Change formula: Chifunyise

Takudzwa Chihambakwe
COULD the creation of a stand alone arts ministry be the solution to most of the challenges faced by the sector?

Stakeholders in the arts and culture division generally feel secluded from direct benefit from the national budget.

This, they argue, is due to the fact that some components of the arts sector are spread across ministries, in the process diluting bargaining power.

This is contrary to prevailing situations in neighbouring countries.

For instance in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, the arts and culture sectors get direct allocations from treasury in turn contributing immensely to the Gross Domestic Product.

Accordingly, arts practitioners believe an arts ministry is the way to go if their fortunes are to improve locally.

However, veteran arts and culture consultant, Stephen Chifunyise who is also the current chairman for Culture Committee, Zimbabwe National Commission for Unesco has a different view.

“The problem is not necessarily with the individual who becomes minister responsible for the sector, but the challenge is on how Government views the arts and culture in entirety,” notes Chifunyise.

“As things stand, even if the sector were to get its own minister, the individual would still face challenges. The major constraint is the configuration of the portfolio that looks at the totality of the arts and culture sector.”

Chifunyise argues there is need for systematic Government policy intervention if meaningful growth is to be realised in the arts and culture sector.

“Government needs to come up with a portfolio that is logical, comprehensive and encompasses the sectors in terms of the development needs, the challenges, the stakeholders, and employment creation and income generation that is there.

“We cannot go on with a historical position where at independence tangible heritage was considered as culture and therefore you have museums and monuments being given huge budgets.

“During the same period also came in the whole aspect of intangible cultural heritage which is the performing arts, the oral tradition and literature among others which are not tangible physical places and yet there is no infrastructure that takes cognisance of them,” he said.

The solution to the challenge that has bedeviled the arts and culture sector in Zimbabwe, he said, was to form one ministry (Ministry of Culture) that caters for the aforementioned matters.

The renowned thespian highlighted that if such a holistic ministry is not created then growth of the sector will be impeded.

“If the current scenario where components of the arts and culture sector are scattered in different ministries such as Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality, Ministry of Home Affairs and Culture, Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services and the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation there will not be any growth for the sector.

“This is so because under those ministries, the component of arts and culture is kept in the fringes and overshadowed by other things which have way better structures,” he explained.

Chifunyise, nonetheless, challenged the individual who will be given the mandate to oversee the sector to ensure that they come up with practical policies.

“We need to have acts such as the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe Act reviewed so that it meets the needs of today’s creatives. There is need for a reviewed Cultural Policy because the one set to be published has become obsolete as it has been overtaken by changes in the global arts and culture industry.

“Then there is need for the minister to push for Government position. We always hear about the minister of mines saying the miners need this and we see policy being created and people are empowered in the mining sector. We need the same for the arts sector,” said Chifunyise.

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