A Voice All Our Own: Zimbabwean Culture on the World Stage

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Image: Wikimedia

This article by Senator David Coltart, Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, originally appeared in Foreign Policy Journal on 22nd May 2012.

Zimbabwe is often pigeonholed and sometimes shelved from a reputation of being a land divided, with political progress and change perpetually hindered by demarcation.

Reputations (both deserved and underserved) linger in geopolitics; it is our intention whenever possible to capitalize on the opportunity to shape and hone ours and in doing so, showcase the brightest Zimbabwe has to offer.

Preparations are then on course for this year’s edition of Culture Week, whose celebrations will be held countrywide from May 19-25. The event is aimed at celebrating UNESCO’s World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, which is commemorated annually on May 21. Now in its 11th edition, the national launch of the week-long event will take place in Bindura, Mashonaland Central Province, on Saturday.

The theme “Empowerment Through Cultural Initiatives” is particularly poignant this year – it’s aim is to promote cultural diversity for national development; that which makes us different is what defines us, what makes us stronger and indeed what makes us unified.

In informed circles, opportunity is abundant and enhanced investment and integration in to Zim is seemingly inevitable. Unfortunately today, those circles are difficult to come by, with larger ones more focused on our past than our present, our problems and not our potential. Our Culture sector is therefore not only a force of propulsion to our GDP but serves to inspire a change of attitude, both at home and within those circles abroad.

Elvas Mari, the executive director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, recently was quoted as saying it was high time the cultural industry in Zimbabwe received greater recognition for the significant role it plays.

“The Culture Week celebrations are meant to bring together diverse cultural activities for public consumption, provide a platform for the exchange of cultural ideas and views, promote cultural activities, goods and services that can be harnessed for national development,” Mari said.

He added that the celebrations were also meant to use arts and culture as a tool for pushing forward the agenda of empowerment, both at home in Zimbabwe and also beyond the country’s borders.

Culture Week shines a spotlight on who we are and what we stand for. As barrier-breaking is inherent to culture itself, we believe this coming week’s impact will extend beyond the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, to the socio-economic fabric of Zimbabwe itself. With culture in focus, we can hone our reputation and change the perception to the world and later, from the world.