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do you want to be? Interview with Farai Mpfunya
March 11, 2010
Inside / Out with Farai Mpfunya
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Director of the Culture Fund, Farai Mpfuyna is described as a postmodern
knowledge worker. He possesses a diverse knowledge base, with training
in engineering, filmmaking and holds a Masters in Business Administration.
He is a former executive Director of the Zimbabwe International
Film Festival Trust, and is a founding Trustee of the Culture Fund.
Mpfunya strongly believes that culture plays an important role in
are described as being a postmodern knowledge worker. What is this
and how do you make the knowledge that you have acquired over a
lifetime work for you?
The reason I am interested in knowledge is because I went to England
to study for an MBA in managing information in small institutions
or small organisations. I got interested in that area because I
felt that information and knowledge would drive development in Africa.
I felt that the use of knowledge patterns, which are refined in
indigenous based knowledge systems, could be used in the modern
era. Now, I work with people who are interested in ideas, information
and knowledge and therefore the use of knowledge patterns. In my
view that is the only way that people can create wealth. Once you
harness data, information and patterns of knowledge, then you can
use them to create ideas that can create wealth for you.
does the term culture mean to you?
Culture means different things in different parts of the world.
Culture defines a society and the way it chooses to live. When you
unpack that way of life, then you have the complex notions of beliefs,
traditions, spirituality, philosophy and the passing of memories,
the aspirations of a people, and the hope that they have for defining
themselves in the future. All those things constitute culture.
with Rejoice Ngwenya, he suggested that Globalisation would
result in a sort of Super Culture. Do you believe this is true,
and do you think there is a place for Zimbabwean culture in that
I do not think that Globalisation as it is generally defined is
going to undermine the peculiarities of different cultures across
the world. While UNESCO says that 200 languages disappear from the
world every year, I do not think that cultures are going to be consumed
by the ‘mighty American super culture'. The world is
changing: China and India are emerging as super powers, and these
have cultures that are not going to disappear overnight. I do not
think, therefore, that we need to worry too much about our cultures
being consumed. There will be hybrid cultures, but I can assure
you that the memories and beliefs that form what we describe as
African culture are not going to disappear.
role do you think culture plays in development?
For me development is about having a situation where individuals
in a society have got as much choice as they can to decide what
they want to do with their lives, this can be economically, spiritually,
or otherwise. If that society can do that, then ultimately you are
enhancing the highest levels of human development.
is your opinion of the Zimbabwean cultural industry?
Cultural industries exist in a space where you have the prerequisite
ingredients. Industries in general exist when you have people creating
products, there is an idea of competition between people; you have
suppliers and regulators. When all those things exist then you can
have what is termed an industry. In Zimbabwe, the industry is underdeveloped,
but it has the potential to be developed into a vibrant one.
can Zimbabweans do to encourage the growth of our cultural industries?
The challenge for Zimbabweans is to ask themselves what they want
to be; how do they want to live in their own country. Once you have
chosen that, then you are responsible for the culture; the artistic
expression of that culture and all the frameworks that can sustain
that culture. Given the time we are at in our history, and in crafting
a new Constitution, we have been given the opportunity to redefine
this country for the next 500 years.
kind of Constitution would you like to see?
I want a Constitution that the Zimbabwean people can be proud of.
I don't want a Constitution that changes on the whim of a
political party. I'd like to see a Constitution that really
reflects the chosen values of the Zimbabwean people, one that embodies
the essence of what it is to be Zimbabwean. I think culture is where
it all begins.
Anyone who thinks
the solutions of this country are in politics is fooling himself
or herself. It all begins with how we choose to live among ourselves.
Once that is clear, then policies which we entrust to politicians
can follow. But we must be serious and look at how we want to live
as a country and create models of the values we all share and want.
in your work with the culture fund are you promoting cultural entrepreneurship?
We have a project that we are working on with the British Council
called Creative Entrepreneurship. It seeks to train about 150 individuals
in the arts and culture sector every year for the next three years,
in the areas of defining themselves as creative individuals, defining
their business, branding themselves, self confidence and looking
at positioning themselves in the local and global markets for their
you say we have enough role models in the culture sector?
We do not have enough role models. We have some role models in some
sub sectors like sculpture in the form of Dominic Benhura who is
brilliant at creating, packaging and exporting ideas. In music we
have Oliver Mtukudzi who created the Tuku brand, which is now a
global brand. In literature we have award winners like John Eppel,
Tsitsi Dangarembga and Charles Mungoshi. But we need many, many
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