Zimbabwe’s arts and culture industry is teetering on the verge of collapse due to a plethora of challenges, chief being the harsh economic environment and skewed government policies and strategies.
By Kennedy Nyavaya
Although government established a new Ministry of Rural Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Heritage to coordinate the arts and culture sector in the country, little has been done to address the challenges that the sector faces.
Over the years, the arts and culture sector in the country has been relying largely on donor funding and the corporate world. While in countries like South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, governments have made it a prerogative to bankroll their arts sector, in Zimbabwe it is a different story as government has neglected the sector.
The Harare International Festival of the Arts which had grown to be one of the most vibrant festivals in the world, suspended this year. Other events like the Shoko Festival and the Intwasa Arts Festival held recently in Harare and Bulawayo respectively did not rise to expectations due to lack of funding.
Intwasa director Raisedon Baya told The Standard Style last week that they were arm-twisted into hosting a “compromised version” of Intwasa Arts Festival due to lack of funding.
“At some point we were not sure if we were going to successfully host Intwasa this year because of financial constraints,” said Baya.
Although some people had advised Baya to suspend this year’s festival, he believed it was his duty to keep the festival alive. Intwasa Arts Festival has been running for the last 12 years, with its main funders being the Culture Fund and the corporate world.
Baya said submitting to hitches like poor funding was doing injustice to upcoming artists, who look up to festivals like Intwasa to gain recognition.
“Funding has affected management of arts in the country, but our hope is that we do not fold because it would affect young artists as they are trying to establish themselves,” he said.
The days of Bulawayo being the hub of arts in the country seem to be long gone as more arts platforms to nurture upcoming artists are no longer functional owing to lack of funding.
Amakhosi Township Square Cultural Centre, which is popularly known for theatre productions, has scaled down its operations, also due to lack of funding.
Major funders of arts and cultural activities in the country like the Culture Fund and Hivos have pulled out, leaving most arts and cultural organisations in the doldrums.
In its heydays, the Culture Fund used to fund close to 100 creative projects every year.
Efforts to contact Culture Fund executive director Farai Mpfunya were fruitless yesterday.