Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
CRAFTS play a significant part in the tourism sector’s contribution towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an official has said.
Zimbabwe Applied Arts in Craft Association (Zaaca)chairperson Mr John Custom said most tourists flock into the country in appreciation of its arts and crafts. Last year Zimbabwe recorded the highest number of tourist arrivals on the African markets which reached 2 028 881.
“I am inclined to think that when tourists come they don’t want to see the hotels because they might even have better hotels in their own countries but come here to look at the culture, to consume the culture of our country, the traditions of our people and these traditions are depicted in our arts and crafts so they come to appreciate the arts and crafts,” said Mr Custom.
He said the country’s stone sculpture has risen to fame in a fairly short period of existence with many of Zimbabwe’s sculptors ranked among the most acclaimed in the world.
“There is a very good stone (in Zimbabwe) which you can’t find anywhere else in the world. The tourists know that and that is one of the reasons why they come to this country because even the stone sculpture is good to a level that it is at its best. So we play an important role as crafters in adding value in tourism,” said Mr Custom.
He said the organisation was constantly conducting a number of outreach programmes and workshops imparting its members with the requisite skills to properly run their business.
“We do regular trainings in business management. We have different organisations that come to train our members, teaching us how to price our products, how to add value to our products and how to make a standard product that meets international standards,” said Mr Custom.
Zaaca has about 3 000 members across the country and is on a drive to increase its membership. The organisation has been advocating for the recognition of the Zimbabwean crafts community in recent years. The organisation came to existence in solidarity over the issue that craftspeople are not often acknowledged as a separate subsector within the arts.
“We need to reach out to more members who don’t even know of Zaaca because as an association we stand a better chance to get funding and to get visibility than as individuals,” Mr Custom said.
He, however, bemoaned the low uptake of crafts production by the youths.
“Actually my major concern is that the youth in this country at this point in time do not want to take up arts and crafts from the original custodians of this trade. We are here and we have been doing arts and crafts for quite a long time, we need to pass this knowledge down to our youths.
“This is our challenge to us as an association to embrace the youths, women and the less privileged. We are talking about environment sustainability and self- sustenance so these programmes were constantly running . . . to include youths so that they take over the crafts production . . . ,” said Mr Custom.