By Andrew Mulenga
Lechwe Art Trust secretary and outspoken art critic Roy Kausa has appealed to Tourism and Arts minister Sylvia Masebo to dissolve Zambia’s arts governing body, the National Art Council (NAC) with immediate effect if the arts in Zambia are going to make any meaningful progress.
In an interview at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka where he also serves as a consultant with the Twaya Art gallery, Kausa said the dissolving of the Mulenga Kapwepwe-led NAC was long overdue and that the current board has been detrimental to advancement in the sector.
“Government should dissolve NAC, r organise the department of cultural affairs and call for a stakeholders meeting, to see how it can help the creative sector become a more viable and self-sustaining. As soon as NAC is dissolved, the minister will appoint a new chairman, that means the affiliate members will likewise appoint new chairpersons, once this is done we will have a group of artists that know what they are doing” he said.
He said the board has over-stayed and it needs new people with a better direction because in its current state it is what he describes as “beyond redemption”.
“Im not saying I want a job, or I want to be chairman of NAC, I have a right as a creative practitioner and citizen to speak out when I’ve seen something wrong. Everyone at NAC is my friend; I know them personally and would not want to malign them”.
Kausa accused NAC of being suspiciously silent in the two months that the arts have been assigned a ministry that it can almost call its own.
“Why is NAC silent? Why haven’t they called for a stakeholders meeting when they are supposed to be the intermediaries between the artists and the minister. They have probably already misled the minister not to meet the artists. Im convinced they have told her that artists just make noise and will delay the budget process at a crucial time like this when parliament is open and the minister will table her budget soon”, he said.
He suggested that for the first time the new minister will be able to table how much resources artists need in the area of music, theatre and visual arts and if NAC is preparing a budget without consulting the artists it will mislead the minister and may even make her look bad in parliament.
“As much as she is the best person, do you think Honourable Masebo will be able to stand up and represent artists in parliament? No, because they are not helping her, it’s also highly likely that we (artists) will not be in the budget until next year because NAC is silent. NAC shouldn’t even pretend that they are working on a budget to give to the minister, this is already a wrong approach”, he said reaffirming that he has nothing personal against the chairperson Kapwepwe and the director Victor Makashi whom he said are both his friends.
This is not the first time the Kapwepwe-led board is coming under fire, in 2009 a group calling themselves Artists Alliance of Zambia which was formed to press for reforms in the NAC directed a petition over the election of Kapwepwe and Sankwe Kambole with
various individuals and associations such as National Theatre Arts Association of Zambia (NATAAZ), Zambia Association of Musicians (ZAM) firmly supporting the petition.
Nevertheless, Kausa also suggested that the ministry itself may need some further realignment if things were to improve with regards the arts and the creative sector in general.
“In fact, what the ministry needs right now is two permanent secretaries, one for tourism and one for the arts in order for things to work. Because as you may have noticed one part of the ministry, which is the arts, is lagging behind and is almost invisible” he said.
Kausa noted that it is not just NAC that is silent towards coming up with suggestions on how government can further support the arts, but that even the artists themselves appear to have gone silent after much euphoria upon announcing the ministry just over two months ago.
“I have been watching with disappointment the past few months. For such a long time as artists we have been in the wilderness, being thrown from one desert to another in the name of ministries, now this time around the Patriotic Front decides to give us a ministry and we appear not to know what to do with it”.
He observed that the first week the ministry was announced, artists were in the media celebrating that they have arrived in “the land of milk and honey”, but all of a sudden they have gone quiet
“All the artists that were making noise and thanking government for the ministry are now silent. But I’m not surprised, I know the reason why. It’s because they don’t know what to do; they think in their wisdom that government will come to the artists and tell them what to do. Just like NAC they are all waiting for government to come to them with a sack full of money for the artists use”, he said.
“Which government in the world would create a ministry for the artists and start giving them plans. The artists can’t see that government is waiting for the artists to give it a plan, a list of needs, a roadmap”.
He said as a creative industry, there are many things that can be done, such as artists coming up with plans for making ceramics factories across the country, run by the artists in which they can design and create cups and plates to supply to shops and hotels and even for export to lessen the mass importation of these consumable creative products.
“All we would need in such a case is to bring in experts from china to help us build kilns and when we start making these plates and cups and we are in business, can you imagine how many jobs such a project would create for artists”
He said that there are many other areas where artists can go to government and lobby for funds. He said that musicians can ask the ministry for state of the art professional studios to start recording using live equipment as opposed to making music from what he termed as “backyard studios”, and in this way the quality of their music could reach a sound quality that can compete globally.
Kausa concluded by urging government with its new focus on the arts to take art training at academic level more seriously.
“Also if we can ask government as artists to stop beating about the bush and introduce a faculty for the arts at the University of Zambia. Of course I would like to commend the private (universities) institutions that have introduced art. It is a good thing. But I think we could be the only country in the world teaching art by long distance learning. For me, an art student meeting his lecturer only four times in a year, which means you will meet the lecture only 16 times then you get a degree is a joke.” Said Kausa.His last remark was obviously in reference to the Zambia Open University, the only higher learning institution in Zambia offering a bachelor’s degree in fine arts-