Stepping on Bulawayo’s formerly glorious home of arts — Amakhosi Arts Centre — this reporter was almost ripped apart by rowdy touts scrambling for passengers for their respective bus companies at the arts centre, which has been turned into a long distance bus terminus.
By Sindiso Dube
The bus terminus for buses plying the Victoria-Falls/Harare route is making it difficult for clients who would want to approach the Amakhosi Arts Centre reception area.
Amakhosi Arts Centre programmes manager Thulani “Mbambo” Khumalo who is heading the centre after the retirement of celebrated arts personality Cont Mhlanga attributed the economic hardships to the setting up of a bus terminus at the arts centre.
“Like any other organisation, we have bills to pay and the bus terminus is meant to help us sustain the centre,” said Khumalo.
“The buses will soon move to a new site they were allocated. Everyone does not like this idea and our clients complain about the treatment they get from the touts.”
“We no longer feel at home whenever we come for studio sessions,” said one artist.
“Everytime I come here I am harassed by touts. This is not good for a centre which attracts attention nationally.”
Amakhosi Arts Centre renowned for producing some of the country’s best performing artistes has been quiet lately. Khumalo said the move is meant to pave way for a new radio station Skyz FM which will brodcast from the centre.
“After we were granted a radio licence we shifted focus to the new project. We suspended all programmes to pave way for the radio station,” said Khumalo.
Khumalo also pointed out that the centre, like an organisation in the country was facing financial challenges.
“Our arts industry has been crushed by the economic meltdown — a few people spend on entertainment these days,” Khumalo said.
“Everyone is struggling. It’s hard times for our arts industry and that’s why people say Amakhosi is dead. No, we are alive, it’s just that we are facing problems which are being faced by every sector in Zimbabwe.”
When asked why Amakhosi Arts Centre failed to produce at least one outstanding artist in the last few years, Khumalo said: “It’s not easy working in such an economic environment characterised by unbalanced representation in the media and centralised programing for radio stations.”
Khumalo said content from the southern part of the country was not enough on radio stations and television.
Amakhosi Arts Centre has produced some of the country’s finest artistes in Sinjalo and Beater Mangethe who featured in the popular drama Amakorokoza.
Former director of the centre Mhlanga who retired in November expressed confidence over the team he left to lead Amakhosi Arts Centre.
“I retired last November to give others a chance and new blood will employ new ideas like radio, television and online platforms to develop content,” said Mhlanga speaking from his new base in Lupane.
“I moved to my rural home in Lupane so that I give others space to do their own things without my influence. What’s important for me is to rest and separate my name from the brand Amakhosi.”
Mhlanga added that young people have more opportunities of making it big in the arts industry.
“We started arts before it became an industry. It is now a big industry and many people are surviving out of it,” he said.
“Youths should understand that to create content it takes passion rather than money. It is passion that attracts money.”
Programmes to look out for this year from Amakhosi include Dreams to Fame, choral competitions and Highlanders’ 90th anniversary celebrations.
The centre will establish an arts academy where students will be taught music, dance, poetry, animation and story writing, among others.