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Managing arts in high-tech era

Bits and pieces

This week allow me to reflect on the writing profession, especially that of the columnist and its hazards. My columns have elicited all kinds of feedback. Some will express their amusement over a subject matter that I would have tackled in a given instalment. Some will express dissatisfaction with my writing.

State of the Art with Admire Kudita

Some of my writing has regrettably turned colleagues into enemies. In a bid to get the facts, journalists can find themselves being charged with all sorts of “sins”. Take last week’s column, for example, an acquaintance of mine sent a message via WhatsApp to express his unhappiness at me for trying to “tarnish his image”! But I do not, as a matter of practice; make a habit of carrying a hatchet. I was flummoxed naturally and explained that my aim is to stimulate dialogue over an issue of public interest because, anyway, social media was abuzz with the matter. In case you are wondering, the matter is the one about the Intwasa Arts Festival.

My record in this field is clear that I do not use my pen to annihilate people’s characters. I will say that Intwasa management needs to listen carefully to the voices of the stakeholders. The need for innovation at the festival is doubtless. Money may not be the only reason Intwasa has suffered challenges. I have viewed documents from studies conducted by the likes of the British Council to tweak it. I have the documents which another acquaintance gave me. Change must come to the festival. I will rest this case for now.

Well, another acquaintenance again sent a message late into the night about my writing. He expressed his idea that when I was writing in last week’s instalment about government needing to help fund festivals, I was just having a pipedream. I responded that according to my piece, I had qualified my submission with examples from our neighbour South Africa, which has a national arts council that gives arts institution grants and regional governments that fund festivals (Durban and Cape Town).

My using a South African example made sense because it is closest to us and they do have a vibrant creative sector that is contributing much to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. My article was therefore entitled Festivals: the business of creativity.

The arch of the column was really to expose the potential of festivals and the creative sector in general in terms of contribution to an economy. May I hasten to add that South Africa’s example is vital for us as a nation and in light of the newly-minted minister; we have perhaps an opportunity to turn things around.

South Africa’s path of progress is not accidental. The country commissioned and produced a Creative Industry Growth Strategy document around 2001. I got hold of it those many years ago at an edition of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair.

Worthy of praise

It is, in my view, a brilliant document and serves as a testament to a country’s commendable organisation and dedication to the creative industries, which span book publishing, music, film, theatre, dance, arts and craft, architecture, leisure and hospitality and information communication technologies (ICTs).
The advent of Kwese TV and Econet Media has opened many of us pundits to the realisation that ICTs are also now intergral to the creative industries because they are critical to content distribution and consumption.

I suppose Strive Masiyiwa, the founder of Econet, realised over time that he could only make so much revenue from airtime recharges. People are using PDAs (personal digital assistants) in the form of tablets and phones. These are no longer for phoning alone. Mobile networks are fast taking over the role that televisions occupied as regards content distribution. Today, one can literally watch film shows, read newspapers and other content using their handsets. How then can ICTs fail to be integral to the creative industries? The match is obvious. The infrastructure that telecoms companies such as Econet have laid across Africa serves in terms of fibre serves as the conduit or rather the information superhighway for content distribution. The opportunities for messaging are vast in my view. Content requires channels. In this sense, mobile phone technology has become the “new television”.

Content call

Speaking of content, I received an advert from Mighty Movies via social media and of course, on my phone. Mighty Movies is in the hunt for content.

I communicated with AB Communications chief executive officer Susan Makore, who confirmed the content call. Independent local producers are perhaps poised for better days because other players who are in the broadcasting arena have made similar calls for content.

I can cite Zimbabwe Newspapers Television (ZTN), owned by Zimbabwe Newspapers. Nomsa Nkala, who is head of television at ZTN, made the announcement to a group of attendees, of which I was a part, at a creative sector workshop in Bulawayo, organised by Nhimbe Trust.

I am also informed that Econet Media’s Kwese TV will likewise make the call. DSTV’s Zambezi Magic made a call last year, although a few players made the grade. Iflix confirmed to me that they do have a local content commissioning policy, where they are currently operating from. The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe carried out a countrywide search for ideas. I will not say much of ZBC’s own interesting call for content over time. Payment is another matter entirely at our national broadcaster. It takes special skill and patience to wrangle and tangle with them over money. I should know!

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