Nkosilesisa Ncube, Sunday Life Reporter
Having attended the 2017 edition of the International Society of the Performing Arts (ISPA) in New York, USA earlier this month, Amagugu International Heritage International Centre (AIHC) programmes officer and 2016 Young African Leaders Initiative fellow Butholezwe Nyathi will from here on invest time into bettering the arts in Zimbabwe.
Nyathi, who attended the fellowship as the African representative came together with representatives from other parts of the world to discuss how the arts sector may be improved globally.
Speaking to Sunday Life, Nyathi asserted that there was indeed a lot of talent in Zimbabwe but the hindrance to the arts industry was lack of knowledge on how to turn the talents into marketable products.
“We have impressive talent in Zimbabwe and all we need is to strengthen the creative systems from a policy level cascading down to practice. I am happy that after a long time Zimbabwe has finally developed an arts, culture and heritage policy. The policy will give us direction in terms of what we as practitioners do within the various domains of creative pursuit.
Government should also invest financially in the sector. All developed nations invest in the arts and that is how they manage to export their cultures to the rest of the world.
“While acknowledging the current economic situation, there is a need to fund the arts sector and only that way can we take ownership of projecting a positive image of the country. At an operational level, practitioners need to reform practice. Shows start late and that is not a good practice for audience development. Forward planning is also critical. Hardly do you get your average artiste planning their careers and productions for the next two years for instance. Advance planning is a fundamental requirement for quality productions,” said Nyathi.
He added that the local arts should not operate seasonally but rather suggested that there should be arts programmes and events throughout the year, highlighting that locally, the arts calendar is almost empty during the first few months of the year.
“Visiting New York in early January I had assumed that the creative landscape would be subdued seeing that we were just emerging from the festive season. In Bulawayo January tends to be a quiet month in terms of the number of artistic shows. I was pleasantly surprised that winter creative programming in New York is just as vibrant as in summer. On any day and at any time there is always something creative going on. And being a creative practitioner I enjoyed immersing myself in the various artistic shows — classic music and theatre in particular. Our local arts could learn a lot from that,” he said.
As part of his resuscitation of the local arts industry, Nyathi has started connecting selected artistes and arts groups with stakeholders that he linked with in New York, having a ready team of peer collaborators that he can call upon in the conceptualisation and creation of various artistic products and services.
He is also in talks with the director of Vrystaat Kunstefees Festival in South Africa and beyond attending the festival in July 2017 and supporting the management team; he will also be recommending selected local artistes to perform at the festival.
“I am excited that the benefits of ISPA are extending beyond Amagugu International Heritage Centre. At an institutional level we are as Amagugu International Heritage Centre introducing new initiatives and these are strongly influenced by my cumulative New York experiences. We will be making pronouncements in due course,” Nyathi said.
Most recently, Nyathi under AIHC together with the Women’s Media for Development Foundation held a seminar on how women could turn their arts passions into professions.