The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
THE fate of this year’s Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAAs) hangs in the balance, as organisers are now faced with the reality that they might need to postpone this year’s edition, as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on the arts calendar.
Last year, after cold temperatures had somewhat dampened the carnival atmosphere of the BAAs, organisers had resolved that the awards ceremony would be moved away from the winter months, with August thought to be the ideal month to hold the event. Last year, the city’s premier arts awards ceremony was held in June.
However, with the country on indefinite lockdown because of Covid-19, organisers are uneasy about hosting a toned-down version of the event, as that will rob the award show of its usual colour and glamour.
In an interview with Sunday Life, one of the organisers of the event Raisedon Baya said they were hoping that lockdown measures would be relaxed in the next few weeks, as what made the BAAs special was the response and presence of the people of Bulawayo.
“For us it has always been about giving the people of Bulawayo an experience that is unforgettable, an experience that they will be talking about for months or even the whole year until the next one. So, that is what we want to continue doing and the only way to do that is to get people coming to the event. So, if the lockdown rules are relaxed, I don’t expect that we would be talking about the huge numbers that we have seen in previous years. We would love an event where people come in, observe social distancing, wear masks and do everything that will make the event low risk but still a live event and still an experience,” he said.
With the award ceremony only two months away, Baya said if there were no further relaxations within the next few weeks, they would have no option but to shelve this year’s edition. With Covid-19 cases on the increase in the country, Baya said things were not just bad for this year’s BAAs, but the arts fraternity as a whole as the situation was now desperate for artistes who had not had any work for the last few months.
“If that fails, then suffice to say that we will have to wait for next year. I think there’s no harm in waiting. Really, really the official position will come end of June. I think the whole arts sector is hoping that things will be relaxed a bit because the sector was the first to close and I think a lot of people have suffered now and they need some relief of some sort to do some work of some sort. It doesn’t matter if its small work,” he said.
Baya said the beauty of the award ceremony lay not only in recognising in the city, but on the excitement in the lead up to the event itself.
Once that magic was lost, it would be pointless to host the awards, he said.
“The beauty about the Bulawayo Arts Awards is watching people dress up, walk the red carpet and watching the live event. I think it has been built on the experience whereby ordinary people dress up, buy tickets and have a day and go and experience the best of what Bulawayo has to offer. That is what we want to maintain.
“This year has not been a usual year and a lot of things have been disrupted so it would not be a surprise if even the awards are disrupted because I don’t think as a committee, we want to do the awards for the sake of the awards,” he said.
However, Baya said they remained hopeful that the fight against the virus would soon yield positive results. At the end of June, he said, they expected to have an official pronouncement of whether the event would proceed or not.
“At the moment, officially we are hoping that things will change. Remember we have been on level five but now we are on level two. The relaxing of lockdown rules continues and we hope that by the end of June we will have a clear picture of where we are going and how we can then structure this year’s event. In terms of a formal response to what is happening I’m thinking that end of June would be the best time to issue such,” he said.
Despite the ongoing lockdown, Baya said he hoped artistes in the city were producing award worthy works of art.
“We also hope that artistes in Bulawayo or those that the awards aim to celebrate have been working and have something to submit when the time to submit comes,” he said.