THE stage for the country’s premier awards, National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) might be set with all roads leading to Harare International Conference Centre tomorrow for the ceremony, but the culture of tardiness for the event is worrisome.

Of late, the Namas, the brainchild of the National Arts of Council Zimbabwe (NACZ) established through an Act of Parliament in 1985, have been characterised by delayed starts and late finishing, leading to some guests leaving the venue midway into the ceremony.

Sadly, some of the artists that would be in line for honours have also been failing to respect and honour the awards because of coming late for the ceremony.

The awards ceremony, meant to recognise and reward excellence in creativity and talent within the creative sector, will be held under the theme Unlocking Dreams.

When it comes to hosting award ceremonies, Zimbabwe is still lagging in terms of time management.

The country’s red carpet affairs are known for not sparing enough time for guests to showcase their expensive looks, unlike in the Western and even closer to home in South Africa where their red carpet events accord guests more time to interact with their celebrities.

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Nama producer and event director Napoleon Nyanhi told journalists in Harare on Wednesday that the culture of tardiness by Zimbabweans was one of the reasons why the awards ceremony always starts late.

“It is a cultural challenge that we have as Zimbabweans and the Zimbabwean stars that are being honoured on the day always show up late. Even though we advertise that our red carpet starts at 3:30pm, people always show up at 6pm en masse. It is a cultural challenge that we have as Zimbabweans,” Nyanhi said.

“I remember last year, one of these superstars that we were hosting the event for, called me at 7:45pm to ask if they should come for the red carpet that had started at 5pm and ended at 6:30pm. So, this is a big challenge that we have.”

He said for this year’s edition of the Nama awards, they had divided the red carpet into two: red carpet A and B.

“The red carpet is a lifestyle piece within the awards show and it showcases superstars and the Namas are an event that celebrates superstars, but we noticed that the red carpet delayed the start of the main show,” Nyanhi said.

“What we have done this year is we have created red carpet A and red carpet B, all in the VIP, everything is the same. There is one red carpet where you need to have a pass to get to and the red carpet passes have already been given to our nominees because it is their night and we created that red carpet for them only and then for all our VIPs, we have the red carpet B which is just as glamorous as red carpet A,” he explained.

Also, Nyanhi said Zimbabweans were yet to adapt to the culture of dressing up in evening wear.

“If we look elsewhere at international awards such as Grammys, their red carpet takes place during the day and I think it is a culture that we slowly need to introduce to our people as well,” he noted.

Among the nominees at this year’s awards is dancehall singer Freeman, who is topping the list of nominees having been nominated for three categories.

Freeman, born Emegy Slyvester Chizanga, is up for the Outstanding Song for his track titled Zimbabwean Queen, which features Jamaican singer Chris Martin; Outstanding Album for David and Goliath; and the Outstanding Male Artiste where he will battle for honours with sungura singer Mark Ngwazi and Jiti artiste Baba Harare (born Braveman Chizvino Mawanza).

In making his debut at the awards, Ngwazi has a double nomination, under Outstanding Male Artiste and Outstanding Album for Nharo Nezvine Nharo.

Gospel diva Dorcus Moyo also has been nominated in two categories — Outstanding Female Musician as well as Outstanding Song for her track Tirikutandara.

For the Outstanding Female Musician gong, Moyo faces stiff competition from Afro-jazz musician Feli Nandi (born Felistus Chipendo) and veteran songbird Sandra Ndebele.

Visual artist Keith Zenda was nominated twice under the visual awards, for the Outstanding Mixed Media and Outstanding Exhibition.

At the awards ceremony, Alpha Media Holdings, the largest privately-owned media house in Zimbabwe which publishes NewsDay, The Standard, Zimbabwe Independent, Southern Eye and also operates Heart & Soul Broadcasting Services (HStv), has two nominations, — one for correspondent Nyadzombe Nyampenza (NewsDay) and the other for Khumbulani Muleya (HStv/The Standard).

Muleya and Nyampenza were nominated for the Outstanding Journalist (Print) category.

Guests will be entertained during the interlude by a star-studded line-up comprising songbird Gemma Griffiths, mbira queen Hope Masike, Mai Titi, Tocky Vibes, Poptain, Feli Nandi, and poet Obert Dube.

Also, to perform at the event are gospel singer Mathias Mhere, hip-hop stars Saintfloew (born Tawanda Mambo) and Holy Ten (born Mukudzei Chitsama), dancehall singer Freeman, Andrea the Vocalist, songstress Brown, urban groover ExQ (born Enock Munhenga), and DJ Tamuka (born Tamuka Mponda-Makuluni).

The awards event hosts are media personalities Godfrey “Chief” Koti and Charlene Mangweni Furusa and Griffiths.

All the best to those who will emerge winners on the awards night.