9 January 2013

Tanzania: Local Artistes Criticise Lateness of Jamafest Notice

LOCAL artistes expressed mixed feelings about the official request for them to participate in next month's East African Community (EAC) Arts and Culture Festival in Rwanda.

This was after the Senior Cultural Officer for the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports (MIYCS), Habibu Msammy, made the calling at the National Arts Council on Monday morning. Before this announcement the Ministry had previously put out the same information last month at the general culture meeting, where all the cultural officers in the country were present.

Since then, according to Msammy, the Ministry has received requests from three regions within the country to participate in the festival. In a short interview with him, after he had made the announcement on Monday, he explained to the 'Daily News' the steps they had taken before this. It turned out that prior to last month's announcement, preparations were being made so that the event, which is known as "JAMAFEST" could be "properly formalised" before making any public statement in this regards.

"There was a process going on, which included preparations of the arts and culture regulations and rules, as to how best to undergo this kind of festival. This will be the first edition, of an event that grew out of an idea, which came from the EAC council. Presently, the hope is that after two years, by which time the festival will be held in another member country, it will have become a much better representative of the arts and culture within all member countries," the Senior Cultural Officer said.

He also went further to explain that the first episode's host country, Rwanda, has said that it's prepared to cover some of the internal transportation costs for the artistes, whereas food, lodgings and travel expenses to and from there is the responsibility of the individual artistes themselves. In the case of local artistes, who would want to participate and have what is considered a suitable artistic product but are unable to cover the required expenses to attend the event, the Ministry will be prepared to foot some or their bill.

However, Msammy made it clear to Monday's Jukwaa la Sanaa participants that this can only be for a few artistes. It is expected that the large majority of those who are found suitable to participate as local representatives in the festival, will be prepared to cover their expenses themselves. He was unable to provide a definite number of artistes this would include because the Ministry does not know as yet how much money it will be given for the purpose.

It should be mentioned here that he also said with much emphasis that it is compulsory for the five EAC countries to participate in this event, which is said to be a chance to showcase their arts and culture. This unavoidable nature of the festival is one of the things local artistes point to, as being one of the arguments, why they should have been given notice much earlier. This would have given them the time to prepare properly themselves and art for the event.

With reference to this issue of time, the traditional musician, Che Mundugwao, who is also the Chairman for the Traditional Music Association, told the 'Daily News' it would have made more sense, if Monday's announcement was referring to artistes having to prepare for next year's episode of the festival. This is presuming the desire is for local artistes to attain a high level of perfection in the art they would be going to Rwanda with. All the same he didn't call for a boycott of the event.

"We will participate because we are one of the countries within the community but our participation could never be in the way Rwanda's will be. Our host for this first episode will have prepared well because they must have had this information from very early. All the same, I would advise our artistes to participate but there should not be too many of us this year. However, they should prepare to really give this festival a big turnout next year," he told the 'Daily News' before leaving the venue.

Being a performing artist Mundugwao is amongst the local artistes, who can apply to participate in the festival but according to the Executive Secretary of the Tanzanian Film Federation (TAFF), Wilson Makubi, there seems to be no provisions made for his members there. He himself, only knew about the event two weeks ago, but feels it is a good idea towards bringing EAC member-countries closer together, plus opens a new platform for the artistes to do business and increase their artistic knowledge of each others' art.

"Out of the artworks that have found approval from the EAC are films from here. We have gone to Rwanda once before and were shocked to find that certain members, who are not big names here at home, are famous there through their films. So one area of business which is big there is films, so if those who were preparing for this event did not see to include it, then they have made a grave mistake," Makubi said.

The President of the Performing Arts Federation, Agnes Lukanga, had first heard about the event from the Ilala Municipality's Cultural Officer a few days before the end of last month. She referred to the time left for artistes to prepare for this event as being very short indeed, bearing in mind they have to finance their participation and prepare suitable artworks that reflect Tanzania and of a high artistic standard. She further told the 'Daily News' it would have made more sense if Monday's announcement was a call for next year's event.

As a word of advice to the local organisers for next year's JAMAFEST she emphasised the importance for participating artistes to come together and discuss what they can prepare from as early as is possible. It is at this stage that they have to look at the issues which are prevalent in the country and even further out in the region.

In fact, when she was called by the cultural officer it was for them to sit and look at the issue in hand with a view of coming to a decision as to whether or not they are able to prepare something that would justify going to Rwanda next month. This they have concluded looks very unlikely. No wonder she suggested the organisers of such a big event should have made use of modern available communications to bring the information to local artistes.

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