Arts financing remains thorny issue

BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO

THE arts and culture industry’s potential to contribute to the economy and foster national development is often over-looked in Zimbabwe.

If the industry’s potential is fully realised, it is capable of contributing immensely to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). With the support of all stakeholders including government, business and consumers, the sky is the limit.

It was not surprising that the national budget presented on Thursday by Finance and Economic
Development minister Mthuli Ncube did not pay particular attention to the arts industry although youths received financial support.

Ncube committed $500 million through the newly-created National Venture Capital Fund to finance start-up projects for youths.

Last year, in the 2019 budget, the ministry was allocated $53 million, which stakeholders felt was not going to make a difference.

There have always been complaints that a significant chunk of the funds would be shared between the sports and youth sectors, with the arts sector — housing film, music and art — coming as an afterthought, demonstrating government’s little commitment to the sector.

This shows that the arts and culture industry’s potential to contribute to economic development is not recognised by government.

Centres such as Chitungwiza Arts Centre and Murehwa Arts Centre can be used to contribute to economic activity if given support in form of funding by both government and the corporate world.

The country boasts film hubs such as the Zimbabwe Film and Television School in Southern Africa, production companies that include Mirazvo Productions and hosts several music festivals.

The industry generates over US$100 billion every year globally. In fiscal year 2019, the total revenue earned by India’s film industry (dominated by Bollywood) amounted to over 183 billion Indian rupees. United States’ Hollywood generates over US$140 billion annually with Nigeria’s Nollywood making over 200 billion Nairas per year.

Chinese cinema’s Lost in Thailand (2012) was the first to reach 1 billion yuan at the Chinese box office, Monster Hunt (2015) was the first to reach 2 billion yuan, The Mermaid (2016) was the first to clinch 3 billion yuan and Wolf Warrior 2 is currently the highest-grossing film in China.

Several artistes have complained that being enveloped in the same ministry that houses sports and youths has seen them being neglected by government.

It’s high time that government starts to recognise the industry’s potential to share in the turnaround of the economy.

In June this year the Zanu-PF youth leadership expressed interest to support artistes when they visited Chitungwiza Arts Centre and promised to address issues affecting the sector such as lack funding.

“We are now in the new dispensation, so things should change for artistes especially the emerging ones. Government realises that it is critical to provide sound policies, a functional infrastructure and necessary equipment for cultural and creative industries to become fully monetised. There should also be systems to report to in cases of all forms of abuse in the industry that include sexual and non-payment,” Zanu PF youth league secretary Pupurai Togarepi said.

“The president requested us to go around these ministries so we have started with the arts. I am excited that you were free to air your concerns but I was pained that despite all your efforts to promote Zimbabwe’s image you are still facing challenges that can be dealt with overnight. In two weeks’ time we will be back with feedback. We are not going to fail because we have a leader who is pragmatic.”

It’s also sad that many locals do not even know the recently produced local films and this is because there are few platforms which filmmakers can use to take them to the people, one of which should be television channels. The sole television channel is struggling to pay producers, with ZBC owing producers $400 000.

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