Clive Malunga


Arts centres are crucial in the development of arts in any given society. Arts centres bind society together by having a deliberate agenda of teaching people about who they are and deepening the understanding of different cultures. They also provide room for participative and creative encounters. Taken in the context of the well documented evidence of the impact of arts and culture on our economy, health and wellbeing, the importance of arts centres as cultural institutions cannot be overemphasized.

An arts centre scouts for, identifies and nurtures artistic talent from an early stage. The talent could be in fine art, music, basketry, poetry, drama, sculpture, choreography and dance. A society can be influenced through the persistence of narrating history over and over again. Arts centres shape a society by guarding against the loss of cultural norms. These are places where kids can interact with each other and learn the basics of a trade they want to pursue in life. By employing mentors who are artists in their own right, the centres help in motivating and modelling the correct behaviour as far as art is concerned.

During the late 1960’s and 1970’s, when the liberation war started intensifying, the white colonial master devised a plan to start arts centres, which they called youth clubs. At the youth clubs, kids were taught sports and arts. The country produced Langton ‘schoolboy’ Tinago in boxing, Artwell Mandaza in athletics and the Chieza Family from Mhangura in soccer. In music we had Safirio Madzikatire, Susan Chenjerai and Oliver Mutukudzi.  Some of the popular arts centres were Amai Musodzi Hall, C.J. Hall, Stodart Hall (all in Harare), Ngoni Hall in Norton and many other places around the country.

The white colonial masters built arts centres around Zimbabwe as a way of keeping the African child busy so that the kids would not think about joining the liberation struggle. The white settler was wrong because young boys and girls would meet at the youth club centres to discuss ways of crossing the borders to Zambia and Mozambique.

We have an urgent need as a nation to create a conducive atmosphere for our young boys and girls to excel in their chosen areas. For the arts sector, I propose the strengthening of existing arts centres and the establishment of new arts centres all over the country. We cannot leave our kids to decide their future with peers on the streets: they need to be brought to places where they receive proper guidance. The curriculum of the arts centres must be determined through rigorous research in order to ensure the incorporation of the wants and interests of the younger generation. Once a training programme is developed, it must be implemented with vigour.

Our arts centres must be for nation building. Kids must be taught to like themselves from a young age. They must be proud of who they are: the colour of their skin, their language, race and the country they call home. Arts centres also teach kids to take art seriously as a profession. The moment we start establishing arts centres in Zimbabwe, you will notice a difference in the youth. The youth will have a place they call theirs, where they can spend time practicing their line of art.  The centres will keep our children happy and busy doing what they like most, leaving little or no room for them to think of engaging in vices such as drugs and prostitution.  An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Activities done at the arts centre will alleviate boredom and conquer feelings of surrender and rebellion that result from idleness by our kids. We have to catch them young.

Conte Mhlanga established Amakhosi Theatre in Bulawayo, Clive Malunga established Jenaguru Arts Centre in Harare and Dominic Benhura established an arts centre in Harare. We also had CHIPAWO Arts Centre, KenZim Arts Centre formerly led by the late Ngugi wa Miri, Mbira Dzenharira Arts Centre, Chiko Chazunguza’s Arts Centre and many other arts centres dotted around the country. If these centres are properly supported, they will alleviate the hopelessness of many youths in Zimbabwe.

Many arts centres have failed to reach their potential because of lack of moral and financial support from the corporate world and government institutions who have the mandate to make sure that the arts industry in Zimbabwe flourish. However, some sterling work has been done at these centres in spite of myriad challenges they face. For example, many renowned artists came through the hands and craftsmanship of Conte Mhlanga in Bulawayo. Jenaguru Arts Centre organized the Jenaguru Music Festivals and the Jenaguru Music and Dance Group to showcase Zimbabwean dances in foreign lands as a music and dance cultural exchange programme. Jenaguru has also recorded other musicians namely Sekuru Gora, Ambuya Beaular Dyoko, Henry Matimba, Aleta Macheka, JSK and Tembo Brothers, and Ronnie Chataika, to name but a few.

It is increasingly clear that arts and culture centres need the support of the leadership of the Ministry of Arts and Culture for them to thrive. The National Arts Council must have competent and focused directors who, in my opinion, must be artists in their own right.  I am also for the separation of the Ministry of Arts and Culture and the Ministry of Sports. Arts and culture must be a stand-alone ministry which require a lot of time, energy, expertise and financial support to succeed. The minister responsible for arts and culture must be someone who dreams, walks, talks, sleeps and thinks arts and culture. Equally, sports require a competent and serious someone with the knowledge of sports, energy, vision and nation at heart.

The media must also assist in shaping the arts industry by writing good about the country’s cultural heritage. Stories that instill patriotism and positive thinking in young boys and girls are needed. You have to be a true Zimbabwean first, before you become an artist