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Harnessing culture for national development


JOSHua Nyapimbi is the director of Nhimbe Trust, a player in the arts and civil society which has been working assiduously, firstly in Bulawayo and later nationally over the past 20 years.

His organisation has worked in cultural and creative sector policy interventions and lobbying the authorities to create a more conducive environment for catalysing growth within the sector.

Recently, he achieved a feat described by a newspaper as “the most significant advocacy impact story for Nhimbe Trust” by successfully lobbying the City of Bulawayo to officially declare June 1 as Bulawayo Day, an occasion to mark the founding of the city in 1894.

Power of partnership

While Nhimbe Trust says arts and culture are a “driver of sustainable development”, value creation and value distillation are tricky terrain.Nhimbe Trust’s efforts within Bulawayo have led to milestones such as the 2014 proposal to craft a cultural policy for the city of Bulawayo, followed by a memorandum of understating in 2015. The organisation’s engagement has delivered the establishment of the Bulawayo Cultural Affairs Office which has interfaced with the city council on a number of projects.

The basic idea, according to Nhimbe, is “to provide ongoing technical expertise to the council in the formulation and implementation of a Cultural Policy and corresponding Strategic Plan for the city”.

Nyapimbi facilitated Bulawayo mayor Solomon Mguni’s participation in the Unesco International Conference on “Culture 2030 Rural-Urban Development: The Future of Historic Villages and Towns” in China.

The relationship between the two organisations is deepening the partnership between the local authorities and the arts sector in this city, which might as well serve as a model for other towns. A bottom-up development thrust seems best suited to deliver progress.

Arts sector major player

According to its website, Nhimbe plays “an active role in global cultural governance and fair trade for culture through involvement with the African Union Pan-African Cultural Congress, 2005 Unesco Convention Civil Society Forum, Global CSO Coordination, Africa Tech and Creative Group and Unctad And Hoc Expert Meetings on Creative Economy”.

Nhimbe’s global work is profiled on the Cultural Economy Outlook online portal. All Nhimbe’s programming revolves around Unesco’s 2003 and 2005 conventions.

Nyapimbi described Nhimbe’s role: “The mission of Nhimbe Trust is to advocate for Pan-African culture-sensitive political and socio-economic development policies. We work in countries, at risk of conflict, in conflict, engaged in post-conflict reconstruction, and affected by natural disasters.

Nhimbe’s four goals are: supporting sustainable systems of governance for culture; achieving a balanced flow of cultural goods and services; increase the mobility of artists and cultural professionals; integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks; and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Milestones? “Too numerous to mention and pick out without writing an essay (it is like asking a musician who has just released an album what their favourite song is), but maybe I may sum it up as building a global organisation, which Nhimbe has become, and is no small feat!”

Bragging aside

Nhimbe Trust has achieved the following:

l 2014: Council Resolution to set up Bulawayo Cultural Affairs Office;

l (BCAO) 2015: City of Bulawayo and Nhimbe Trust sign MoU to give effect to 2014 Council Resolution;

l 2017: BCAO opens.

l 2018-Bulawayo Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy formulation begins;

2019: Mayor of Bulawayo and Nhimbe executive director attend Unesco Conference in China;

l 2019: Council Resolution declaring 1 June 2020 annual Bulawayo Day, and June 2-5 annual Bulawayo Arts Festival. Further, resolution to set up Bulawayo Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund (BACHEF) and mandating Nhimbe Trust as official fundraiser.

For women

Nhimbe Trust’s Women in Theatre initiative (WIT) is aimed at increasing opportunities for women in theatre and ensuring that women have much greater visibility in the theatre space. Provision of women in theatre perspectives on a wide range of political, social and economic issues and mentorship of budding women writers, directors and producers is one of the projects.

Acknowledging and celebrating WIT’s efforts by sponsoring an annual award at the National Arts Merit Awards and facilitating staging at selected leading local festivals such as the Harare International Festival of the Arts and Intwasa. It is worth mentioning what an organisation does, especially if it is impacting society in a positive.


There are those who will say Nyapimbi is a solo player with a big donor bag. That may be true but he is also pushing, activating and strategising to get his goals realised.

In an environment of scarcity, envy looms large but the world of donors is a world of track records. Without a track record of getting and using funds properly, one does not go too far. Perhaps Nhimbe Trust is doing as it tells its backers it does, which is to deliver.

Parting shot

“Culture takes diverse forms across time and space. This diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities of the groups and societies making up humankind. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. In this sense, it is the common heritage of humanity and should be recognised and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generation.” (Unesco Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity).

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