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Monday, 31 December 2012

New arts ministry is highlight of 2012

By Andrew Mulenga

Looking back on the arts in recollection, 2012 has been the most promising and encouraging year, arguably since independence, ushering in exciting times indeed.

Zambia Open University arts lecturer William Miko with arts
minister Sylvia Masebo during the exhibition held in honour
of Cynthia Zukas recognition by queen Elizabeth
It passes with quite a number of highlights; Cynthia Zukas was honoured by the queen of England for her contribution to the development of the visual arts in Zambia, Zambia Breweries launched multi-disciplinary awards for music, the arts have a brand new ministry, which subsequently announced the National Arts and Culture Commission.

For the first time in the country’s history we seem to have a government that is dedicated to developing the arts as a creative industry, and if the arts minister’s recent remarks in her speech at the 15th Ngoma Awards are anything to go by development of the arts is on the right trajectory.

“The PF government has been working to develop an appropriate vehicle with which to drive the practical development of a wider job creation platform, more equitable national development and better international relations through the arts and cultural sectorOver the past year the PF government has demonstrated a timely and efficient strategic direction by creating a new ministry of tourism and arts,” said Sylvia Masebo in part of her speech.

“The creation of the ministry of tourism and arts is an unprecedented effort to address long neglected challenges in the arts sector… With the creation of the Arts and Culture Commission, the arts and culture sector will now be uniquely positioned to create and preserve jobs and promote the rich and diverse arts and culture assets of Zambia, this important policy will also enable the PF government to distribute critical resources at the national provincial and district levels”.

The minister also promised that in the coming years the PF government will work tirelessly in supporting and promoting the arts.

The arts commission she spoke of came following a presidential pronouncement during the opening of parliament on the 21st September 2012, as an advisory and implementing body. The idea behind the creation of the Arts and Culture Commission is to make an enabling environment for the growth of the sector and industry.

In fact the National Arts Council of Zambia Act 170 will be repealed by the commission and whatever structure is instituted should be one that will go to the districts and provinces and it is to have a secretariat at the ministry of tourism and arts.

Last month the National Arts Council hosted stakeholders workshop on the creation of the arts and culture commission, which was attended by a sizeable group of representatives from arts and cultural agencies under the supervision of the Department of Arts and Culture, where Zambia Open University arts lecturer William Miko delivered a communique on behalf of the participants.

Although grateful to government in what seemed an enthusiastic address by Miko, he highlighted a number of concerns that may need to be taken seriously if the commission is to be of any true benefit.

“We recognize and reiterate that the magnitude of the establishment of the National Arts and Cultural Commission is of great importance in order better coordinate the activities related to the documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement and transmission of the intangible and tangible arts and cultural heritage to future generations and for national development”, he said.

“A lot of work is still to be done in the establishment of the National Arts and Vulture Commission which will require the support and input of appropriate government ministries and departments and this is extremely important for the successful establishment of the commission.”

Miko urged government to expedite the formation of the commission and requested that an institutionally representative focal point committee should be appointed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Arts, which will liaise and work closely with the consultant appointed to draft the National Arts and Culture Commission Layman’s Bill to meet Ministerial deadlines.

The commission is likely to be headed by a 15-member Board of Commissioners, with members coming from the Ministry of Tourism and Arts as well as other ministries and government agencies. It will also include three representatives from the private sector. These representatives would also comprise the National Arts and Culture Advisory Board, which will be divided into four submissions, the arts, Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts, Cultural Dissemination and Cultural Heritage.

As complex as it might sound, this commission could not have come at a better time, there is need however for fresh ideas in the running of arts affairs and we cannot continue going round in circles, particularly that we have a committed government. Speaking of going round in circles, this year we saw the return of the Ngoma Awards. After a one year hiatus, would one be overzealous to expect all new and improved awards ceremony, especially now that the arts have a ministry they can call their own.

Of course mu effort was put into the preparations of the awards, and yes, it is easy to be an arm chair critic, but this year’s Ngoma Awards, instead of returning with a bang, appeared to be the worst in the 15 year history of the accolades.

It was hard not cover one eye in embarrassment throughout the evenings event. The lighting and sound was pitiful to say the least. Then there was the stage that had dreadful pieces of vinyl advertising from one of the sponsors at the immediate backdrop of the podium.

Certainly there was an attempt to make it glamorous by opening it with the classical Lusaka Youth Orchestra but it did not seem to be the best night for the following act, Bare Feet. On a good night they are the country’s best dance troupe but their attempt at Korean pop artist Psy’s worldwide hit Gangnam style was dreadful, not to mention the outfits, leotards and santa hats.
The fashion segment that featured models in locally designed outfits appeared to fall from nowhere. The skilful gospel rapper Pompi tried to rescue the event with his crystal clear vocals, but then disaster struck when HK, who apparently is supposed to be a comedian gave the driest performance probably in the history of comedy itself, as not a single member of the audience applauded him, at least the presenters could have helped by asking the crowd to clap, but they too appeared inexperienced. After watching HK, a show like this becomes hard to follow. Then there was also the confusing segment of the chairman’s award that went to creative Zambians in the diaspora. As much as they are all hard working and deserve to be honoured, one wonders who was doing the voting and what criterion was used. This year’s event brings to thought the memories of a 1980s variety show.


  1. Thank God for Andrew Mulenga,like always you doing a great job, somebody somewhere will have to save us from this embarrassment,Bravo for writing this article i hope they are listening whosoever is supposed to, i felt so embarrassed watching it, how can we even call that showing a national award ceremony!!??

    I must state that what we are talking about are facts which are there for everyone to see and not about attacking any personality, its just plain and simple, something has to be done and it can be done with the right people in place, people who can read the "signs of the time".
    please twapata

    concerned artist

    1. Dear Concerned artist

      Thank you very much for your contribution, and for supporting the blog.

      As much as I do make use of my critical license as a writer as you rightfully put it I do not "attacking any personality". Ours (Zambia)is still a fledgling art scene and we all have to work together to help it grow.

      We can only do this by being critical for the purpose of growth.

      Andrew Mulenga