The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WHILE a glorious explosion of art and fashion rocked Bulawayo last Saturday, for the organisers of the annual Roil Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAAs), the event brought not only glitz and glamour but invaluable lessons, chief among them being the fact that the venue was a bit too large for an event in its third edition.
But the BAAs were once again an overwhelming success, positioning Bulawayo’s premier awards ceremony as a pacesetter for other events of the same kind around the country.
This year’s ceremony moved away from the BAAs’ home for the first two editions, the Large City Hall, to the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair’s Hall 4. On the run-up to the ceremony, organisers felt that filling the 5 000-seater venue would announce that Bulawayo’s biggest dress-up event had well and truly arrived.
However, while the VIP and VVIP sessions were packed to the rafters, the same could not be said for the general section which had a few empty chairs.
To those that have grown accustomed to an oversubscribed BAAs, this may have been surprising.
According to one of the event’s organisers, Raisedon Baya, they might not have fully realised what they were taking on when they decided to take the ceremony to the ZITF.
“The biggest surprise about this year’s event I would say perhaps was the venue. I would say we perhaps bit off more than we can chew because of the sheer size of it.
We learnt a lesson and that lesson was that perhaps the event should not be about numbers.
Perhaps the event should focus on quality. We’re saying that instead of saying we sold 5 000 tickets, we should not aim for mere numbers because it might compromise the quality of the product,” he said.
Baya added that they had realised that at an event that promised glitz and glamour, fewer people wanted to grab the less fashionable general tickets.
“When we sat down and held our review meeting, we concluded that for such an event, an event that people have gone all out and dressed up, very few want the general tickets.
A lot of people shun that area so I think it would be better for us to base on the VIP or VVIP ticket. In fact maybe one exclusive premier ticket will do,” he said.
In such a spacious venue, temperatures were bound to plummet as the night wore on and they did.
The BAAs are a convenient marriage of art and fashion and those that attend the event have never been shy to show a bit of skin.
This took its toll on the night of the ceremony and has left the organisers determined to perhaps move the event from the winter months.
“One other thing that people have complained about is the weather.
Actually the weather had been kinder to us but this time it was really cold.
People have asked about heaters and we did have heaters, but we only realised late that there were indoor heaters and with such excitement in the building, we felt that one mistake and the whole place would go up in flames.
So the time of the year in which we hold the awards will be reviewed. There has been widespread outcry about this and people can expect an announcement about this shortly,” he said.
In such a big venue a larger security contingent was required to secure guests and their belongings. However, Baya said this was also another department in which they had fallen short.
“With that kind of venue, we realised that we were also short in the security department.
With such a big venue we needed more people doing security but we realised it too late.
This is our biggest cry because we seem to be struggling with security, especially when it comes to the VIP areas.
“People would have been promised snacks and other things when they bought their tickets but they don’t get them due to our inadequate security personnel.
People who shouldn’t be in the VIP section come in and grab things.
They take them from the waitresses who will be moving about,” he said.
Baya said they also felt that the event ran a bit too long into the early hours of the morning, which meant that they will need to cut some sections in future.
“When we started the awards we felt like we needed to include everyone but we’ve since realised that 50 categories is not a small number.
We’ve decided to cut some categories and we will do so in due course.
We know that this is going to be a painful exercise.
We want to emphasise on quality over quantity and 50 categories means that people have to be at the venue maybe for six hours.
After the awards ceremony people should have after-parties or go out and have fun but in the past few editions, we’ve realised that people have had no choice but to go home after the event,” he said.
Despite the flaws spotted by the organisers, who want to stay ahead of the game by pulling off faultless gigs, Baya said they had been once again encouraged by the support they received.
“On the positive side we again realised that people really want to dress up and even us as organisers when we looked at the people on Saturday we ended up wondering where all these dresses and outfits would be during the rest of the year.
It was a great thing to see.
Another positive that we noticed is that people are slowly beginning to discover the talent in Bulawayo at a national level,” he said.
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe Bulawayo regional director, Butholezwe Kgosi Nyathi, said the awards celebrate the diversity of the region’s cultural expressions.
“The Bulawayo Arts Awards have become a platform where we express our being; we congregate and celebrate the diversity of our cultural expressions.
Always important to affirm our identity in the context of statehood and globality,” he said on social media site Twitter.
While the event generally went on smoothly, with all winners getting due recognition, what the house did not seem to agree with was the choice of the Best Dressed Male made by the fashion police team.
And you would understand the hullabaloo, for Bulawayo people, the awards night are certainly not about arts only, but also about dressing up, as the event has become the city’s premier night of glitz and glamour.