The Sunday News
THIS past week, a local online magazine FocusZw ran an article about singer/actress, Qeqeshiwe Mntambo, complaining about local awards. Apparently, she tried to auction her two awards on social media and there were no takers and it led her to the conclusion that local awards were useless.
It is said that she had hoped to sell the awards and raise money to either buy herself a car or a house.
Quickly, responding to the article local writer Philani A Nyoni jumped to Mntambo’s corner and corroborated her story. He too agreed that local awards were useless since most, if not all, just give gongs and not prize money. Both the artistes were right in airing their views. It is a free country after all and everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
Good for debate
We honestly believe the article was good as it did what it was originally intended to do — start a discussion on the awards, and by extension of the arts sector in general. However, a discussion that starts with someone pointing fin4gers rarely settles down to a mature conversation as it becomes more a verbal right where each side believes they are right and more concerned about coming out of the “battle” victorious. In most cases a good opportunity for proper engagement is missed. We think this might have happened with this one as we believe it became more about social media hits than a conversation to build the future. One side became too defensive and another became relentless in its attack. Not a good setup for a positive engagement.
Should awards have prize money or not?
Awards are different. Most were set up for different reasons. However, the common thread among all is the desire
to celebrate and maybe elevate good achievers in specific sectors. Remember, there are awards across all sectors — from sports, business, health and even education. Most of these do not pay money, not because they don’t want to but because the money is usually not there. Before we even talk about the arts let us look at say the local business awards.
There are several business awards in the country. They convene and celebrate achievers in their sector with gongs and certificates. Rarely,
have we heard the winners going home with a lot of money, houses or cars. The same with education. We know of several journalists awards — these have small prize monies.
But it is not enough to buy cars or houses. But the objectives of these awards are never lost to both the recipients and organisers. They are there to celebrate talent and good work.
Local football has the soccer stars of the year
awards. These come with some prize money — again not enough to buy cars or houses. We shall not talk about international awards ceremonies here as Google can
avail that information at the clip of a few buttons. Our simple point is that no awards ceremony sets out to humiliate its
nominees or winners. And very few (not that we know of locally) are set up with the sole intention of making its recipient instantly rich. Most awards ceremonies are spurred on by the desire to celebrate and honour achievement.
Is it wrong for awards to give prize money?
It is not wrong for awards ceremonies to give out prize money with each gong.
Who doesn’t want money, especially in an environment like ours? It is also not wrong for awards to make artistes rich, if they can.
However, awards organisers cannot give out money that is not there.
Remember that awards are just one-day events and there are big and more developmental projects across the country that are either folding or failing to start because of lack of resources. And our artistes are not poor because they are not getting prize money
from awards. They are poor throughout the year, most throughout their careers. It
is the system, the reality we live with every day. It is this system that needs fixing first.
And should awards transport nominees to ceremonies? Should they pay for their dressing and makeup? And should they feed them during ceremonies? Our answer is that there should never be rules to these. Those that are able to transport, feed and clothe their nominees should do so, and with pleasure. Those that are not able to should not be crucified for failing to.
There should always be discussions, not rights, about how best to create an environment that will make both the nominees, winners and organisers happy after the end of each awards ceremonies. Discussions to build the sector, not to
build the little that is there. Auctioning the awards and so Mntambo tried to auction her two awards and there were no takers. Does that mean the awards are useless?
Suppose we tried selling the late Tuku’s awards. Same awards given by the same organisers that gave Mntambo her own awards. And suppose Tuku’s awards fetch us millions of dollars, what, then, would be our conclusion? Globetrotters Iyasa have won several international awards.
We also know Vusa Mkhaya and Insingizi have won a couple too. The same can be said of Mokoomba. Suppose we take their international awards and auction them here, would they sell? And suppose they fail to sell, would we then come to the same conclusion that they useless?
Go for dialogue, not social media rights.
We all know social media has come and taken over our lives. But most importantly it has given many of us a voice we never thought we had. A voice many never had. It is very important how we use this new-found voice. We can either use it to destroy or use it to build.
If we really want to build let us engage, let us extend a hand to each, and let us create more platforms to grow our engagements.
Remember, no good conversation ever came out of accusing fingers.