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Saturday, 6 July 2013

Arts forum to be exciting element of UNWTO

By Andrew Mulenga

Organisers of Zambia’s very own international festival, the Shungu Namutitima International Film Festival (SHUNAFFoZ) have reported that 2013 may turn out to be the biggest year for the event so far as it is officially endorsed as one of the UNWTO General Conference sideline entertainment events.

An annual event now in its 8th year, SHUNAFFoZ  a not-for-profit project of Vilole Images Productions (VIP) will run between Friday, 23rd to Saturday, 31st August, with a vision focused on: “promoting the use of film as a tool to highlight issues on women, youth, girls and women-with-disabilities, capacity building, development and trade in film/television products in Zambia and around Africa, and the promoting of Livingstone as a preferred location for filming and as a tourism destination of choice,” states a press release made available by festival coordinator Mumbi Mwape, a Kabwe-based  Independent Documentary Film Maker and cultural activist.

Shungu Namutitima International Film Festival
Executive Director Musola Kaseketi
According to the release, currently, film submissions have been received from regional and international filmmakers and SHUNAFFoZ is part and parcel of an even broader national initiative to market and expose Zambian filmmakers and their products.

It is also a base for non-credentialed training of producers, directors, cinematographers, distributors, promoters and other creative and cultural industry stakeholders. This, it is hoped, will enhance the development of the film making industry in Zambia in the medium to long term, evolving into a source of employment for the many talented aspirant and upcoming filmmakers working as a cog in a machine in empowering a people and creating a self-sustaining creative and cultural industry with excellent opportunities for further backward and forward, as well as horizontal and vertical investments for an integrated synergetic national economy.”

 Zambia being a country whose film industry is still in its infancy with no formal film training school save for short courses in video production at institutions such as ZAMCOM, the organisers, headed by award winning film maker Musola Kaseketi the Festival Executive Director and CEO at Vilole Images Productions have continued, to use the film festival as a platform for “networking and the assertive sharing and acquiring of critical professional film industry skills for the discerning cineaste.”

 This year, as part of its training and discussions programme, SHUNAFFoZ have included what may turn out to be quite an interesting “Arts Discussion Forum” that will critically examine the current worldwide phenomenon of reality television.

 Themed “Are Reality Talent Shows a bonus or a minus for the budding creative and cultural industry in Zambia and Africa as a whole?” the forum is expected to be an intensive yet interactive informal arts education and cultural management practice experience-sharing with the festival audience and the local, regional and international arts and cultural fraternity at large. Through their website and other media, the organisers have invited participation by all interested academic, creative, cultural, tourism and business.

 “Lately, Zambia’s public television channel ZNBC, like most cable programming, has been deluged with locally produced “Talent Search/Shows” in the increasingly popular “Reality Shows” genre, with today’s and tomorrow’s wannabe big-stars across the predominantly performance art discipline vying for that ultimate stardom tag, Hollywood-style, with all the usual trappings: winner-takes-all windfall cash award, studio and/or recording contract, the all alluring promise of almost guaranteed commercial success up for the grabs as staked by the often well-resourced sponsoring corporate and service businesses, a permanent dangle,” state the organizers concerning the forthcoming arts forum.

 They further declare that most of these participants have had little formal arts education and arts production, or arts management training and it is against such a background of next-to-none creative arts and culture management or arts development education in Zambia and around most of Africa - private or public that the discussion forum invites papers or presentations that will bridge the divide or will seek to compare and contrast the business and often product-marketing and so profit-inspired ethos in creative arts production and cultural practices rather than a nurturing contemporary arts education development systems.

 “Discussion papers or presentations may reflect on, but not be limited to, the fundamental nature and motivations of artistic creative productions or activities of indigenous cultural groups, as to how some of their time-honoured traditional methods have helped sustain some of now UNESCO-recognised cultural communities and their practices like the Makishi Masquerade/Likumbi lya Mize and Nyau Mask/Gule wam’Kulu in Zambia,”

 “Or a range of other creativity in the fields of film, other new media, literary arts, fashion and design, performance or visual arts. Can contention be raised that cultural communities are more transparent with better deliverables and resulting in measureable more objective outcomes in the molding of individual performing and creative artists?”

 The forum question also probes whether an argument is to be made that contemporary corporate tailored and television-based programmes in Zambia, past and present, loosely modeled around the brand events like “Idols”, “[America’s] Got Talent”, “EuroVision Song Contest” and the ever so popular  “Big Brother Africa”, etc., at the regional and continental levels is just such the antidote needed by Africa’s fledgling creative and cultural industries to bringing about new audiences, increased re-investment, and infrastructural improvements – in arts education and the economic potential of the creative and cultural tourism sector, in Zambia as elsewhere?

 SHUNAFFoZ interrogates risks posed by apparent imitation and mimicry of western talent shows only to produce arts and culture industry parodies at best.

 It suggests those gravely concerned are worried saying, there is a systematic and unconscious perhaps even over-commercialization of authentic artistic, cultural and heritage production, or are these perceptions just being imagined by a section of contemporary society lacking inventiveness?

 “What suggestions of some of the proven traditional methods, if any, of nurturing and mentoring, can make for adoption and incorporation, to sustain and engender originality in contemporary artistic and cultural creative practices with benefits for the local industry and making a meaningful impactful global presence even?”

The SHUNAFFoZ Arts Discussion Forum is to take place at the Livingstone Museum on Monday, 26 August 2013 and should provide for some interesting discourse depending on the participants as well as the quality of papers, presentations and arguments raised in response to the call.

It is exciting however that the organizers have broadened the forum beyond the phenomenon of reality television but have also allowed room for the discussion of the perceived “over-commercialization of authentic artistic, cultural and heritage” events and activities” of which much can be said.

Anyone who has attended a cultural ceremony in Zambia over the past few years can attest to the fact that, ceremony participants, fairgrounds and in certain instances chiefs and headmen can be seen clad in the brightest corporate merchandising paraphernalia such as t-shirts and caps. Traditional ceremonies, as we call them have become battlegrounds for ferocious corporate crusades particularly between the mobile telecommunication companies and banking houses some of whom are rumored to pay as little as K1,000 to have their large colours splashed around to be documented and therefore immortalized in photographs for eternity.

Nevertheless, as much as the arts forum will be an exciting component of SHUNAFFoZ during the UNWTO, there are  quite a number of things lined up for the film festival. Other activities are a “Grand Opening Night under a warm African summer sky”, public and outreach film screenings, non-credentialed filmmaking skills workshops, a special Kids Day for children,  and an Awards and Humanitarian Recognition closing night, each at Livingstone’s creative and tourist partner-venues.

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