Zimbabwe’s President emphasises importance of arts and culture in development

Zimbabwe’s President, H.E. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa officially opened the Second edition of the Bulawayo Arts Festival on 3 June 2021, emphasising the critical role of arts, culture and heritage in socio-economic development.

He said creative and cultural industries are an essential component for building national cohesion, inclusive economic growth and the reduction of inequalities towards the achievement of Vision 2030.

The President added that it is therefore imperative for communities throughout the country to tap into the potential of the culture, arts and heritage sector to derive economic value. He said the creative and cultural industries must be perceived and executed as an “economic sector, in its own right, which contributes to the Provincial and National GDP [Gross Domestic Product]”.

The Bulawayo Arts Festival which ran from 2 to 5 June 2021 sought to enable meaningfully participation of the people of Bulawayo and the nation in the cultural life of the city and provided an opportunity for Bulawayo to showcase its proud heritage, rich diversity, creative nature, resilience and majesty. The Festival was organised by the Bulawayo City Council with the technical support of Nhimbe Trust and the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA).
UNESCO influenced the inclusion of a “Heritage Corridor”, within the Festival in order to highlight the importance of urban heritage for cultural tourism within the framework of the implementation of UNESCO ROSA’s Sustainable Cultural Tourism strategy.

Speaking about the Heritage Corridor, President Mnangagwa said the country should preserve its heritage as it is a source of national pride and inspiration, not only to the present generation but also to those to come.

The “Heritage Corridor” highlighted and packaged the city’s heritage: historical buildings, cultural spaces and landmarks for the festival participants and people in Bulawayo to tour. It was launched by His Excellency E.D. Mnangagwa, who together with various ministers, government and local officials, visited among many; historical buildings, cultural spaces and landmarks that have significant meaning and importance for the people of Zimbabwe. The President and the officials toured Inxwala Grounds, the Hanging Tree and the Liberation Hero Joshua Nkomo’s Statue, the St Mary’s Basilica, and the Natural History Museum.

As part of the Festival, UNESCO also supported a conference on “Enhancing Local Government Participation in Cultural Governance” held from 3-4 June 2021.  The conference facilitated sharing of information and created awareness and enhanced the capacity of local government authorities in cultural governance, in line with the UNESCO 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) and Agenda 21 for Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy and Zimbabwe National Development Strategy 1. Both frameworks help operationalise localisation and domestication through participatory policymaking, cultural democracy, and culture responsive urban strategies.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Festival was held in a hybrid manner with some activities in all forms: arts, including poetry, music, visual arts, comedy, dance, fashion, and exhibitions done virtually and others physically.

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