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Arts merit awards: Bulawayo sets bar high

For a long time, arts awards in Zimbabwe have not counted for much. They have just been a formality — events whose moments come and go with no tangible impact both on the fans and the artiste.

By Sindiso Dube

Both fans and artistes had for some time stopped taking the national awards ceremony — the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) — seriously because of the lack of seriousness in organisation and there have always been mixed reactions over the nominees’ list and the eventual winners.

To recognise artistes, last year the city of kings and queens gave birth to two new babies — the Bulawayo Arts Awards and the Skyz Metro Music Awards — with doubts as to whether the organisers had the pedigree to host events of such a magnitude, the former seems to have jumped the infancy stage to being a fully grown fiesta.

Skyz Metro Music Awards also presented a good show at the end of the year — a ceremony better than others like Zimbabwe Music Awards, Nama and the Zim Hip-Hop awards.
For those who have attended the two ceremonies, one would be convinced that Bulawayo has struck the right chords in hosting awards.

Organisation, prior and during the awards, was splendid — everything was clear. For a month, the city was gripped by the awards fever, with faces of every nominee pasted on every city corner. Fans participated in campaigning for their favourite artiste’s votes.

The atmosphere was electric. The same atmosphere, which used to grip the city during Intwasa festival’s booming days.

However, hope of seeing a re-ignited Intwasa Arts Festival KoBulawayo is there since the same hands of Raisedon Baya, Nkululeko Nkala and Simon Mambazo Phiri, which are responsible of the awards’ success, are the same hands that run the festival.

“When we started preparing for this year’s edition we just wanted to better what we started last year, that’s why we set a budget that most thought was a pipe dream. but thanks to our sponsors and the support we received from Bulawayo, we have managed to pull off the biggest event in the city. Next year we promise a bigger and better ceremony,” said Phiri.

The biggest factor for the success of the awards, held on May 26 at Large City Hall, was the hefty sponsorship package from United Refineries under the Roil cooking oil brand. The company was the biggest sponsor, injecting a lucrative $20 000. They adopted the ceremony and it was known as Roil Bulawayo Arts Awards. More support from the corporate world came from NetOne, Simbisa brands, Proton Bakeries, Zapalala Wholesalers, Fortwell Wholesalers, Boom city advertising, among others. 

United Refineries CEO Busisa Moyo said their marriage with the awards would not end this year.

“We created a relationship and it will stay for long. We will definitely partner the awards for next year’s edition. I can confirm that as from now we have started preparing for next year’s adventure,” he said.

Unlike other awards where winners walk away with gongs, but with no cash prizes, the Bulawayo Arts Awards come with money. With such financial backing, this year’s winners are expected to get double or triple what they received last year.

Bulawayo artistes, who always complain that they are relegated to supporting acts by local promoters who bring foreign or acts from Harare, had a chance to show the world what they can do on stage, and it was purely Bulawayo magic! The likes of Asaph, Mandla Da Comedian and MaForty showed why they were crowned outstanding hip-hop, comedian and outstanding newcomer respectively when they stepped on the stage for their live performances.

What’s an award ceremony without a show of classy fashion? The red carpet, which was manned by Gilmore Tee, Tinashe Okamaskosana and Lelo Moyo was like a runway to heaven for others who slayed appropriately and it was a thorny road for those who were caught on the offside by the night’s fashion police.

The place was beautifully decorated with eye-catching models from Sarah Mpofu Sibanda’s Fingers Modelling Agency that ushered people in the VIP and VVIP section.

Commenting on the dress sense, Lelo Moyo said: “The place was colourful, I have never seen Bulawayo people dressed like that in one night. Fashion lights up an awards night. I personally was impressed by people’s dressing that night though there were some who missed the plot.”

The gold-coated gongs, which the winners carried home were the icing on the cake. They will look good in the winners’ display cabinets or on walls.

Meanwhile, organisers of the Zim hip-hop awards who last year announced that Bulawayo would host the hip-hop ceremonies for the next two editions will have to up their game to make it relevant and competitive in a field where the bar has been set high, not only for the growing genre’s ceremony alone, but also for ceremonies like Zima, Nama and others.

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