The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) and the European Union (EU) on Friday 14 July, marked the successful conclusion of the second edition of Culture Month, a collaborative initiative promoting cultural diversity, unity, and peace. This partnership, the first ever of its kind, further expanded the reach and influence of both the NACZ and the EU in safeguarding and celebrating Zimbabwean cultural diversity.
Over 200 guests attended the lively and entertaining Culture Month Closing Ceremony, which also served as a sculpture competition and exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. Together with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Dr. T Chitepo, the EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, H.E. Jobst von Kirchmann, addressed the participants consisting of representatives from the government and diplomatic corps, artists, cultural practitioners, stakeholders, and supporters. Speaking during the closing, EU Ambassador H.E Jobst von Kirchmann said, “Culture Month has showcased the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the EU and Zimbabwe. I hope that the spirit of Culture Month will continue to inspire us all and that we will continue to work together to promote cultural diversity, unity, and peace.”
The EU and the NACZ are immensely grateful to the creatives, artists, cultural institutions, and all those who contributed their passion, talent, and expertise to the resounding success of Culture Month. Culture Month 2023 did indeed present a fascinating adventure, as NACZ and the EU “united in diversity” to realize a vision of varied events nationwide, incorporating a mosaic of cultures.
Dr. Chitepo said, “Following the National Launch of Culture Month in Binga, provincial launches have been hosted in the provinces mimicking the national event throughout June. These events have attracted over 50 000 participants across the country, including traditional leaders, school children, corporate entities, and creatives. This is a true testimony of the intended effect of culture month of increasing the consumption and appreciation of CCS products in Zimbabwe”.
The European Union’s recognition of culture as an engine for social and economic development, as well as a resource for peaceful inter-community relations, perfectly complemented NACZ’s mission to put to the fore the amazing diversity and richness of Zimbabwean culture that transcends both traditional and contemporary representations. Together, the partnership amplified efforts to highlight Zimbabwean cultural heritage and foster cultural diversity.
The Culture Month featured a myriad of events across all provinces of Zimbabwe, spanning the months of May and June. Some of the highlights included:
- Culture Month Launch Event – 11 May: A joint celebration of culture featuring the esteemed presence of Hon. Kirsty Coventry, Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts, and Recreation, EU Member States, and the cultural community at large.
- Culinary Food Exchange Program – 15 May: The exchange which took place in Matobo at the Amagugu International Heritage Center, complemented the #Europeinaplate series launched by the EU. It showcased Zimbabwean and European food presented through Alliance Francaise Bulawayo, along with the culinary skills and processes involved in the preparation of traditional dishes.
- Launch of the Culture Month Sculpture Competition – 23 May: The EU Ambassador visited and interacted with a number of talented creatives at the Chitungwiza Arts Centre, where he formally launched a sculpture competition. Sculptors had the opportunity to offer unique interpretations of the EU’s motto “United in Diversity” which were exhibited during the Closing Ceremony.
- Official National Launch of the Culture Month – 20 May 2023: The national launch event officiated by H. E. President Mnagagwa took place in Binga, Matabeleland North Province, a grand occasion celebrating cultural diversity.
- Provincial Launches – 10 Provinces: To ensure the participation of all Zimbabwean communities, ten provincial launches replicated the national event, providing opportunities for cultural and creative sector practitioners and stakeholders to come together.
- Primary Schools Storytelling Festival – 26 May 2023: The NACZ organized a captivating storytelling festival alongside the Spanish Embassy, bringing together Zimbabwean and European folklore to celebrate the power of language in preserving culture and identity.
- Culture Month Closing Ceremony – 14 July: The National Gallery of Zimbabwe hosted both the lively and vibrant closing that featured performances by the traditional dance group Cultural Warriors, Willis Wataffi, Africa Band, and an Irish Band Fidelicious. The event also served to award the winners of the “United in Diversity” sculpture competition.
The EU has a longstanding commitment to supporting Zimbabwean culture. Earlier this year, the EU launched the Creative Actions II project, committing EUR 2,060,500 over 36 months through the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust. In June, 42 exceptional projects by Zimbabwean artists were awarded grants amounting to USD 748,588 as part of the first round of the Creative Actions II project. Aligned with Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy (NDS-1), Creative Actions II contributes to the country’s development by funding innovative artistic and cultural expressions, empowering civil society, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, and providing training and skills development programs for arts and culture practitioners.
Additionally, Culture Month witnessed the official launch of African Languages Week (ALW) by NACZ at Midlands State University (MSU) in the Midlands Province. The ALW aimed to promote indigenous languages and their recognition as official languages in schools, universities, courts, and other public institutions. The theme for this initiative was “African Languages for Sustainable Food Security, Cultural and Socio-economic Development for the Africa We Want,” emphasizing the integral role of languages in achieving food security, peace, prosperity, and integration in Africa.