Festival gets late council nod

12 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Festival gets late council nod Clr David Coltart

The Sunday News

Bruce Ndlovu 

AFTER outrage sparked by news that city fathers were putting together a festival whose estimated budget was US$300 000, it has emerged that the City of Bulawayo has given the nod for an arts extravaganza that will cost only US$30 000. 

Approval of the Bulawayo Arts Festival comes amid outrage from a section of residents on what they said was a wasteful expenditure when the city was facing water shortages in the aftermath of an unusually dry season, even by Bulawayo standards. 

Last week, it was reported that Mayor, David Coltart had stormed out of a meeting in which the budget for the festival had become a serious point of contention. 

A week later, the city fathers had given a seal of approval to the festival meant to celebrate the day that Bulawayo came of age and was declared as a city.  In a statement, the corporate communications officer for the City of Bulawayo Nesisa Mpofu said that the US$300 000 figure that raised dust last week was in reference to the budget meant to cater for various activities instead of one singular event. 

Mrs Nesisa Mpofu

“The Bulawayo Arts Festival is budgeted for in the City of Bulawayo 2024 Budget under the Festivals and Recreational Activities line item which caters for various activities which also include the Youth Festival, youth training programmes under recreational services, participation at exhibitions (for example participation and training of Drum majorettes for the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair among other aspects amounting to US$300 000 for all the programmes). 

“The Budget for the 2024 Bulawayo Day and Bulawayo Arts Festival is US$30 000 instead of US$300 000 alluded to in some media reports and this budget includes the cost of venues as council’s contribution and cross charges across various Municipal Departments. The City of Bulawayo is further encouraging various stakeholders, arts and culture practitioners and the corporate world to partner with the Festival,” read the statement. 

Festivities at this year’s festival will include a street carnival, workshops and concerts. “The 2024 programme will include a range of exciting activities which include the Bulawayo Day celebrations on the 1st of June 2024 headlined by a Street Carnival, World Bicycle Day Commemorations — Asitshoveni, A Smart Mobility Initiative, and the KoNtuthu Legends Concert. Other festival activities include a gospel concert, various workshops such as the dance workshops, arts economy workshop and the Inxwala lecture series. School children are also invited to participate in the schools’ cultural showcase and Spelling Bee competitions organised by the Bulawayo Junior City Council. The festival will close with the Imbokodo Concert — an all-female artistes’ concert on the 5th of June 2024,” Mpofu said.  However, while some in the arts are celebrating the supposed windfall that will come from the festival, others have brought up the fact the festival might not showcase the best of Bulawayo, as the approval of its budget comes only three weeks before it is meant to take place. 

In an interview with Sunday Life, one of the organisers of the Intwasa Festival koBulawayo Raisedon Baya said while the decision to host the festival despite the naysayers was admirable, the timing left a lot to be desired as festivals needed a lot of planning beforehand. 

Raisedon Baya

“In terms of time, there is little time to plan and invite the right calibre of artistes. It will be done I know but it will be a rushed kind of thing. What should happen in the future is that the budget for a festival should be approved a year prior. For example, you approve the 2025 budget in May 2024 so that you have the festival team in place and make sure everything is in place. However, what we need to do now is applaud what our city fathers are doing for the arts. Everything else can be ironed out with time but what we know now is that our city fathers are committed to the arts and support cultural activities in Bulawayo,” he said. Baya said he was hopeful that the city would distribute the kitty throughout the year to various events, instead of putting it all in one bucket. 

“In the future, maybe if we are to get US$ 300 000 or more, it just doesn’t have to be for one event. We need our city fathers to say, there is an arts fund that is going to support certain arts events throughout the year. For example, some events are putting Bulawayo on the map that need to be supported. Those are nitty-gritty issues but the most important thing is that Bulawayo as a city needs to be at the forefront of pushing the arts. 

“They have been doing well so far, considering that Bulawayo is the first city to have a culture policy and a cultural officer being employed by the city. They’re leading the way and we should continue encouraging them,” he said. 

Baya said fears that funds meant for the festival would be misappropriated were unfounded, as the council had its processes that made sure that it would not happen. “If you go to SA, our neighbours, you will have several councils supporting the arts in a big way. You hear about the millions of rands that are poured into the arts. Yet the same people who are saying no to the US$300 000 are the same people who always compare our arts and artistes to either South African celebrities or international celebrities? How do you expect our arts to grow when you’re not investing in it? “Of course, there are some that feel that the money will not be put to good use but the council itself has proper structures to make sure that whatever money they give out is properly accounted for. 

At council level, they don’t support something that is not properly structured or constituted so that some of these statements are not based on anything but fear,” he said.

Dalubuhle Sibanda of Umahlekisa Entertainment also expressed doubt on whether the festival would live up to expectations, given that it got approval on the eve of Bulawayo Day. 

“The only scary part about this is that we had to wait until the 11th hour to have the festival confirmed. There are less than 20 days before the festival and I am praying that there’s a festival plan hidden somewhere. The culture office is still new and I don’t know if they have had the chance to consult and put things in place. We hope all due diligence has been done and there’s a solid plan out there that’s just waiting for funding. The biggest test will be whether there’s direct involvement of local curators, local event managers, and artists. We need to see the best of our people involved in this because this is something for the city and it can only be a success if we involve the city in every aspect of the planning,” he said.

He, however, hailed the approval of the festival as a sign that Bulawayo was ready to walk the talk and prove that it was indeed the cultural capital of the country. 

“I am quite happy that we have managed to get something flowing toward the arts. It’s a good day for the arts and this is a big victory for us. For me, the victory is not about the amount but the gesture and the change in the ways that the city fathers view the arts,” he said.


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