Artists and creativity beyond the crisis in Zimbabwe

Imagine a world without music to comfort, uplift, inspire and give you hope! A world without drama, film, paintings or sculptures to extend your imagination! No poetry to ask the difficult questions! No literature and no craft!

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is need to spare a thought for the artists. The creative minds behind the art that we enjoy every day. They rely on crowds but with the lockdown restrictions, they cannot pull the crowds at for least for now. They sell their artefacts and paintings in and around tourist areas, but they cannot do it now.

The current health crisis has enormous global ramifications for the creative sector. It has affected the entire creative value chain – creation, production, distribution and access – and considerably weakened the professional, social and economic status of artists and cultural professionals. They need our support now than ever!

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) in collaboration with the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe co-hosted an online discussion on 8 May 2020 to examine government’s interventions in the arts sector and their ability to build resilience in the cultural and creative industries during the Covid-19 pandemic. The discussion that drew audiences from other Southern African countries delved into possible solutions to common problems that are affecting artistes due to the Covid-19 pandemic and possible opportunities of growth and development during and beyond the crisis.

In his intervention, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa Prof. Hubert Gijzen highlighted the importance of addressing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the cultural and creative sectors. He called for unity among all stakeholders including the governments and artists to develop sustainable solutions for the sector.

Let’s be creative and find ways to ensure the continuity and sustainability of the sector. Without it the world will lose its heart and become a boring place and we should not let that happen.
Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa

National Arts Council of Zimbabwe Director, Mr. Nicholas Moyo said the pandemic has taken away the incomes that sustain the creative and cultural industries.

Entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized enterprises of the sector, which often lack the necessary resources to respond to an emergency of this magnitude, are especially vulnerable.

Cultural researcher, Mrs. Florence Mukanga-Majachani highlighted the importance of governments to intervene and encouraged virtual/online reactions from artists and creatives. She also urged stakeholders to be as inclusive as possible in their COVID-19 responses so that no artists including those in the rural areas are left behind.

UNESCO/EU Expert on Cultural Governance and Director of the Culture Fund Zimbabwe Trust, Mr. Farai Mpfunya called for transparent cultural governance systems with appropriate policies and mechanisms to support the artists.

Protection of social and economic rights of artists are central in helping the creative sector recover from the pandemic, as the sector can be an engine of recovery and economic growth. The creative sector represents a substantial portion of the economy. Billions of people have turned to culture in response to social isolation and the voice of the artist has been strong on awareness raising around COVID 19.

The online discussion was organised within the framework of the UNESCO ResiliArt movement that seeks to strengthen the resilience of artists and cultural professionals in the face of the enormous challenges posed by the current health crisis.