The godfather of arts and ex-Amakhosi Cultural Centre director, Cont Mhlanga, says his successor, Charles Musunga, should source his own revenue streams to return the ailing and cash-strapped arts hub to its former glory.
By Sindiso Dube
Amakhosi Cultural Centre, which used to produce outstanding artistes, has become a pale shadow of its former self.
The centre is crippled by financial difficulties and a leadership vacuum since Mhlanga retired in 2016.
Mhlanga, who has retired to his rural home in Lupane, told The Standard Style in an exclusive interview that Musunga needed to work very hard to get the centre up and running again.
“We now have a hardworking and passionate youthful director whom we hope will turn around the centre to its former glory,” Mhlanga said.
“Amakhosi was affected by the dwindling economy. It’s hard for everyone and every business entity to be sustainable in this country. We hope the new turn of political events will help the arts rise again, hoping the economy will turn around for the good of the arts.
“For all those years I was at the helm, most of the activities were personally-driven through fundraising. I had the capacity to do so on my own.
“Since I am no longer there, the new director should come up with his own strategies and contacts for revenue. It’s hard for him to ride on my network or for me to continue to fundraise for them.”
Mhlanga said it was unfortunate that Musunga took over Amakhosi when the organisation was broke.
He said the youthful director was capable of turning around the fortunes of the centre.
“I believe in this brave young visionary. He has put a five-member team to help him out and the good thing is that they all see the vision and are ready to work together,” Mhlanga said.
Musunga, who took over the directorship of Amakhosi in January this year, said he had started programmes that would help the centre move forward.
“We have started doing programmes to help us get revenue. We have a number of programmes that we have presented to the government and all we are waiting for are signing memorandums of agreement,” he said.
“We have also approached a number of non-governmental organisations to fund some of our projects.
“I took over the position when the centre was on zero budget and I am working hard to return it to its former glory.”
Musunga said they had engaged a number of teachers’ training colleges for arts coaching programmes.
“We have started training lecturers from teachers’ colleges in visual arts. We did with Masvingo Teachers’ College and after the elections we shall train lecturers from Hillside and Mkoba teachers’ colleges,” he said.
The 29-year-old director is a holder of a Film and Theatre Arts degree from Midlands State University and a diploma in Multimedia and Content Production.
Mhlanga, who founded Amakhosi Cultural Centre in 1982, has published three books and written more than 20 plays, including The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, Games and Bombs, The Members and Vikela, among others. He has directed plays such as Bamqgibela Ephila and Omunye Umngcwabo.
His politically-charged play The Good President won him the Art Venture Freedom to Create Award, shrugging off challenges from nearly 1 000 entrants from 86 countries.
However, The Good President was banned in Zimbabwe. Although presented as a fictional account, its depiction of an African dictator who has ruled his country since 1980 closely mirrored events in Zimbabwe before former president Robert Mugabe’s ouster.
Mhlanga and Amakhosi Cultural Centre were also awarded the Prince Claus award in December in 2015, an accolade given in honour of Prince Clause of the Netherlands. It was an honour for outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development.