Art is often seen as a window to better understanding of humans and their values. In many cases it is seen as the gateway to socio economic development. Though, government has acknowledged the importance of arts and culture by forming the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ), art funding has largely remained in the hands of corporates and donor community. Spiked’s Trevor Makonyonga (TM) manage to get some answers that may clarify why NACZ is seemingly not in the frontline of funding arts and culture from NACZ marketing and publicity manager Cathrine Mtombeni.
TM: Why is it that the NACZ do not give grants or funds to support artists in different disciplines?
CM: One of the roles, among many that NACZ provides is ensuring that the sector is funded. This has been done by courting corporate and bilateral and multilateral partners. The efforts of the Council have been successful as shown by the funding of festivals and other arts activities by corporate, bilateral and multilateral partners throughout Zimbabwe.
However, NACZ used to fund the arts directly using government provided funds when it established the Arts Development Fund (ADF) to assist artists fund their programmes and projects. Its thrust is on project viability and sustainability. The ADF has three aspects of funding which are:
Loan facility – The loan, which is a revolving fund, is administered through a special Board set up by NACZ. Applications are open to individuals or group artists, promoters, producers and arts organisations who meet specified criteria. NACZ determines, from year to year, amounts allocated per each art discipline. A selection panel of NACZ Board sit to determine deserving artists.
Scholarship – This grant is intended to benefit talented young Zimbabweans who have been or can be admitted to post secondary training in Zimbabwe to pursue arts and culture related subjects. The grant is aimed at professionalising the arts.
Administrative Grants – These grants are disbursed to registered arts organisations for administrative purposes. Grants for other projects or programmes are also considered under this facility. Such projects should have an overspill effect in the arts sector.
However, as you will are aware that the economy has not performed well over the years and government has not been able to avail funding for the above programmes. NACZ however, worked with the sector in early 2000 to create the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe that filled the gap that government (NACZ) was unable to meet. It is Council’s conviction that as soon as the economy improves, the direct and indirect funding for the sector will improve as well.
TM: How is the government involved with the functions of NACZ?
CM: The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) was established in 1985 by an Act of Parliament. Therefore, all the Councils operations are guided by a mandate that comes from the government. The Board that runs the Council is appointed by the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture.
TM: What are the current major functions of the NACZ?
CM: The main function of National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) is to foster, develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts and their presentation, performance, execution and the exhibition of the same to various publics.
According to the Act, Part III Para 15, the functions of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe shall be;
- to foster, develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and practise of the arts in Zimbabwe by encouraging the teaching and practise of the arts and their presentation, performance, execution and exhibition to the public; and
- to advise and co-operate with the Government, local authorities, registered arts organizations, or any other societies, organizations, associations, groups or other bodies or individuals in any matter concerned directly or indirectly with the arts and the teachings or practise thereof
- make a grant in aid or provide any other form of financial assistance to registered arts organisation engaged in or concerned with the practise or teaching of any particular art or its presentation, performance, execution or exhibition to the public; or
- incur any other expenditure in promoting the development and improvement of the knowledge, understanding or practise of any particular art;
As you can appreciate from the above, NACZ achieves the above mandates through strategies and programming that allows for the sector to be promoted and developed. Some of the strategies and programmes include the following among many;
NACZ Programmes include:
National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) (Promotion) – This is a platform where NACZ recognises excellence in creativity and talent. The major aim of the awards is to stimulate artistic creativity and originality. The awards cater for all arts disciplines in the country covering the visual arts, dance, theatre, literary arts, music, spoken word and film.
Jikinya Dance Festival (Development): – This is a dance festival for primary school pupils. The festival aims at preserving traditional dances especially among the young Zimbabweans at primary school level. The festival is open to all primary schools in the country.
Culture Week (Promotion):- This is a national arts and culture festival to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development proclaimed by UNESCO as 21st May. Zimbabwe celebrates this over a week. NACZ encourage communities and stakeholders alike to hold events that celebrate their culture. .
Mbende Jerusarema Dance Festival (Development and Promotion):- A festival that celebrates the Jerusarema Mbende dance that was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage for Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.
National Arts Indaba (Development):- This is a National Arts strategy dialogue held annually to discus, deliberate and recommends specific courses of action in the creative industries in Zimbabwe and beyond.
In addition to the above there are a lot of lobbying and engagements with diplomatic community, funding partners, education system, local authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that the sector gets the much needed support.
TM: With regards to NAMA, there has been a lot of outcry on how the event is conducted from the nominations to the actual awards night, what is your response to these criticisms?
CM: While it is true that there have been outcry in the media, we also think the media has not always provided the public with accurate and factual process in as far as NAMA is concerned. The media has also failed to realise that NAMA is not a music nor popularist awards but an awards for all arts genre as well as there has to be consistency in the way all the arts genres are adjudicated. NAMA works on submission or art work (art product) and NOT nomination by organisation/association in the sector. The submission is done by anybody but is supported by a monitoring process that ensures all the significant and outstanding works are brought to the attention of the adjudicators.
The Adjudication process involves looking at works submitted/entered by the sector for it quality, creativity and originality. Popularity is unfortunately not an aspect of NAMA outside the Peoples’ Choice Award. NAMA is about quality of the tangible product as measured using set criteria given to experienced and qualified adjudicators.
The quality of the event itself is a function of the economy and the support NAMA is given each year as well as the Events Manager that NACZ appoints for each edition of NAMA. However, NACZ will continue to strive for excellence in the quality of the nominees, winners and the event itself.
TM: How is National Arts Council involved with the artists? Is there a proper working relationship like that of a father and son or is it a boss and subordinate kind of relationship?
CM: National Arts Council of Zimbabwe has NO direct relationship with an artist, it relates with artists through the registered organisations namely; a) Arts Association or b) Arts Promoter. Whatever direct help or support NACZ elects to give to artists it would be out of realisation that the artist may lack support from the registered structures available to him/her.
TM: Regarding festivals, how many festivals is NACZ involved with? Will we see an increase in the existing number of festivals?
CM: NACZ is involved in all legally held festivals as they are required by Law to register with the Council. It is the wish of Council that as many festivals as are necessary are established so as to ensure the needs of our diverse communities in Zimbabwe are met. This is consistent with UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions of 2005 in which Zimbabwe is part to. This means Zimbabwe committed itself in encouraging cultural diversity among Zimbabweans through holding of festivals.
TM: Is the partnership between NACZ and Chibuku continuing?
CM: Yes the partnership between NACZ and Delta Corporation still exists through programmes such as Jikinya Dance Festival that I mentioned already Chibuku Road to Fame – Music talent identification show. Chibuku Neshamwari Traditional Dance Festival, a traditional Dance festival organised by Zimbabwe National Traditional Dance Association (ZNTDA) in partnership with Delta Corporation and NACZ.
TM: Are there more partners coming up to work with NACZ? (you could also clarify the existing partners)
CM: Yes NACZ has many partners that it works with. Some of the partners we have formal agreements include; Culture Fund Trust, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, most embassies accredited to Zimbabwe through Cultural Exchange Agreements
NACZ has also many partners that fund a number of its programmes and activities from the corporate and NGO sectors.
TM: Finally see, where is NACZ headed 2015 and beyond?
CM: NACZ will work tirelessly to ensure that the arts and culture sector is viable and that it continues to grow despite all odds. The Council will continuously strive to professionalise the sector and ensure it is structured in a manner that will support the business direction we dream of the sector being by 2018.