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Bulawayo awards and funding the arts

Tuesday morning at a new steakhouse Carne Casa Brazilian set to open on Friday here in Bulawayo, a couple of journos gathered for a much-touted presser concerning the Bulawayo Arts Awards 2018 edition.

The brothers refused to spill the beans prior to the event. Raisedon Baya, one of the organsisers, wouldn’t budge and reveal details prior to the event preferring to mumble something about Nkala (Nkululeko) being the responsible person to fill me in about the groundbreaking event.

Why do I call the event groundbreaking? Well, it set standards in terms of a seamless production that was streamed live and viewed by over 40 000 people online. The level of organisation made some green with envy. When it comes to putting on a show, Bulawayo is peerless. Some facts are that stubborn. But it’s time for a short history lesson (or recap depending on where you stand).

A place of legends

Bulawayo is known as the City of Kings with good reason. Firstly, the history of this region is replete with legendary characters.

Historically, the Matabeleland region is originally the place of the Mambos (Rozvi kings). Mambo Changamire Dombo (Chirisamhuru) reigned in these parts for an epoch. Khami ruins is a testament of his people’s presence within the region.

You may also have heard of the legend of spirit medium Chaminuka and last Ndebele King Lobengula and their purpoted mysterious demises in these parts amongst other legends. I will have you know dear reader, that from the moment you leave Four Winds from the road that stretches all the way into Bulawayo City Centre, the Matopos area is spangled almost entirely with conical hills that jut from the earth’s surface — the way a young maiden’s unravished breasts would.

World Heritage site

Picture that and picture in your mind the rock paintings that pepper the rocks chronicling a bygone era, least our hubris gets the better of us, that we are all just passing through no matter how lofty our dreams and designs are.

The San would not have us forget that they were here before we all were. You ought to have visited the enchanted and breathtaking World Heritage site of the Matopos National Park with its balancing rocks and wild life by now. The paintings on rocks and caves in the national park are the voices of the ancients beckoning us to move ahead whilst looking back.

And what of the paint they used? How has it stood the test of time? Think indeed about the chemistry and tell me if you still believe in the ignorance of the natives.Did the natives not know the laws of physics? Clearly, they did. Think moreover about the stone masonry and buildings without mortar at places such as Khami and Naletale? How have these buildings survived the vagaries of weather and time?

A multi-cultural tapestry

The Njelele shrine of Mwari is located in this region. It is a place with a rich history of rain-making ceremonies, a place of mystic men who tangled with the spirit realm … This region is the only one in my considered view, which has the ethnic diversity which represents Zimbabwe in microcosm.

Peopled by Sothos, Xhosas, Vendas, Kalangas, their cousins the Karangas, Nambyas, Tongas, Manyikas, Tshanganis, Twa (San), Indians, Caucasians, Coloureds, Chewas, and Nyanjas this place is unique.

This very fact is lost on many Zimbabweans.The Mambos fell firstly before Nyamazana the Ngoni warrior queen from across the Limpopo. Latterly, the Ndebeles were to arrive in Guruuswa under Mzilikazi who went to set up his own kingdom before Cecil John Rhodes and his legion took over control of the region and entire country of what is now known as Zimbabwe today which of course was birthed out of a national effort to dislodge the colonial government under Smith.

Zipra and Zanla forces supported by the masses of Zimbabwe’s people fought a bitter struggle which culminated in the settlement at Lancaster House in England 1979.Our Independence Day is and was commemorated on April 18 2018.It was not one mass political movement that ushered this day thankfully.

Bulawayo Arts Awards

Symbolically, the awards are a celebration of Zimbawe’s cultural capital’s creativity. This statement is actually an understatement. The awards are in a sense, national awards. But this logic is an inversion of conventional wisdom.

You need to appreciate that Bulawayo is like California or Johannesburg south of the Limpopo as a melting pot.

“I think you all know that Bulawayo is known for two things: industry, we are dubbed the industrial hub of the country. But we are also known for our arts and culture. Innovation sometimes requires you to combine two unique things.

“Things that don’t normally exist in the same room and today as a Bulawayo company and as the people of Bulawayo we are innovating to cross pollinate two sectors of the economy: the creative arts and industry…,” the chief executive of United Refineries Busisa Moyo said of their new partnership with the Bulawayo Arts Awards intitiative which draw their strength from its wide pool of diverse talent.

The feeling of freedom

A contemplation of the last 37 years makes me believe that we have lived with a lot of cowardice. We have not listened to our better angels.

The loudest voice has been the voice of sloganeering party acolytes mouthing the praises of a mere man on radio and television. The culture suffered as pettiness grew deep roots and indeed even now the most popular of our Art (music) reflects the pervesion of our people.

One hopes that somewhere in this nation has been preserved a clique of creatives who are willing to employ their gifts to conjure grander and more soul stirring visions. One hopes that our captains of industry can understand the importance of partnering creatives in painting new dreams for our nation. At the press conference it was also announced that ZOL, Boomcity Advertising and Proton Bread are the other corporate partners who have come on board. ZOL was represented by regional manager Theopatra Nkomo.

Parting shot

The Medicis (a Italian banking family of Florence) led by Giovanni di Bicci de’Medici (1360-1429), who was the first Medici to patronise the Arts are an example of an institution and powerful people of means that partnered artists through commissions for artworks and architecture.

Donatello, Michaelangelo, Galileo Galilei and Loarnado da Vinci some of the Western world’s foremost creatives who owe their success and fame to the largesse from this family.

It is worth noting that the so called European Renaissance (a time of intellectual flowering and innovation which spanned the disciplines of literature, music, science, art, politics and religion) had its origins in Florence. Arguably, the Renaissance can be traced to the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) and Petrarch (1304-1374) amongst others.

The city of Florence was the epicenter which sparked the flame that spread across Europe. Greek and Roman scholars had also migrated to the city after the fall of Constantinople bringing their classical philosophical traditions with them. Could in some small way, Bulawayo, in a small way be the same kind of a city?

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