HARARE – As we move ahead in an ever-changing creative economy which is being affected in both a positive and negative way by local and global political, economic, social and technological factors, it is critical for the National Arts Council and its National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) stakeholders to evaluate the current NAMA with the view of enhancing them.
Since its inception in 2002 the NAMA have primarily focused on their goal of annually recognising and celebrating excellence in arts and culture.
However, if the institutional framework of NAMA could be expanded, it has a potential to play a more significant role in the local creative economy.
For example, NAMA has potential to be a key international tourism draw-card like Harare International Festival of the Arts.
Further, the awards can become established as the pre-eminent arts advocacy and outreach platform in the country.
How can NAMA cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of literature, theatre, music for example, to Zimbabwean culture; from the
artistic and technical legends of the past to those still yet to breakthrough?
NAMA will need to transform to pursuing a mission through programmes and activities that engage creative industries, the cultural community and the public.
The activity has the potential to contribute to the implementation of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions through partnerships year-round to bring national attention to important issues such as the value and impact of arts and arts education and the urgency of preserving our rich intangible cultural heritage.
Through outreach in schools, NAMA can help demystify the arts among unsupportive or highly conservative parents who neither see the value of the arts in the curriculum nor encourage and support their artistically gifted children to pursue the arts.
NAMA can enlist support from selected award winners to do “NAMA Career Day” across the country, a one-day event that could bring top music industry professionals, for example, together with high school students to present an insider’s perspective on working in the music and recording industries.
Or it can launch a “NAMA Camp” where a small group (20-30) of high school students could gain an introduction to the business of music. Each weekend session could concentrate on one to three career tracks, for example audio engineering, electronic music production, song-writing, video production or vocal performance.
Participants would leave with a better understanding of how the music business works and how they can begin to plan a successful career path.
The plan would be to bring children and young people into contact with working professionals or role models. The scope of such as initiative could be extended, providing scholarships for schools across the country via a dedicated NAMA Signature Schools programme, which would provide awards and monetary grants to public high school music programmes based upon need.
Awards and grants could also be given to top public high school music programmes. The music industry has arguably the most recognisable role models and is the most developed creative industry with which to initiate this programme.
It is also common knowledge that artists, especially musicians, given their highly mobile profession and public profiles, seem most affected by alcohol and drug abuse and HIV/Aids.
Alcohol and cigarette companies, which are now bound by laws regarding public health, are major local sponsors for arts events hence it is not unreasonable to require a percent of such support be levied towards rehabilitation efforts for survivors of dependencies in the arts sector.
NAMA of the future ought to have a strong research and development unit to spearhead the
National Arts Council or government’s archiving and preservation initiatives of the creative industries; geared towards raising public awareness of the urgent need to preserve our nation’s recorded sound legacy, for example.
This could be achieved by providing funds to entities engaged in preservation work, advocacy work on legislative issues, the development of information resources, and other projects that promote preservation of our nation’s vast recorded sound heritage.
Zimbabwe’s recorded print (literature), audio, visual, musical and film legacy are undoubtedly among our country’s most important and irreplaceable national treasures derived from creative industries.
The people, experiences and the very footprints of the evolution of our society are chronicled in the words, songs, and performances that make up this compelling body of work.
While much of Zimbabwean recorded musical and film heritage has been documented for future generations on a variety of audio and visual media, most recently, magnetic audiotape and digital media have been the standard methods while earlier recording devices used tin foil, cylinders, acetate and metal parts.
Unfortunately, however, many historically important recordings and information about these recordings have been lost to time and may never again be heard.
It is within the scope and potential of NAMA to have a dedicated programme that preserves on videotape the life stories of creative industry pioneers who helped create the history of, for example, recorded sound, film and published literature. A significant proportion of the much needed data is already in place and in possession of the National Arts Council.
*(Nyapimbi is Nhimbe Trust Executive Director & CEOZ Editor-in-Chief)