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Cultural fund gives hope to Zimbabwean Artists
Martin Chemhere, AfricanColours -
July 04, 2004

Zimbabwean artists must be the happiest lots in Africa as a multi-billion dollar fund has been unveiled with disbursements having just begun for the development of the arts and culture sector.Set up "to provide financial and technical support to innovative and diverse art forms", the Zimbabwe Culture Fund Trust (ZCFT) is open to artists who work in groups; arts and culture organisations and arts and culture institutions.

Inspired by a vision "to be the gateway to empowerment of arts and culture in Zimbabwe", the idea has been hailed by artists as "one of the best things ever" to happen within the country's struggling but highly creative arts industry.

Conceived after realising "glaring inconsistencies" in the funding of artists, the fund will be specially targetted to the marginalised, who have not managed to access funds due to a variety of reasons.Theatre, visual arts, film, dance, literary arts and music constitutes the categories being considered under the Fund.With most Zimbabwean artists operating without proper tools of the trade, the development has been described as a "boost" to local arts.

At a recent launch of the eagerly awaited funds, the mood was ecstatic with many anticipating greater improvement of a sector long regarded as a potential foreign currency earner."It is our deep desire to have the presence of the Fund make a fundamental difference to the quality and reach of the arts sector. The Fund can inspire artists to work harder and furnish the industry with a new burst of activity and creativity", said Mr. Titus Chipangura, the Chairperson of the ZCF.

In recent years, the Zimbabwean arts industry has witnessed an upsurge in corporate funding mainly directed at the major calendar events such as the Harare International Festival Arts (HIFA) and the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA). However, the emerging and lesser-known artists, particularly those in rural communities had remained largely unrecognised and thus were left out in the corporate funding game. The argument was that the generality of the artists, except for a few, were incapable of presenting professional proposals that would attract the corporate dollar. With the availability of the funding it is now anticipated that Zimbabwean art, whose rise to fame once anchored on the sheer brilliance of the internationally aclaimed stone sculpture genre, is gradually crawling back to its former glory days when art exhibitions, talks, forums were aplenty in Harare.

At a time when disturbances to the country's economy has rendered the situation untenable for most donors, frustrating many artistic talents, the international benefactor has once again displayed their allegiance to one of Africa's creative peoples. Mooted in June last year, the concept began when 30 Zimbabwean artists from 6 arts disciplines attended a forum organized by the Swedish International Develoment Agency (SIDA) in order to gauge the industry's readiness and response to the launching of such a Fund.

The funds totalling Z$10 billion will be disbursed in two phases of Z$5 billion each this year. More than 13 000 applications were distributed throughout the country's 10 provinces. A total of 3 126 applications were received from artists requesting a total of Z$311 728 286 014. This figure was far more than the Z$5 billion set aside for disbursement and administration of the fund.

Despite falling far short of the requested amounts, the money should be able to take the creativity of local artists to a new level. In the words of the Chairperson of the Fund: "Let us work together and ensure that the creative members of society are provided with the conducive environment, the appropriate tools and the responsive audience so that they can strive for greater heights and by so doing ensure that Zimbabwe enjoys global artistic influence and success".

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