Monday, 22 October 2012

Guest post: "Festivals, the new face of Zimbabwe", by Nicholas Moyo

It´s always a great pleasure having a conversation with Nicholas Moyo. Not only because of his sense of humour, but mainly because of his wisdom and experience, his calm and balanced way of analyzing the realities around him, his belief in a better future. In this post he writes about the proliferation of arts festivals in Zimbabwe and the efforts of the National Arts Council to create some guidelines in order to ensure that all arts festivals are held in accordance with the country’s aspirations as far as the development of the creative industries is concerned. mv

Intwasa Arts Festival (Photo taken from 
The establishment of Arts Festivals in Zimbabwe has been in the past decade the in-thing for the exhibition of arts and culture products in the Southern African country. As much as people can agree on what a festival is, in Zimbabwe an arts-related festival is projected as a platform for the celebration of the arts, where artistes and cultural practitioners come together for a specific period to showcase their products in a carnivalesque and celebratory mood.

The above definition holds because festivals are, in general, a time for celebration and enjoyment. It is an event usually and ordinarily staged by communities focusing on some unique aspects of that group of people. As far as the arts and culture sector is concerned, each festival is moulded around a particular group of people. These then make the nucleus of the market or audiences thereof.

Current scenario

There are just about twenty five festivals in Zimbabwe: six international, eight national, six provincial and five district festivals. Most of these festivals started in the last decade, when the generality of the political landscape was on a meltdown, especially the economy.

Within the said period, Zimbabwe witnessed a proliferation of arts festivals, being hosted country-wide. Admittedly, some of the these were established to deal with issues related to human rights. Others were hosted by fly-by-night festival organisers out to fleece funds from the ‘easy to appease’ donors. This scenario resulted in the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe starting a consultation with the sector, crafting some general guidelines for all arts festivals to be held in the country. The guidelines were meant to ensure that all arts festivals are held in tandem with the country’s aspirations as far as the development of the creative industries is concerned.

Harare International Festival of the Arts (Photo taken from

Festivals are in general a massive platform created for the establishment of a transaction between audiences and the organisers through the trading of art. Firstly, all festivals have been recording a steady increase of audiences every year. There is a growing market and a new relationship between this market and the creative sector. Audiences are beginning to exchange their time and monetary resources for good art.

Secondly, art creators have found it important and necessary to create new and exciting ‘good art’, while producers, directors and artists have begun to up the game because of the competitive nature of the creative industry. Festival organisers are contracting new productions mostly from reputable producers, as these tend to attract more people to specific productions.

Harare International Festival of the Arts (Photo taken from

The creative industries have had a fair share of market challenges. Top of the list is failure to attract meaningful partnerships that will either render financial support to the festival or underwrite even in kind some of its components. Some festival organisers are not well skilled to scout and sign-in partners, leading to failure to lock-in regular dates on the calendar. Thus, one tends to see festivals having to cancel dates they could only go ahead with only if they could get a last-minute funder.

Sponsors, especially from the corporate sector, have not been forthcoming generally for the support of the arts. Festivals are not an exception. Some, like the Harare International Festival for the Arts (HIFA), have created business synergies with the Corporates. One is tempted to say that the economic challenges Zimbabwe is facing as a nation have a bearing on the money circulating for the purpose of entertainment. The disposable income of Zimbabwe’s workforce is below the poverty line, and, therefore, this on its own has a global effect on people´s buying or spending patterns.

Intwasa Arts Festival (Photo taken from
In conclusion, festivals in Zimbabwe are a necessary good in the development of the creative industries in the country. With the different thrust by different festivals, it is evident that these are carefully designed to target particular consumers for specific artistic products. However, the festivals need to be re-engineered as business enterprises for the creative products. The growth of festivals in Zimbabwe will also ensure that the arts are undoubtedly seen as a contributor to the GDP of the Southern African country Zimbabwe.

Nicholas Moyo is currently the Deputy Director at the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe. He has substantial experience in arts management - as a director, producer and administrator. He has also participated in various arts training programs and short courses, including script writing, arts management, leadership, directing, and fundraising. He has expertise in leadership, team building and management, program management, project planning and management, financial management, strategic planning and review. He founded the fast growing and second largest multi-disciplinary festival in Zimbabwe, Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo, and currently sits on the Board of Trustees. He is also a Board Member of Tusanani Cover Trust, a welfare support organization for underprivileged children. Nicholas Moyo was one of the consultants for the first arts and culture festival of Zambia, the AMAKA Arts Festival, which took place from 8 to 14 of October.

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