A FORTNIGHT ago, I should have bade farewell to 2013, but due to the NATAAZ theatre festival held in Mufulira which busied me, I now write what I should have earlier said!
In earnest, even if I had penned the article last week or the other, my question should have remained the same; what came out of 2013 in the local theatrical circles?
If my memory serves me right, I will start with top of the agenda; the Bill on the creation of the Arts, Heritage and Culture Commission – this should be the biggest and newest news in 2013 though I realise very few theatre artistes and others have been privileged to know, or even be conscious and aware of the Bill and what it entails.
Seemingly, 2013 emerges to have been a hybrid and mixed grill; year of success and failure all rolled into one.
Essentially, there were no significant and novel experiences, occurrences or events; we all know about the Yezi Arts Productions and Promotion’s April international theatre Festival, the National Schools Arts Association of Zambia (NASAAZ) festival and then came later the National Theatre Arts Association of Zambia (NATAAZ) festivals; what then was innovative about the 2013?
Oh yes, all these institutions should be cheered, invigorated, supported and encouraged to carry on organising theatre festivals as this is one of the most elementary in identifying talents.
The Arts, Heritage and Cultural Bill certainly is waiting for endorsement at Parliament, precisely in the next sitting, we should get the kick and start seeing things happening; henceforth, new-fangled news for the theatre artists into 2014.
What then, are the Arts Bill and Commission? Briefly, this is a document that will fundamentally displace the National Arts Council, Department for Cultural Services and the National Heritage and Archives, to bring in the grass-root-based Commission to be established from district to national level as a quasi-government institution with all the privileges that go with government established work.
This means in 2014, there is a time when all the old titles for those running the arts and culture will change, and draft in new titles, possibly with new men and women who will be expected to efficiently run the cultural affairs.
And it is around this time that questions will arise; who is expected to be qualified and efficiently run the Commission at whatever levels? Will Cultural Affairs Officers be?
How have some of them faired the last five years? Are there towns where the seemingly highly qualified Cultural Officers performed wonders and organised and improved the welfare of local artistes? I am edgily waiting to hear of such a one!
I want to pay veneration, tribute and regard to Green Buffaloes, Zambia National Service, Bantu theatre, Zhaninge theatre, Matero theatre and Africa Directions all from Lusaka for spiritedly putting up play performances.
Without bias, I want to single out two groups; Green Buffaloes which had Not for the Faint Hearted and saw their high performance at the NATAAZ festival.
Behind Buffaloes was Major Lungu, Major Mwaba and staff sergeant Matenga all working very hard to ensure the group works on a play?
ZANASE, another big force was in third position during the NATAAZ rating following a successful participation in the 2013 festival with Your Sister Talks Too Much by Light Musonda and directed by Nicholas Kawinga.
Though only five theatre groups made it to the NATAAZ Festival in Mufulira – the performances held at Lusaka Playhouse were notably significant and the playhouse management should continue allowing these groups.
In a long time Lusaka Playhouse hosted more of the community-based theatre clubs, and the leadership at the Playhouse deserve commendation.
Even Kamwala Secondary school with the late Maurice Tembo’s Does the President Know had a stint at the Playhouse.
Do I remember anything at Nkana-Kitwe Arts Society? Oh yes, Vivien Wamala Silwamba produced Ngugi wa Thiongo’s The Trial of Brother Jero which reminds me of the playwright (Ngugi) visiting Zambia.
As one of the literary giants in Africa, Ngugi wa Thiongo, an essayist, novelist, academician and motivational speaker was highly acclaimed during his visit to Zambia.
Then sad indeed political icon Nelson Mandela died – I later described Mandela as one of those eminent people that shaped Zambian and Southern African theatre to reflect the struggle particularly against apartheid.
Big plays that emerged from Tikwiza theatre in Lusaka then with active Mumba Kapumba, Matilda Malamamfumu, Haggai Chisulo and others.
To crown it all, yes, Lusaka Playhouse in December 2013 staged one play, with an enticing and inciting title What Corruption You Bustards We must eat by Samuel Kasankha, and hope it was successful.
I have signposted that the NASAAZ festival brought out salient themes and issues during the national festival held at Kitwe College of Education in Kitwe where I watched Eric Kasomo’s Turn of Events performed by Chingola Secondary school, and Kantanshi secondary’s heart-rendering recital Lunatics by Richard Simpemba.
The next NASAAZ festival in 2014 sometime in August I am told is designated for Solwezi, North-Western Province, and hope there will be all the improvements especially through drama workshops for all those young actors and directors, and further I still feel these festivals have many facets; interaction, knowledge-sharing and not winning and losing – winning and losing are just factors, broadly not basic at all as all those teachers and head teachers are not excited to be told their works were below par.
Good news; Venus theatre in Kabwe has already received K50 000 for works to start, and acting Central Province Cultural Officer Vester Ziile is pleased.
The team in Kabwe will need to sit down and strategize as when I last visited Venus, the place was completely run down.
To start with in my view, the toilets are a priority to be followed by the stage and auditorium fixing all those doors before a coat of paint can clean the walls.
Elsewhere from the rail line, there was very little, except for the UNWTO in which theatre artistes bemoaned the manner the events was carried out.
To further sum up the year 2013, I asked the acting director at the National Arts Council Adrian Chipindi, who has been away on studies in Columbia and he gave me this this view;
“Based on what I have seen or read in the papers having returned to Zambia mid-year in 2013, I think there is a lot of enthusiasm from young and upcoming theatre talents.
I have seen an increased level of activity at the Lusaka Playhouse which suggests there is keen interest from people to undertake theatre activities. The NATAAZ festival in Mufulira was also another opportunity to see young talent both on stage and in the support cast.”
Adrian adds, “The next important step for us in the theatre arts is to now turn this interest and passion among our people especially the younger ones into something that can create jobs, have both economic and social impact.
“What 2013 has taught us in theatre is that we really need to do a bit more in education and training, more especially in the area of theatre management and script writing.
The script is a vital component of play making and if the script is poorly written, it only takes a really good director to transform it.
Adrian who has been in charge of performing and literary arts at NAC said in 2014 national bodies through NAC should make great efforts to undertake some training in partnership with veteran theatre practitioners.
He added that it he was thankful to see the festival in Mufulira supported by Mopani Copper Mines, and that local artistes should put the rehabilitated auditorium and stage to maximize use.
Adrian said theatre artistes should realise that the arts in general were an integral part as economic sector of tourism.
“This means the thrust of the arts is measured in terms of economic impact, how much money theatre generate and how many jobs both direct and indirect can be created.
Be it a festival or a production and a theatre house, the question should be how many jobs are we creating, what impact are we making when we do these activities?
“As NAC we will be expected to receive funding specifically for developmental programmes and activities unlike in the past when mostly funds we only received funds for operations,” Adrian said requesting theatre groups to apply for such funding.
So the onus is on the artistes, welcome to 2014, and let’s start kicking.
John.email@example.com – 0955-0967-0977-710975