There is need for artists to build strong partnerships within and beyond the creative sector in Zimbabwe if the segment is to utilise the opportunities brought by COVID19 to transform itself into a recognisable viable and vibrant cultural industry.

These sentiments were raised by participants in a ResiliArt debate organised by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) on the Zoom platform which focused on the youth in the arts, the impact of COVID19 and opportunities for future development.

Lisa Sidambe of Nhimbe Trust said while artists had responded to the challenges brought by COVID19 through taking their work to digital spaces there was a need to support this transformation with the required policy framework and infrastructure.

“Artists need to work together to package digital products and promote their consumption this is very difficult at the moment as there is very minimal policy environment to support adaptability to this new digital environment,” she said.

Artist and House of Arts Association Executive Chairperson Casper Chigama said COVID19 had jolted the creative persons in the country to transform their analogue ideas into digital projects which have created room for more collaboration between various categories of artists.

“The digital environment has increased marketing space for some creative arts while others have suffered diminished returns due to lack of physical audiences, we, therefore, need to create a space to dialogue as the youth to chart the way forward for the arts sector,” said Chigama.

Plot Mhako the founder of Jibilika Dance Trust said there is a need for coherence in terms of government support to the sector.

“At the moment ministries like Tourism, Youth, Industry and Trade all deal with artists in one way or another, resulting in disconnection in support of the arts sector. Artists need to come together to examine and determine the vision for the arts sector in Zimbabwe” Mhako said.

Representing the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) Juliana Kariri said artists should take advantage of the dialoguing platforms offered by the government to air their views and lobby for the support they preferred from the state.

“We had the youth Relief Fund meant to assist youth social enterprises across the country, while the fund was meant to complement other funds, it is disheartening that there was a low uptake of the fund in the Arts sector. We had 5000 grant applications of which 1092 were successful sadly only 20 were in the Arts Sector” she said.

The Deputy Director of NACZ, Mr Josiah Kusena called on the artists to be pro-active in their dealings with the government.

“The government won’t think for the sector. Government works on what the industry wants. There is a need for you (artists) to make submissions, create documents that go to the appropriate government officers. Without that nothing will happen” Mr Kusena said.

ResiliArt is a global movement initiated by UNESCO that aims to strengthen the resilience of artists and cultural professionals in the face of the enormous challenges posed by the current COVID19 health crisis.