IF the arts sector was united and organised and had its priorities right the loudest noise at the moment would be about the creation of a national fund to assist artistes in producing and pushing the arts to another level. We would not even be worrying about who is going to be appointed minister for arts in the new Cabinet but how much Government will be giving or disbursing to the arts every fiscal year.
We feel Government can do more to recognise and value the arts and culture sector — and improve from the present where the arts are seen as just singers and dancers for entertainment. For starters Government could have $1 million or $2 million every year set aside for arts projects.
The fund could be managed by either the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe or an independent board set up by either the minister responsible for arts and culture or the President himself.
A million dollars from national Government distributed to the 10 provinces, equally or according to what arts activities and projects each province has, a fund like this would go a long way in developing the sector and creating some meaningful employment for many artistes.
The fund would obviously resuscitate the book industry that lies in intensive care unit. It would help rebuild some of the theatre venues that are falling down. In essence the fund would help rejuvenate the whole sector.
Just a few years ago, The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe, funded by the Swedish Embassy, was distributing nearly a million dollars a year to artistes all over the country. The fund had the sector excited and productive. Many institutions were kept alive by this fund. Many arts and culture projects took off during the fund’s bright years. Unfortunately, the fund dried up.
With the economy the way it is obviously the corporate sector will also shy away from supporting the arts. Why would a company that is downsizing or facing viability challenges put money into the arts?
As we write there is news that one company, the biggest arts supporter by far, is having challenges and moving towards downsizing.
Once this company stops supporting the arts we shudder to think what will happen to the sector. Also remember the few donors that have interest in Zimbabwean art are not really interested in arts for arts’ sake. They have their own agendas. And the whole sector cannot rely on funding with strings attached. So the only serious hope for the sector is for Government, both local and national.
The suggestion for a national fund is not rock science. Neither is it something impossible to do. It has been done in many countries. The Culture Fund model is there to copy, if need be. To be honest every industry/ sector needs Government support to flourish. The arts surely need a government fund.
A few years ago, though it now feels like decades ago, the sector screamed for a fully-fledged ministry of arts and culture.
However, the said ministry has had its limitations.
So if the arts sector was really united and knew exactly what it wants and what’s important, the loudest noise out there would be about the demand for a national fund to support the sector.