Can the wheel that keeps the Zimbabwean arts industry in motion be re-invented or should it remain as it is? These are the questions that various stakeholders who attended a seminar to evaluate the progress made by the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) held at the National Arts Council offices in Mt Pleasant, Harare, recently posed.
Some arts practitioners said it was high time Nama was rebranded to maintain the lustre that goes with a premier national arts event.
Renowned playwright, theatre director and producer Cont Mhlanga said: "Over the past years Nama has become a very good brand, but I think it needs to be seriously redesigned.
"I don't think for the next 12 years it will keep on serving its purpose because for instance, I don't understand how you will evaluate me against my student or a product from my Amakhosi institution.
"I think Nama has also outlived its intended mission. What is Nama's mission statement?"
Another theatre guru, Daves Guzha of Rooftop Promotions, suggested that artistes and members of the public be informed of the people who made up the adjudication panel for transparency.
"It is important that we know the adjudication panel. Are these people qualified as well?
"One other thing is that there should be a lifetime achievement award for each and every artistic discipline rather than having one because it is going to take us something like 50 or 60 years to come up with an achiever," Guzha said.
Zanele Nkomazana, the director of dance and music outfit Amavithikazi, called for Nama to be screened on national television and also transform the event into a glittering one that can be compared to the South African Music Awards (Sama).
"There was a time when we all used to look forward to watching Nama on national television, but that is now a thing of the past.
"My other disappointment is on dressing. It will be good for our industry to dress our artistes and presenters, but some of the dressing that we have been seeing at the awards ceremony leaves a lot to be desired.
"Some of the presenters lack professionalism, there is need for the organisers of the event to hold rehearsals with them before the awards night.
"Coming to poetry, we have a lot of artistes who can be our ambassadors but nothing has been done to recognise them by awarding them. I strongly feel they should be considered," she said.
Actress Eunice Tava also weighed in with suggestions that an award for best theatre producer be introduced.
Guzha concurred with her, adding: "This is so because most of the work that goes into a theatrical production ends up with the production house."
This gave rise to another suggestion from Emmanuel Vhori, the general manager of Gramma Records, who also called for the recognition of music producers.
"The guys behind the scenes (producers) are not being recognised yet they are the guys who shape the product that you cheer on the awards night.
"Promoters should also be recognised as well because they make these artistes into the stars whose music we enjoy," he said.
One sculptor said he did not know how the adjudicators carried out their process.
"Another issue is that Nama should go out there and ask those who decided not to submit their work why they opted not to participate.
"I'm led to understand that some sculptors have difficulties when it comes to filling in the form, which they say is hard to comprehend.
"Nama should also consider moving away from using photos of sculptures for consideration but judge the actual piece, which in some cases is heavy.
"They should find a way of going to the places where the artists operate from and judge the actual pieces," he said.
The proposals were directed to National Arts Council of Zimbabwe officials led by its executive director, Elvas Mari, and his assistant, Nicholas Moyo, who chaired the event.