The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
THE ROIL Bulawayo Arts Awards (RBAAs) will stay true to its stated intention of changing at least one artiste’s life with a significant prize at the ceremony, after sealing a deal with an unnamed local company that will once again see the winner of the People’s Choice Award walking away with a stand in a local suburb.
In addition, the RBAAs will once again change the venue for the main ceremony, moving from the City Hall back to the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) after organisers struck a deal with ZITF.
The RBAAs broke new ground last year, showing the positive influence that award ceremonies can possibly have over local artistes by awarding the winner of the much sought-after People’s Choice Award a stand in Cowdray Park.
Last year, gospel sensation Mai Mwamuka walked away with the big prize, while she also got building material from other sponsors to start work on her dream home. Eager to show that last year’s lucrative award was not a once-off, organisers of the RBAAs this week sealed a deal with a company, with interests in property, to give a similar prize to the winner of the awards whose main ceremony will take place on 5 November.
Speaking with Sunday Life after sealing the deal, one of the organisers of the awards, Nkululeko Nkala said although they could not divulge the name of the sponsor yet, it was a company headed by a name that would come as no surprise to the citizens of Bulawayo.
“I am also proud to announce that we have secured a stand for the winner of our most prestigious award on the night, which is the People’s Choice Award. We are proud because, this stand comes as a result of the fact that our businesspeople and community leaders in Bulawayo are standing up to be counted.
This year’s prize comes courtesy of a company helmed by a member of a family of one of Bulawayo’s most prominent business families, with a long history of philanthropic work and investment in the local community. This is a family that has a huge history of supporting Bulawayo businesses and projects and we are happy to embrace them as a partner this year. Further details on the name of the partner and the nature of the sponsorship will be revealed at a later date,” he said.
Nkala said while there was little progress on the building of last year’s winner Mai Mwamuka’s dream home, they hoped that construction would kick into high gear soon. He added that they hoped that other sponsors would also chip in with building material for this year’s winner.
“Unfortunately, the whole thing of building a house is a process. We are still in the process of getting some of the raw materials from the sponsors, the good thing is that those that had made commitments have already delivered some of the stuff to her. She should be starting the new development any time soon. Last year, it started out as a stand and the sponsorship grew as more and more people got on board. So, we encourage more people to once again join us as we try to change the life of yet another artiste,” he said.
Nkala reiterated this year’s ceremony will not be a one-off event, with a series of events culminating in the main spectacle at the ZITF.
“In terms of venue, as we did last year where we split the awards into three different days, we are pretty much doing the same thing again this year. The only difference perhaps this year is that we are adding one more venue, which is the ZITF because we are in partnership with them.
“That’s where we will have what one might term the main event but we are still in partnership with BCC and so we will go back to our traditional home, which is the City Hall and do something else for the awards and this will be something just as big as what some might call our main event. It’s going to be a few events culminating into the big one, which will be the final night on 5 November,” he said.
Fellow event organiser Raisedon Baya said the RBAAs were staying true to their mantra of rewarding artistes with prizes that have an impact on their lives due to the fact that many arts practitioners have had a rough time financially over the last few years due to Covid-19 induced lockdowns.
“I think from an organiser’s point of view, we can say that we have now really established the awards and the whole city now knows about them and the level of excitement rises as we get closer to them. I think now the dream is that we get most of our creatives to be totally behind the awards. We would love to see creatives fully prepared in terms of submissions and then preparing for the actual awards. We want to see them, talking and spreading word on the awards because it’s their thing, it’s their event. It’s all about celebrating their creativity.
“On the corporate side, I think we have shown them what the awards are about. We would like to see them extend their support because we don’t just want to give away a gong but want the artistes to also get something tangible. The last two, three years have not been good for creatives because of Covid-19 coming in and affecting their income, so it would be nice to see the few winners leave that night that reminds them that whatever they did last year was not in vain and it’s getting acknowledged with something tangible,” he said.
Baya said he once again expected this year’s ceremony to be a dazzling spectacle, as the RBAAs and Bulawayo at large had set a standard that they now had to constantly maintain.
“For us we have always tried to market this as the best dress up event, where we are expecting people to not only come in numbers but also come dressed to kill. So, it is our appeal that they see it as a day of fashion, a day to show off and a day to be creative enough to bring the celebratory side of Bulawayo.
Now that we know that the event is watched not only by those in Zimbabwe but even those far beyond, it is important that we make the event not only a statement about the arts in Bulawayo but in terms of Bulawayo itself. I am talking about fashion, language and everything else that gives Bulawayo the identity and cultural standing it has in Zimbabwe as a whole,” he said.