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Monday, 27 February 2012

No more ‘lip-service’ govt promises the arts

By Andrew Mulenga
Germain Gamiet, Mulenga Kapwepwe
and Keith Mukata
The National Arts Council of Zambia (NAC) last week hosted a “first of its kind” business breakfast at Mika Hotel in Lusaka, with the intention of creating a platform for dialogue between government, the corporate community and the arts fraternity.
While the arts fall under the Ministry of Chiefs Affairs in the present government, NAC instead resolved to call uponthe Minister of Commerce Trade and Industry, Robert Sichinga as guest of honorto explain the government ‘s vision ­­for developing the arts sector as a contributor to national wealth and employment creation. Sichinga however was unable to attend and instead, deputy minister Keith Mukata took his place.
NAC also invited a number of business executives to the mining sector to attend in the hope that the government would encourage them to take up a role in collaborating with and supporting the arts to mutual benefit.
On behalf of government, the deputy minister emphasized the importance that needed to be attached to the development of the arts.
“In fact this meeting could not have come at a better time than now, for a long time the arts sector in this country has only received lip service, with artistes struggling on their own, with little or no support,”he said “The PF government is in a hurry to develop the country and we intend to do so in all sectors, including the arts”.
Addressing the meeting, he advised members of the business community that investing in the arts can be a very lucrative business. He pointed to the Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood film industries as some good examples of how the creative industry can not only create revenue and contribute to a nation’s economy, but that the sector can also be viewed as a nation’s flag carrier.
“I am aware that some foreign companies in Zambia spend a lot of money promoting their corporate image using foreign artistes to create TV and radio advertisements. If we invest in ourartistes, this can change” said Mukata “The truth is that companies will always depend on the arts to promote their corporate image, we should therefore get involved in the sectors development”
He added that PF was well aware of the challenges Zambian artistes were facing and thanked them for continuing to remain resilient.
“I believe it is now time to put resources which can help transform the sector into one that will create wealth and employment,” he said “It is also the PFs intention to continue supporting institutions like NAC so that they can carry on giving direction in the promotion of the arts.”
He said government will strive to create a conducive and attractive environment for investing in the individual artiste and the creative sector as a whole.
“The ministry of commerce trade and industry through the patents and companies registration agency has formulated a national intellectual property policy aimed at encouraging investors, inventors, innovators and creators to work diligently knowing well that their works will not only give them benefits in form of recognition and royalties but also contributing to national development,” said Mukata.
And officiating at the function, NAC Chairperson Mulenga Kapwepwestressed that it was about time artistes learned how to interface with government and the business community and that the breakfast meeting was just the beginning of this process.
 “We artistes also realized that we don’t know how to speak to the business people in an effective way for mutual benefit of both parties. So we thought we better start talking”, said Kapwepwe.

The three-way relationship that NAC intends to foster vis-a-vis arts-governments-corporate is all but none existent in Zambia; in fact regime after regime, corporate and public support of the arts has consistently plummeted.But following the deputy minister’s remarks it would be important for artistes to therefore put government under the spotlighton how they will implement supporting of the arts sector, even if it means using the newly formulated national intellectual property policy.
As the deputy minister emphasised in his own words that the arts sector has been “lip-serviced” for too long, artistes should not relax but take government on, and one only hopesMukata’swords were not merely a continuation of the “lip-service” he so much criticised.
Nevertheless economic and creative landscapes such as South Africa, however enjoy a much more profound relationship between government, the arts and business houses, with almost all the major banks owning large art collections or sponsoring arts prizes and festivals.
Of course the South African corporate and arts landscape dwarfs that of Zambia, and it (South Africa) has policy white papers in favour of the arts that Zambian’s for now can only dream of.But in Zambia too there is obviously room for the business community to support the arts. Just as well NAC invited Germaine Gamiet from Business Arts South Africa (BASA)a nonprofit company whose primary aim is to promote mutually beneficial and sustainable business-arts partnership that will benefit society as a whole to the indaba.
Gamiet made a presentation on the working relationship between the South African business sector, government, artistesand civil society. He also highlighted the economic, financial and corporate social responsibility benefits the South African business sector enjoys through sponsorship and support to arts programmes.
It is not clear whether NAC intends to follow the South African model and formulate a ‘Business Arts Zambia’ that will see CEOs sitting on a board for the arts, however, the breakfast meeting is aching for a follow-up in which NAC can suggest an arts calendar or possible areas of partnership and support to the Zambian business community.During the meeting Finance Bank Executive Director, Corporate , Retail Banking and Marketing - Helen Lundaraised the issue of corporates being interested in supporting the arts but not knowing where, or how to direct the funding, and rightfully so.Following the high profile breakfast it would be good to see less formalmeetings where business executives can meet the actual artiste and not the arts administrator can meet in an indaba to share and brainstorm on the possibilities of investment and support of the arts by having the executives meet face to face with the artists in their own territory.
All in all, with a government that is declaring no more “lip-service” towards the arts, it is an opportunity for NAC to entice them and the corporate sector to support the now shambolic Ngoma Awards, which according to sources could not take place last year because of resources, political will and uncertaintywithin the ranks of the arts council as they had no clue to which side the political hammer will fall late last year. Winning an art award should be a life changing momentboth inspirationally and financially, the prize money given to artistes for the Ngomas being about K1.5m is nothing short of a joke. With proper coaxing of business houses and government, an artiste should be able to walk home with at least a K50m cash prize. For now, nonetheless it appears the ball is in NAC’s court.

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