Zimbabwe: Steer Away From Arts, Politicians Told

18 February 2020

Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry has urged politicians to desist from using young people to push political agendas.

Addressing delegates during the launch of the ongoing Culture at Work Africa Conference in Harare yesterday, Coventry said young people had great potential in building social cohesion that should not be blocked by politicians.

"Politicians, get out of the way of our young cultural creatives," she said. "We can no longer let our artistes and sports persons be used to deliver political messages."

Coventry narrated how after winning her first Olympic medal in 2004, the country united despite clear racial tensions that dominated Zimbabwe at that time.

"Thousands of people from different races came to receive me in jubilation at the airport," she said. "Artistes have the same potential to unite people."

Coventry said President Mnangagwa embraced arts and culture as a tool towards social cohesion when he launched the National Arts and Culture Heritage Policy last year.

"His Excellency asserted the importance of culture to Zimbabwe's identity, social cohesion, heritage and its development and pledged Government's support in the building of cultural and creative industries; recognising the huge potential youths have in this area," she said.

"In fact, Government is finalising the National Strategy for Cultural and Creative Industries. Inter-cultural dialogue and social cohesion are at the core of our country's liberation and aspirations into a more prosperous future."

Coventry officially opened the conference, which kicked-off yesterday and will run until February 21.

The conference has delegates from 15 African countries and their European and international partners, among them; Interarts, Arterial Network, Centre for Fine Arts - BOZAR, Culture et Dévelopement, Regional Centre for the Living, Arts in Africa - CERAV/Afrique, Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, International Music Council - IMC and the Committee on Culture of United Cities and Local Governments.

Culture at Work Africa is a networking event meant to cement relations on the continent by confronting challenges, including conflict, often with cultural or religious underpinnings.

Running under the theme "Promoting the Public Value of Inter-cultural Dialogue for Social Cohesion in Africa", the conference promotes inter-cultural dialogue, cultural diversity and respect for equal dignity for all by combining knowledge and expertise of a set of public and private actors from Africa and Europe.

Locally, Culture at Work Africa has been working with four projects over the past couple of years which include "Narratives from Zimbabwe", which captures historical narratives from Zimbabwean families and clans and "Sounds of the Sacred Web" (SoSaWeF), a cultural festival inspired by spirituality, tradition and culture and their impacts on social cohesion and tolerance.

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