By Andrew Mulenga
Any way you look at it, the arts continue to play a back seat role in our beloved republic. Zambians in general look at artistes as escapists, failures in life who take an ‘easy way out’.
The education system does not entirely recognise and support the arts as an academic discipline and since the post independence era, successive governments have never seemed to know what to do with, or where to place the arts.
Consequently, it is no surprise that the arts are conspicuously missing from the Zambia National Tourism Board’s (ZNTB) recently published promotional booklet, a full-colour publication that targets tourists and visitors to Zambia.
As you flip the cover page open, a cliché photo of tourists relaxing on the Zambezi greets you, followed by what appears to be some sort of foreword entitled “Zambia ...a beacon of peace” which has “Home of the Victoria Falls” as the first five words of the introductory paragraph.
The photo of tourists on the Zambezi and the mention of the so-called Victoria Falls (which of course is the “Mosi - Oa -Tunya” or “The smoke that thunders” ZNTB should know better) gives an indication of the scope of ZNTB as a marketing entity. It is obvious that the boards marketing priority is indeed the mighty Zambezi river from where the country gets its name, as well as the falls of which we are proud.
This however should not suggest that the 34-page booklet does not cover other areas that might be of interest to a visitor or indeed a tourist. It goes on to briefly profile wildlife, national parks, lakes, canoe safaris; elephant back safaris, bungi jumping and white water rafting.
It also has an impressive traditional ceremonies calendar listing about 30 of them complete with title, tribe and place of the event.
When it gets to the city profiles and travel tips it elaborately covers banking, climate, etiquette, currency, visa requirements and language among other things but does not mention a single thing about the arts.
There is no mention of the contemporary art scene or works that can be viewed at the National Museum and private collections such as Chaminuka, Villa Lucia and Namwandwe, or the Henry Tayali gallery and Twaya Arts where reasonably priced purchases authentic contemporary art can be made to carry off as souvenirs or gifts.
Furthermore, there is no mention of the thriving handicrafts markets and ‘airport art’ that can be bought at Livingstone’s Mukuni market, the Kabwata Cultural Village and Arcade’s Sunday market in Lusaka, or even the Twapya roadside market in Ndola.
The Lusaka Playhouse, Kitwe and Chingola little theatres get no reference too, suggesting that theatre is none existent in Zambia and that a visitor cannot catch up with local productions.
Similarly, there are no profiles or consideration of local arts festivals such as the Mwela Arts festival or the Chikuni Music Festival that, according to an insider at ZNTB attracts scores of traditional musicians and over 70,000 villagers annually.
Generally speaking, it is not clear, whether ZNTB deliberately omitted the Zambian art scene from the publication or whether there has just been no collaboration between the board and the arts fraternity.
Nevertheless, since the booklets are already in circulation, some modifications could be made on the ZNTB website in this regard.