Casting my eyes upon the horizon at the start of this year, my hope is that the arts and culture sector will fare much better than in 2017, given the socio-economic forces impacting the body politic. Recently, the newly-appointed Arts minister met stakeholders in Chitungwiza. Reports coming in, however, do not sound good if they are a true reflection of the thinking at the ministry right now. More about that later.
State of the Art with Admire Kudita
Marketplace of ideas
This column could merely focus on describing the latest local or international entertainment phenomenon. And that is well and fine. But the more I am affected by the mediocrity of some of the political leadership, the more I am convinced of the adage that politics is to the politicians alone! The reason is very simple: it affects us.
Moreover, I have experienced “verbal violence” in my engagements with individuals over my opinions that do not chime with the popular sentiments. For example, a platform I am on which has a membership of various creative sector players got me thinking.
One of the goals of the platform is engagement with the government over industry-related matters. Whereas that is one of the stated goals, there are those who believe in a “militant” approach to engagement. They say we can no longer beg government to fulfill its responsibility to the arts.
I daresay the new Arts minister has a lot of reading to do. He also has a lot of conversation to engage in if he is serious about his job. Perhaps he is. He has no need to send invitations to artists to find out what needs to be done. He simply needs to read reports in his own ministry which are barely six months old.
Does he like reading though? We can ill-afford to reinvent the wheel each time a new minister assumes the office. That is a mark of mediocrity. A society that cannot build itself upon good ideas, is going nowhere very fast.
Culture and state
Great nations are organised around great ideas. Even a cursory glance at the rise of empires throughout history will yield this observation. One thing is also foundational to propserous societies: it is the promotion of conversation between men and women of goodwill over affairs that directly affect them. What is government’s responsibility? What duty do the Arts, Tourism and even ICT ministries have towards content creation industries?
What is the reciprocal duty of the sector towards government and society? It seems to my mind that we really have a crisis and it is a crisis of how our society is constructed. Zimbabwe was ushered into existence on the basis of an overarching notion of an omnipotent, omniscient parent state.
It seems to me that this is the crucible in which the socio-political and cultural discourse is framed. If my observation is not apt, then be generous with me and concede that the angst of entitlement and mindless repetition pervades most things Zimbabwean.
Reinventing the wheel
What is filtering through from my sources is that the previous Arts minister Makhosini Hlongwane had applied mind to matter over how to capacitate the creative sector in Zimbabwe and had interactions with senior management to find innovative ways to fund the arts. One method that was being mooted was to adopt an outsourcing model for National Arts Council, National Archives of Zimbabwe and National Galleries Zimbabwe of funding, which would incorporate the corporates. I suppose that that is all water under the bridge in the new dispensation. Thus we continue. Always beginning and never following through. How must our civilisation be built when personalities seem to matter more than ideas? Why cannot the new minister look at what has already been done at taxpayers’ expense?
The big think
The great English philosopher and writer Adam Smith made the following observation in his seminal book titled Theory of Moral Sentiments: “Society and conversation, therefore, are the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquillity, if, at any time, it has unfortunately lost it; as well as the best preservatives of that equal and happy temper, which is so necessary to self-satisfaction and enjoyment.”
The big conversation we should be having is around how we can have a society in which ideas freely flow and in which our creative voices are heard and respected by those that govern. The idea of the nation is much bigger than puny individuals.
Rome outlived even the great Caesars. In fact, the idea of Rome’s greatness was more transcendent than mortal men. Yet in Zimbabwe, as in Africa generally, there is a mentality that needs to change right across the board.
The afflicted masses have been afflicted to a point where they feel frustrated and hopeless. (Reader you may care to read reports of fellow Africans dying in desperate attempts to elude Africa’s heart of darkness as refugees).
Those that afflict the masses with their lack of vision do not understand that there is a responsibility to govern on behalf of the citizenry without arrogance. I have been thinking long and hard about this phenomenon.
The entitled cabals of our society exist not only at the top and ironically, even at the lower levels of society.
It is really a discussion about how power is understood and leveraged. I believe the power of storytellers lies in their ability to tell those stories and to the extent that they believe they are powerless, thus they are.
So I propose that they move ahead with a coalition of willing local and international partners in our endevours. If government is behooved to give ear to the creative sector at some point and take remedial measures, so be it. So far, the struggles of creatives do not appear to permanently matter to government. This is my observation. What to do? Organise and mobilise and energise the constituency of the creatives to produce content that is exportable and life defining.