GIVE me flowers while I’m living!
This popular expression which recommends people to appreciate someone while they are still alive, rather than waiting until they die aptly applies to developing countries like Zimbabwe’s arts and entertainment industry where artistes are believed to find fame after death and that during their lifetime, they would have no commercial success and very little recognition.
There is always a need for the Government and private sector to recognise the value and contribution of artistes until it is not too late.
The notion of the starving artistes is nothing new in Zimbabwe and whether it was because they toiled in obscurity, were swindled or the victims of financial mismanagement, some of the most famous contributors to arts and entertainment sadly perished in poverty.
The Government and the private sector have of late come under criticism for failing to bankroll the arts and entertainment industry and blamed for missing the opportunity to turn it into a multi-million-dollar industry.
Artistes, arts organisations and representatives have always complained that the Government and corporate sector were not doing enough to create policies to support and recognise them.
The complaints went a gear up during the Covid-19 pandemic when artistes complained about lack of funding from the Government and private sector.
However, the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa has made some notable strides that are designed to promote the growth and survival of music, arts and culture in Zimbabwe.
The Second Republic is also acknowledging artistes’ profound impact on society and culture by assisting late artistes with funeral expenses and conferring liberation hero status on them.
A case in point is that of one of the country’s music legends Oliver Mtukudzi who was conferred national hero status following his death on 23 January 2019. It was the highest honour that can be given to an individual by Zimbabwe and Mtukudzi was the first artiste to attain the status.
The late Zimdancehall musician Soul Jah Love, who died on 16 Feb 2021 was also conferred liberation hero status.
Last year the Government also granted the late veteran playwright, actor and theatre director Cont Mhlanga a State-assisted burial.
President Mnangagwa also conferred liberation hero status on the late Insimbi ZeZhwane musicians, Elvis “Ma Eli” Mathe and Thembinkosi “Maviri” Mpofu who died in a horrific road accident on 5 August.
As if that was not enough, Kingdom Blue Funerals managing director in charge of South Africa, who is also its senior director Munyaradzi Mpofu also pledged to pay school fees for MaEli’s two children up to university.
This was also after the company offered free funeral services for the two Insimbi Zezhwane band members, saying they were committed to ensuring that they receive a royal and dignified send-off that befits their extraordinary contributions to the arts industry in Zimbabwe.
These gestures by President Mnangagwa and Kingdom Blue Funeral Services are a true reflection that both the Government and the private sector now recognise the arts and entertainment sector as a vital industry and that they have a responsibility to nurture and promote artistes.
It is also a reflection that the Second Republic fully recognises the importance of the arts industry and its role in society.
This is because both these two entities have much to gain from the expressions of artistes as they are fundamental to their long-term success and identity. To the Government, art creates culture and history as well as public awareness and to the corporate sector it creates brand awareness and profits.
Indeed a lot of musicians have done a lot for their country. They have raised the country’s flag high on both regional and international foras. Zimbabwe’s culture and tourism sector has also been put on the world map by many artistes.
It is important to note that the Government and private sector’s support for the arts and entertainment is an important ingredient of a healthy arts sector.
By supporting artistes and investing in the arts and entertainment the public sector is fostering a skilled work force of creative occupations that contribute to economic productivity.
This is because arts and entertainment employ people working in a wide variety of roles, including individual artistes, managers, marketers, technicians, teachers, designers and carpenters.
Studies have shown that arts and entertainment are also an important community builder and prosperity generator for states.
In addition to their inherent value to society, the arts offer a distinctive blend of benefits including being an economic asset that stimulates business activity, attracts tourism and expands a state’s work force and tax base.
Arts and entertainment are also a sound rural development strategy as they help to address some of the unique challenges faced by rural communities, including geographic isolation, infrastructure limitations and population flight.