National Arts Merit Award (Nama) coming to Bulawayo as that is now a tired subject, more so that the people of Bulawayo, the National Arts Council Board and staff have proved to all that it is just small minds and village mentality that justifies keeping national events in Harare.

It is for this reason that the City of Harare has earned the fantastic name of Bambazonke.

Prof Zindi, let the old man tell you now that Zimbabwe is larger than Harare and it will remain so long after you are gone.

I want to turn to content because while the Nama in Bulawayo was the best thus far in event organisation and presentation it did not impress me in content.

Simple things like what songs were played when a winner went up on stage to get the award was not thought through.

Did the tiny graphics on the screen communicate anything to anyone?

Did the chap who recorded the voice over for nominees know what the fade out buttons are used for and when to use them?

Was the stage lighting chap aware that the event goes through a camera to be alive at home and a camera understands nothing but light to convey a quality image to the viewer at home as the stage went too dark most of the time?

Did the director understand the importance and value of Cue Cards to manage the flow of content as the Mayor and others ended up with wrong information with what others in the crew team had?

 All this has nothing to do with the event managers or task force but with how we value and understand content as Zimbabweans away from any event.

It is time Nama shows us that it is about awarding winning content and not winning artists.

Making content is a costly production process for an artist and awarding the same artist with a Nama award is an event not so costly lasting four minutes at most.

Teaching and training the artists to be able to produce that quality content is even more costly.

The sad part in talking about Nama is that the Government through the National Arts Council has failed to invest in content production since independence in 1980.

It is better for visual arts as Africans are known to like to take over and adopt what the white community created not even minding to ask why they created it and how.

There they found galleries and an Act in place so they just follow blindly.

The rest of the creative industries is treated like it is some kind of oppressors culture by the people’s government.

One has just to turn to ZBC and the thousands of homes that are horned with satellite dishes that are not even beaming local content while our own ZBC has…., I fail to get the right word to describe the kind of content they beam there.

I like our new radio stations for staying away from being political mouth pieces but listen to the content and how all the presenters sound and feel, haah madoda.

They seem to be suggesting that if you don’t sound like they do in England and America by their standards in that part of the world then the content cannot pass for quality.

For any nation to appreciate its local content it begins with the National Government.

 Zimbabwe’s challenge is that we have not been able to implement a cultural revolution since coming back from war and taking over government in 1980.

We started by taking over Smith’s material culture, then took over Smith’s performance culture and now we are taking over Smith’s business culture and call that our African progress.
Zimbabwe is today found wanting with local content in all sectors.

Just enter any public building and show yourself what is Zimbabwean and then make time and go to the new China complex along Bulawayo road, check in that building what is Chinese and then you will appreciate that as Zimbabweans we are doing more harm to ourselves and children by ignoring to invest in local content.

Zimbabwe needs a five-year cultural revolution to save our ubuntu from our selves.

I am glad this may be possible very soon. As I sat in the audience at the Nama in Bulawayo I saw a hero to be emerging out of the crowd.

This is the new permanent secretary of the ministry responsible for sports, arts and culture, Constance Chigwamba.

She for the first time in the history of this country got all her ministry’s top team to attend together a cultural and arts event from the minister to the principal directors and other management staff.
I can almost hear Chigwamba’s voice at the board room and in her Memos, “listen all of you chaps if I don’t meet all of you in Bulawayo’s City Hall at the Nama none of you will ever travel out of Harare or internationally for any meetings, seminars or workshops again.”

Otherwise how could she have convinced people who do not fight for investment in Zimbabwean content to come to a little city with no water, whose industry is closing and its economy is the vendor economy?

The vision management of any ministry is with its PS and it reflects with the programmes and activities that the ministry is engaged in.

Chigwamba is only six months or so in her office as PS and I want to urge all artists to watch her.
Would she be the person to create and push for the five-year cultural revolution that we need so desperately as a country?

The last educationist PS who led the Culture ministry is responsible for the nation’s ignorance of the importance of local content.

Look at what he did instructing all our schools to construct a rural hut at the school! Can the schools export a hut?

Were there no other options to teach our kids about huts! If there are people out there who agree with his huts, then let me be the only one who does not agree with that type of content at schools. I think it is very Dumb.

I would be a very happy person if I wake up one day to hear that the diamond mining companies are investing in the development of Zimbabwean content.
Content is our people and soccer is our people’s game.

This is not the right time to encourage people to play games while their ubuntu is slowly and permanently being eroded and being washed away to the see forever. Let’s put people first; who we are first and the games will follow.

Let me show you why I mention diamonds. The Manicaland Arts Association representing arts and culture custodians from all the seven districts of Manicaland has not got a cent from diamond companies harvesting Manicaland’s wealth to help promote the province’s cultural content while everyone else out of the province is already benefiting. I wonder even if we have a Samanyika owning a diamond venture.

The way we sometimes do things is just not right even if we claim to be government and ministers that know it all.

It cannot be truly national if it is not local.

By now Mutare should be hosting the nation’s largest festivals leading us in celebrating our diamonds and stimulating that province’s economy.

Let us as a country invest in the creation of content that ends up rewarded by Nama.

Currently we are not.

The government wants to meet the artists at Nama when they have not supported the same artist to create top content.

Are they not rewarding sub-standard content just because the artist does not have adequate financial support to produce the work and calling that Zimbabwe’s best when we know that it can be better had it got the right production support?

The work that is being awarded does not even get to the public.

Most of it cannot be found anywhere for the public to consume.

What plans does the ministry have to take this content to the people before or after the awards?

Are we going to be seeing it in these huts that are all over the schools?

It is time to move away from Nama celebrating the event to Nama celebrating award winning content. – Cont Mhlanga

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