History, arts and culture in the house of business

16 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
History, arts and culture  in the house of business

Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter

AS he looked around the packed room at a local hotel on Friday, 7 June, historian Pathisa Nyathi, felt strangely out of place.

Nyathi has dined with some of the most high-profile statesmen at home and internationally but this time things felt somewhat different.

The historian and iconic cultural activist was in line to receive a gong alongside several others on that night, but the other would-be award winners on that evening felt distinctly different from him.

Instead of scribes or cultural enthusiasts, Nyathi found himself rubbing shoulders with leaders of blue-chip security companies, wholesale suppliers and distributors of bakery requisites and miners.

Needless to say, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Annual Matabeleland Awards presented new terrain for Nyathi. However, it was also a chance for him to highlight that he is in the very important business of documenting the country’s rich history, art and culture.

“I think it would be amiss for me not to mention how grateful I am to the ZNCC for this award,” he told Sunday Life in an interview.

“I have been awarded lifetime achievement awards by the British Zimbabwe Society, the Bulawayo Arts Awards, and the Public Policy and Research Institute of Zimbabwe and so this was my fifth-lifetime achievement award and it came from the unlikeliest forum. For me, this was the least likely source of such an award because this was a business forum and I appreciate and treasure that.

“The award ceremony being a business forum meant that everyone that was being rewarded on the night was coming with a catalogue of the very serious business that they do as captains of industry. The room was full of businesspeople and so, to fit in with the mood of the night, I said I was also a busy man. I am always busy writing and selling culture. Thus, just like them, I became a businessman.”

Nyathi said he still believes he has more to offer and the award had strengthened his resolve to continue dishing out more books.

“It is important for me that I got the honour from that unexpected source because it shows that people from outside the arts, culture and heritage sphere are also watching. There’s nothing better than being rewarded by your people. If all these honours were coming from outside it would leave a sour taste because you’d wonder why your people are not recognising what you’ve been doing.

“However, when they honour you like this, it keeps you energised and motivated to keep going. When you get lifetime achievement awards before you have even retired, it gives you added impetus to continue. I have two more books on the horizon and I feel like I still have a lot more to give so this award was timely. I am grateful for good health thus far in life because you cannot write if you’re not healthy,” he said.

Nyathi said he valued the recognition that he received more than any monetary reward because it had a more significant bearing on his legacy.

“I always regarded recognition as more valuable than monetary rewards and this has strengthened my belief as well. You can receive money today and then tomorrow you will have spent it. However, when you get a lifetime achievement award, it is an honour that spotlights an entire lifetime of work,” he said.

Playwright and cultural activist Raisedon Baya said he hoped that the ZNCC would be a prelude to higher honours for Nyathi.

“It’s commendable for ZNCC to do what they did because we know what uMdala Nyathi has done in terms of documenting history but in the arts and heritage sector we regard him as our library. This applies not only to our sector but to Bulawayo, Matabeleland and Zimbabwe at large.

“We have always argued that our universities should honour him with an honorary doctorate. For me that would be the ultimate honour because it’s something that he can hang on his neck and every day we call him Dr Nyathi, we will be honouring his work,” he said.

Baya said that while ZNCC and the arts and culture sector might seem like oil and water, this was not necessarily the case as their industry usually intermingled with various others.

“It’s not surprising to see him honoured there because the arts and culture sector is not restricted and it regularly mixes and interacts with other sectors. It tends to cut across sectors and so you will find arts and culture in business, sports, education and any other department. So, this time, business has realised its impact and said let us honour.

We know he has been acknowledged in the arts but ultimately we have to applaud what the Chamber of Commerce has done,” he said.

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