“The United States of America laws guarantee freedom of expression and forbid congress from making any law that interferes with it, hence artists can do anything on any subject as long it does not directly advocate harmful action against a certain group of people.”
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
“This harmful action is not decided by any government agency but by industrial or ethical associations and pressure groups.”
This was a statement from theatre practitioner Tafadzwa Muzondo of the No Voice No Choice fame upon his return from a three-week long International Visitor Leadership Programme — Promoting Social Change through the Arts 2013 — where he had an opportunity to interact with arts leaders from 20 other countries and those that are running theatres, museums, galleries, and other profit or not for profit arts producers or funders in the US.
“Of course no country is perfect in the world, but I believe free expression is the cornerstone of any social fabric; be it at family, community or national level,” said Muzondo.
“Our diversity makes us a society and the fact that we have unique thoughts, ideas and approaches should make us rich in any personal, organisational or national relations.
“I was impressed to see how the arts in US freely bring to the fore topical social and even political issues without any hindrance and I believe this helps leaders to gather the feelings, issues and ambitions of their constituencies.
“For instance, I saw a play by the San Francisco Mime Troup entitled Oil and Water which was a comical critique of the environmental impact of a proposed pipeline and the play caricatured a lot of political, business and environmental leaders in a thoroughly enjoyable but thought provoking way.”
He said he also managed to watch many plays during the New York Fringe Festival telling personal, communal and national stories without having any problems.
Muzondo said he would even hear diverging views about topical issues.
“Considering the level of education in most Zimbabweans, I think the nation is capable of having meaningful conversation and dialogue along topical and developmental issues by harnessing artistic and cultural expressions,” said Muzondo.
“I just could not stop thinking how some of these plays or media programming I was seeing would be received in my own country. I am coming from a perspective where I believe my play “No Voice No Choice” was an objective piece aimed at discouraging youths from participating in political violence something that everyone was doing at that time from the President himself, to political leaders and so forth.”
Muzondo is convinced that his play made a significant difference in terms of anti-violence in the communities that it was performed because at the end of each performance, people would speak freely against violence and it in a way scared a potential perpetrator by showing the personal impact of participating in political violence and violence in general.
“I am not saying we should do what other countries do always because what works for US does not have to always work for us but where we see some impressive templates, is it not noble that we also take a leaf from them and learn or implement something ourselves?
“For instance, I also loved the heavy involvement of the City of Savannah, Georgia in the Arts and Culture promotion or production in that city. “The City Fathers and Mothers” either funds or produces the arts in the city as they support artistic programs that celebrate creativity, create educational opportunities and encourage economic growths. The City has sold under-utilised or dilapidated buildings like warehouses and offices to arts companies or schools at close to nothing and these have been refurbished to service artists and the communities.”
Muzondo was among 21 other representatives from around the world in the program in which he had an opportunity to visit 5 cities (in 5 different states) of the USA meeting with representatives of arts organisations and supporting institutions.