NAMA 2017 nominee list exposes National Arts Council inadequacy to drive Creative Economy Agenda

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NAMA 2017 nominee list exposes National Arts Council inadequacy to drive Creative Economy Agenda

Creative Economy Outlook Zim (CEOZ) is a portal on the status of creative industries in Zimbabwe. The purpose of the CEOZ Portal is to provide data, analysis and tools needed to promote and support the growth and development of creative industries in Zimbabwe. The CEOZ Portal’s vision is to ensure that Zimbabwe provides the best possible business, regulatory, technical and fiscal infrastructure to enable Zimbabwe’s creative businesses to flourish commercially and to increase overseas investment and trade in Zimbabwe’s creative industries.

The CEOZ has analysed the NAMA 2017 nominees through the lens of the CEOZ purpose and vision, and hereby share the following observations and recommendations from a creative economy international best practice perspective.

The following analysis and recommendations address two fundamental questions. First, should NAMA be continued? Second, how can we add business-value to NAMA??

NAMA have proven beyond reasonable doubt their relevance and significance as the premier outlet for honouring achievements in the arts and culture sector in Zimbabwe. But how well have they contributed or are they connected to the creative economy value chain? As we move ahead in an ever-changing creative economy, which is being affected in both a positive and negative way by local and global political, economic, social and technological factors, it is critical for the National Arts Council and its NAMA stakeholders to evaluate the current NAMA with the view of enhancing them. Since its inception in 2002 the NAMA have primarily focused on their goal of annually recognising and celebrating excellence in arts and culture. However, if the institutional framework of NAMA could be expanded, the NAMA have a potential to play a more significant role in the local creative economy. For example, NAMA has potential to be a key international tourism draw-card like HIFA. Further, the awards can become established as the pre-eminent arts advocacy and outreach platform in the country.

How can NAMA cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of literature, theatre, music for example, to Zimbabwean culture; from the artistic and technical legends of the past to the still yet to breakthrough of future generations. NAMA will need to transform to pursuing a mission through programmes and activities that engage creative industries, the cultural community and the public. NAMA has the potential to contribute to the implementation of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions through partnerships year-round to bring national attention to important issues such as the value and impact of arts and arts education and the urgency of preserving our rich intangible cultural heritage.

Through outreach in schools, NAMA can help demystify the arts amongst unsupportive or highly conservative parents who neither see the value of the arts in the curriculum nor encourage and support their artistically gifted children to pursue the arts.

NAMA can enlist support from selected award winners to do “NAMA Career Day” across the country, a one-day event that could bring top music industry professionals, for example, together with high school students to present an insider's perspective on working in the music and recording industries; to longer intensive experiences such as “NAMA Camp”. The Camp could be a non-residential music industry experience where a small group (20-30) of high school students could gain an introduction to the business of music. Each weekend session could concentrate on one to three career tracks, for example audio engineering, electronic music production, song-writing, video production or vocal performance. Participants would leave with a better understanding of how the music business works and how they can begin to plan a successful career path. The plan would be to bring children and young people into contact with working professionals or role models. The scope of such as initiative could be extended, providing scholarships for schools across the country via a dedicated NAMA Signature Schools programme, which would provide awards and monetary grants to public high school music programmes based upon need. Awards and grants could also be given to top public high school music programmes. The music industry has arguably the most recognisable role models and is the most developed creative industry with which to initiate this programme.

Over the years, the local music industry has evolved into the most viable business for individual artists with related businesses such as promoters, venues and recording companies. Yet, disturbingly, the very people whose creativity and ingenuity fuel this significant contributor to the national economy have few places to turn in troubled times. The tragic health and financial hardship faced by too many members of our musical fraternity, and artists in general, warrants that NAMA pay attention to structurally contributing to industry efforts to enhance artists’ welfare and social protection. NAMA are strategically placed to engage with and provide leadership on how the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) and private sector players such as Old Mutual can develop tailor-made win-win products and partnerships with the local creative industries. 

It is also common knowledge that artists, especially musicians, given their highly mobile profession and public profiles, seem most affected by alcohol and drug abuse and HIV and AIDS. Alcohol and cigarette companies, which are now bound by laws regarding public health, are major local sponsors for arts events. It is not unreasonable to require a percent of such support be levied towards rehabilitation efforts for survivors of dependencies in the arts sector.  

NAMA of the future ought to have a strong research and development unit to spearhead the National Arts Council or government’s archiving and preservation initiatives of the creative industries; geared towards raising public awareness of the urgent need to preserve our nation's recorded sound legacy, for example. This could be achieved by providing funds to entities engaged in preservation work, advocacy work on legislative issues, the development of information resources, and other projects that promote preservation of our nation's vast recorded sound heritage.

 Zimbabwe’s recorded print (literature), audio, visual, musical and film legacy are undoubtedly among our country's most important and irreplaceable national treasures derived from creative industries. The people, experiences and the very footprints of the evolution of our society are chronicled in the words, songs, and performances that make up this compelling body of work.

While much of Zimbabwean recorded musical and film heritage has been documented for future generations on a variety of audio and visual media, most recently, magnetic audiotape and digital media have been the standard methods., while earlier recording devices used tin foil, cylinders, acetate and metal parts. Unfortunately, however, many historically important recordings and information about these recordings have been lost to time and may never again be heard.

It is within the scope and potential of NAMA to have a dedicated programme that preserves on videotape the life stories of creative industry pioneers who helped create the history of, for example, recorded sound, film and published literature. A significant proportion of the much-needed data is already in place and in possession of the National Arts Council. Individual oral histories and profiles of key individuals, companies, communities and other entities that have impacted the evolution of the creative industries are chronicled. This footage is available for research and educational purposes and is utilized by NAMA or tourism agencies, both private and public, to develop programmes that tell the unique stories of our shared creative history through the unfiltered voices of key contributors and visionaries in the field.  

From CEOZ’s perspective, when the above fundamentals have been addressed, it would be practical and feasible to pursue the idea of a “National Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund” as espoused by the new Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy. There are no doubt creative industries that will be the biggest investors in such as fund as they will see and derive clear, practical and immediate benefits from such a fund.

CEOZ has deliberately omitted reviewing the 2017 NAMA nominees from a strictly industry perspective, as we are in the process of developing a set of “Creative Industries Awards Indicators” to be piloted during NAMA 2018. Suffice to say, the local arts and culture sub sector currently sits at the bottom of the creative industries’ “economic competitiveness and ease of doing business pyramid”. Hence, it is therefore reasonable to anticipate a negative assessment report when “Creative Industries Awards Indicators” are applied to the 2018 NAMA nominees. Why anticipate a negative report? Because the most basic of economic fundamentals are not being adhered to as a global best practice. For example, how many musicians contribute to ZIMRA and NSSA? It is taboo in the local arts and culture industry to raise the subject of taxation. But until we are not only comfortable to talk about it, but proactively regularise with tax authorities as employers or employees, then we may as well forget having an industry that government can recognise and support. Regrettably the NACZ is complicit in perpetuating the tax taboo status quo in arts and culture.

Creative Economy Outlook Zim (CEOZ) is a portal on the status of creative industries in Zimbabwe. The purpose of the CEOZ Portal is to provide data, analysis and tools needed to promote and support the growth and development of creative industries in Zimbabwe. The CEOZ Portal’s vision is to ensure that Zimbabwe provides the best possible business, regulatory, technical and fiscal infrastructure to enable Zimbabwe’s creative businesses to flourish commercially and to increase overseas investment and trade in Zimbabwe’s creative industries." data-share-imageurl="">