The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
OVER the past few years, there have been attempted uprisings by some of the city’s budding artistes.
In most cases, they have risen or attempted to do so after claiming that they are shut from certain opportunities by more established arts practitioners. We see the same faces everywhere, they claim, and “these same faces shut us out of much needed sponsorship and opportunities”.
This has what has led to the recurring talk of a “mafia” that is reportedly dominating the city’s arts scene. In the eyes of the young arts practitioners, this mafia is hogging all the opportunities to itself because they are familiar with the territory they operate in. They understand the lay of the land and so it is easier for them to snag certain opportunities in an arts scene currently starved of funding.
In addition, these individuals have known each other for years and therefore can gang up on any young go-getter that threatens their territory. For members of the often attacked mafia, nothing could be further from the truth. In their own view, they are only reaping the rewards of their hard work.
The fact that they work together is not evidence of some conspiracy but an illustration of individuals that have trusted each other for a long time and are maximising each other’s strengths.
While that back and forth has been going on between the city’s arts titans and young upstarts, a group of young administrators has taken the bull by the horns, quietly asserting themselves as the new faces of the city’s arts scene.
Their quiet entrance into the upper echelons of arts administration has not been marked by any hostile takeover. Instead, hard work, diplomacy and leadership have seen them emerge as perhaps the next group of leaders that are already shaping the Bulawayo arts scene in their collective image.
With the arts operating in a restrictive environment because of a depressed economy, there is a need for more brain than brawn throughout the country. Luckily for Bulawayo there seems to be an emerging young class of arts leaders that are already taking the mettle.
When he was appointed as the new Regional Director of the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo earlier this year, some might have had doubts about the man who used to run Amagugu Heritage Centre.
Critics might have felt that, at 33, he was perhaps too young for an institution that is supposed to be the nerve centre of the city’s arts scene. Nyathi was also coming in the place of Voti Thebe, a visual artiste extraordinaire who had earned his stripes in the city’s arts scene before he became the supremo at the gallery.
However, since his appointment, Nyathi has not disappointed. “This is a reference point for all artistes, not just the visual artistes. Beyond the studios here we have musicians that launch albums here and some artistes hold their meetings here,” he said after his appointment.
Since then, artistes have been buzzing around the art gallery which has become the meeting point for everything that screams Bulawayo arts.
Comedy, visual art exhibitions and even live concerts are all disciples that have found a place in a gallery that has suddenly acquired a new lease of life.
In June Gilmore “Tee” Moyo made Forbes 30 for 30 list, a distinction that immediately marked him as one of Africa’s young people to watch.
The fifth annual Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 list, released in a special issue of Forbes Africa for July this year, features 120 young African change-makers for the first time, increasing from 90 the previous year; with 30 finalists in each of the four categories — business, technology, creatives and sport. For many who saw him on the list, it might have been the first time name Gilmore Tee had popped up on their radar.
For followers of the city’s arts scene however, Gilmore Tee would be familiar enough. For years, the self-proclaimed global citizen has been the driver behind such young city arts dynamos as award-winning actress Mbo Mahocs, musician Asaph, Nobuntu, designers Ara Kani, Haus of Stone, Thobekile Zondo, Kidd Hunta, Nkanyeziyethu Malunga and Yolanda Ngwenya.
For some, Mdlongwa will always be that guy who brought Hartsfield Tshisa Nyama, an outdoor chill-out spot for the young and the hip.
However, as notable as that achievement is, his work behind the scenes in major arts events has always been great. As it has become harder to bring South African acts for cash strapped local audiences, Mdlongwa’s 3D Entertainment has been one of the few stables to promote foreign act headlined gigs while also giving a chance to local acts.
The DJs groomed under the 3D stable have also dominated the city club scene over the last few years.
Over the last few years, arts doyen Cont Mhlanga has often complained that the city’s arts scene had lost sight of its true audience. Instead of exhibiting their art in the western areas where it would be better appreciated, more seemed to be gravitating towards the eastern parts of the city.
After three successful editions of the Africa Day in Njube concerts, Ncube seems to have taken that advice to heart. As his stock rises, many in the arts will be keen to see what has organisational skills can put together.