Bulawayo put on a scintillating well-rehearsed and choreographed show which morphed seamlessly from segment to segment mainly without glitches before a capacity crowd inside the Large City Hall. Outside, locals who could not come inside watched from a giant screen which was hoisted between two red carpets that had been rolled out for the nominees.
The nominees were brought in Hollywood style, by a limo graciously supplied by local company J&S Tours.
Kicking off the show was a combination of Family Voices alongside Eric Moyo parlaying a medley of Zimbabwean classic songs by the likes of Leonard Dembo, Marshall Munhum-umwe, Lovemore Majaivana, and Don Gumbo. I have never heard the national anthem as beautifully sung in my entire life as when Moyo and four other singers accompanied by the drummer plaintively rendered the baba Solomon Mutsvairo-penned masterpiece. Ever-yone in the multi-hued crowd, stood hand on chest in a moving and poignant moment that quite possibly reverberated throughout the entire world as the awards show was being beamed live across the world via internet. I had an epiphany, about how art or music can unite and inspire a nation.
Soon after, in his welcome remarks the National Arts Council director, Elvas Mari thanked guests and sponsors inviting them to "underwrite NAMA".
Board chairperson, Thoko Chitepo took a while at the microphone to thank the many actors who made it possible for the NAMAs to be a reality in Bulawayo. Finally, in a crowd pleasing stunt she cried "Bayethe Makhosi!".
Subsequently, Tuku who was the guest of honour, ambled across the stage to a rapturous welcome. It was awe inspiring to see the ovation he received and how he spoke in his vernacular to a hushed audience.
"Unhu wemunhu ndicho chikuru," counselled Tuku in his speech which seemed directed towards artists.
Performances on the night included Khuxman with his current hit MaNcube backed by the effervescent Djembe Monks, a stampeding gumboots dance by an amalgamated ensemble of Siyaya, Umkhathi Arts, Simunye Simunye and imbube/acappella set by a combined Umdumo we Sizwe and Family Voices.
Jeys Marabini came on later with a song Ukufa that on the surface seemed incongruous with the celebratory atmosphere but I understood upon reflection, that he was paying tribute to departed artists.
As for the awards, mention must be made of Carl Joshua Ncube who when he won in the Spoken Word category as outstanding comedian for 2012 beating crowd favourites Clive Chigubhu and Ntandoyenkosi Moyo said, "I designed this trophy hoping that ten years later I would win it. It took me seven years!"
The NAMA nomination committee did the right thing by recognising the sterling work of Mokoomba who took the Arts Personalty award for 2012 for their current dream ride. The award was received by Peter Ndlovu, a fellow homeboy from Binga, who had earlier received an ovation from the audience whilst presenting an award.
Supa Mandiwanzira, bristling with confidence presented the People's Choice award. In terms of the awards, the night belonged to Sulumani Chimbetu who took three awards. This vindicated the NAMA committee's nomination of the Chimbetu heir in the outstanding male musician and album categories which he took. Significantly, Supa lined up the honoured guests including the minister of Education, Sports and Culture David Coltart, his deputy Lazarus Dokora, and other high ranking officials in the parent ministry alongside Oliver Mtukudzi, Mayor Thaba Moyo and Sikhanyiso Ndlovu on stage to shake the young man's hands as he collected the People's Choice Award. I thought to myself: our artists have come a long way and how fitting too, that the likes of the iconic Cont Mhlanga had received standing ovations from the well heeled audience.
Finally, Willis Wataffi powerfully wrapped up the night with a medley of his hit songs as guests as left Large City Hall for the after party at Horizon. The hosting of the awards show was a coup de grace for the local arts community and technical committee in Bulawayo as well as for the National Arts Council.