State of the Zimbabwean Creative Industry

Art & Design | By Maston Mbewe, Entrepreneur | 21 November 2014

The creative industry in Zimbabwe is alive and well as far as I’m concerned, thanks to passionate individuals and creative agencies, and companies who have managed to ride the wave of hardship, that the nation has had to endure. I salute those who have managed to keep their heads up against all odd’s to make sure that they get that pixel or dapple that canvas with ink, wherever you are and whatever role you play in the Zimbabwean creative ecosystem, we salute you. We are an Ecosystem, and we need each other, especially if we need to create a vibrant industry of our own, I will explain later on.

Now that the salutations are out of the way, it is no secret that the Zimbabwean economy has gone through a very difficult period, for the past decade the economy has shrunk drastically and many companies have closed shop including household names, that we grew up with. The gradual result is the disintegration of the Zimbabwean creative industry, businesses are re-organizing and as usual the first industry to feel the pinch is the creative industry, and that is our Achilles heel,
I guess.

That leads me to my first lament, that the creative industry in not appreciated in Zimbabwe. Our work is so dominant yet unperceived, I try to imagine Zimbabwe without creative people, that would be a boring place indeed, we are there on every brochure, in the kombis, in every newspaper publication on the television yet we remain an afterthought of business decision making, hence the creative budget is the first to be axed in many institutions.

Time has taken it’s toll on the creative industry,  ZIVA (Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts), are facing hard timers. I was very excited when I heard that they had launched an initiative on Indiegogo to support the school. That is the resilience of the Zimbabwean creative. When school’s closed shop a new generation of a creative was born the self-taught, those who decided to do something about their predicament and those are some of the big names we now know notably Nqobizitha ‘Enqore’ Mlilo. Other creative people managed to get educated in the Diaspora, I salute them too.

My second lament in why we do not celebrate ourselves. For some strange reason, there are award ceremonies for everything else save for the creative industry and I do not mean the visible creative jobs, I mean the back office graphic design, video editing or photography jobs. We need to start celebrating each other as an industry.

Enough of the gloom let me share with you some positives that I have noted in the Zimbabwean creative ecosystem. The economic downturn made a lot of big creative agencies in the country close shop and that also gave rise to creative geniuses whose names had been overshadowed or nonexistent prior to the meltdown. There are many creative people locally whom I feel really deserve to be mentioned, some are not plying their trade here, I would love to salute people like Nqobizitha Mlilo, Steven Chikosi, Babusi Nyoni, Baynham Goredema, Tinashe Njagu, Angela Jimu, Davina Jogi, Cynthia Matonhodze and Nancy Mteki to mention a few.

Going forward the question we should ask ourselves is what can be done, rather than why is this happening. I hear a lot of people lamenting that Cinema’s are closing down on daily basis and the buildings are being converted to churches, how are filmmakers going to distribute their films, they ask. We (creative industry stakeholders) make it sound like only Zimbabwe has been affected by this phenomenon, but even in America this is also happening. Recently Universal Studios announced that they are moving from film to digital, and that move alone has rendered many Cinema’s obsolete because they do not have money to upgrade, but you do not hear any noises coming from those quarters. As an industry we need to learn to adapt and adapt very quickly.

I would also love to see the number of creative women also increase, there are some who are making their mark in the Zimbabwean creative industry, the Zimbabwe Association of Female Photographers comes to mind, but I feel more needs to be done to encourage women to fully take part in the Zimbabwean creative industry.

Lastly, I feel I need to clarify my view when it comes to the Zimbabwean creative industry, what characterizes an industry, many people argue that there is no industry to talk about, for them an industry should be able to employ a large number of people and contribute to the nations economy, arguably that makes sense but I rather opt for the other definition that I found in the dictionary which describes an industry as basically ‘Hard Work’, which is what I see Zimbabwean creative doing at this moment. With hard-work the sky is the limit.