HARARE – Zimbabwe has been hailed by many commentators as having a lot of talent in the arts.
When one considers the situation in which most arts and culture promoters and practitioners operate, one can appreciate why it is generally accepted that the country has immense talent.
There are many aspects that have been identified as critical in the nurturing of this abundant artistic talent chief of which is funding.
The intention of this article is to try to unpack this missing link generally referred to as funding.
What exactly is the funding that the arts and culture sector require and what is the best funding model that will ensure success for the sector?
We already have many funders and investors for the arts and culture sector.
We currently have the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust supported by Sida giving out grants in excess of $1 million each year since 2006.
Then there are several agencies like Hivos, British Council, Alliance Francaise, Zimbabwe German Society, American Public Affairs, European Union and many other Embassies accredited to Zimbabwe that support arts and culture. In addition to this, we have corporates that have a history of funding the arts like Delta Corporation through its beverages brands.
Delta has been funding the Neshamwari Dance Festival, Chibuku Road to Fame music talent identification programme and Jikinya Dance Festival to name but a few of them. Other corporates that have funded the arts have tended to just support specific events like Hifa and not anything else. We need to thank these funders for their commitment to the development and promotion of Zimbabwean arts and culture.
So with all this funding coming into the sector, why do artists, administrators, arts promoters and connoisseurs continue to complain of lack of funding? How much money will be enough to solve the funding needs of the Zimbabwean arts?
How should the funds be disbursed to the sector and in what form? Does the sector need grants or loans?
Who should be the target for each type of fund among artists, arts administrators and promoters?
The above questions may not be answered in this article but the writer intends to suggest a funding model that may try to answer some the Zimbabwean arts sector’s concerns.
The first funding model for the sector is one geared towards the construction and maintenance of facilities like rehearsal and performance halls and theatres, galleries, libraries, studios (recording and visual arts) and other such facilities.
This is the role of the state through the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and other such State created entities.
Even when the private sector gets involved, it should ideally do so in partnership with the State.
Otherwise without State involvement, the facilities could be exclusive and therefore fail to have wider impact.
A case in point was the funding by Old Mutual of the construction of an arts venue at Alliance Francaise.
Very few artists know how to access the facility that was built supposedly for Zimbabwean artists.
Involvement of the State would have ensured wider access and impact for the much needed space.
Government should also create a fund that would underwrite the costs of artistic creations and productions that benefit the nation.
Festivals could be supported in those aspects where they address national and identity issues.
Some films, books, dance, theatre and musical productions including exhibitions could be supported financially by the state because they benefit the country.
The fact that the State has supported the visual artists to attend the 54th and 55th Venice Biennale shows how important it is for State support for all art forms that has national good.
The government may not necessarily pay hard cash but could consider tax rebates for the investors who support the arts as well as providing a conducive statutory environment for the growth of the arts and culture sector. For example, the State should provide government departments with budgets to buy art for display in offices and public buildings.
Financial institutions are also very critical in the growth of the arts and culture sector in Zimbabwe.
The sector cannot grow by getting money under the social responsibility budgets of banks and other financial institutions only.
Yes, there is and will always be a place for the social responsibility funding of the arts but real growth of the sector will come from special funding specially tailor-made for the arts.
Other economic sectors like agriculture, tourism and manufacturing have benefited from similar funding arrangements.
We need banks to create products for loaning bankable projects from the arts and culture.
The arts sector need to do market research and come up with tailor made products that would create a win-win situation for both the financial institutions and the arts.
The arts cannot be an industry without the support of the financial service sector.
However, it is true that the arts cannot grow through handouts and benevolence of the financial sector.
The other funding stream is the one that comes from bi-lateral and multi-lateral partners who support arts projects that have mutual benefit.
The support from accredited bodies should normally be given through government agencies since they were accredited by government in the first place.
It is abnormal for such funding to be privately disbursed.
However, accredited bodies can disburse funds through registered Non Government Organisations (NGO) and Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) for projects that benefit Zimbabwe. The other critical funding group includes individuals and philanthropic group.
Though still very insignificant currently, the group is nevertheless critical as it usually has potential to generate significant community impact.
The group also has the potential of influencing audience-building efforts as well as ensuring support for arts activities for marginalised members of the community.
The above discussion shows the power of funding and how it could influence the form, content, quantity and quality of arts in Zimbabwe.
There is therefore the need for all parties to play their part responsibly so that the sector can grow and contribute positively to the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe.
*Elvas Mari is the Director of National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and feedback and comments can be send to firstname.lastname@example.org