Southern African Visual art festival at the UNWTO & Beyond:
visions for a Mosi-oa-Tunya Biennial
Free and open to all
Date:30 November 2012
time:10 am until 12:30 am
Venue NGZ library
Speakers Officials form ZTA, ministry of tourism & hospitality industry & NGZ directors.
Moffat Takadiwa texted me last night, “come to the meeting”
At 9:55 I was at the National Gallery. (there I met Takor Patel, I had been at his house in 1994, I will meet him for tea this weekend.)
At the speakers table were present the deputy director of the National Gallery Zimbabwe Mr. Raphael Chikukwa, head Africa & Middle East Zimbabwe tourism authority Mr Manjengwa and a little later executive director of the NGZ Mrs. Doreen Sibanda joined in. On the other chairs were present, painters, sculptors, photographers, basket makers and crafts, mostly all men, 5 women (excluding the director)
Mr Raphael Chikukwa opened the meeting telling us the importance of the Biennial ( “every other year” in Italian most commonly used within the cultural sector to describe an international manifestation). In Asia, specifically China the Biennials are big.
And it is true, they are fairly well organised. A year and a half before the event they start setting up shop
12 months before the event, letters and emails are sent out to inform artists, museum, galleries, unions , academies and curators that they can submit work
9 months before, submissions for artists are complete
4 months to go: artists are selected and informed
3 months to go: art works are shipped to China, catalogues are made
2 weeks to go: exhibition is set in place
1 day to go, artists arrive to participate in the opening festival and conference.
Because they have a well geared industry they produce beautiful banners and posters and catalogues and with an eloquent banquette the artist is made to feel special. An exhibition will draw in about 300 international artists. Some biennials supply food, transport of art work and accommodation, others only supply the banquet.
Mr Raphael Chikukwa, continued to tell us about the importance of the Biennial, especially in Southern Africa were there is no such event. The last Biennial in Johannesburg 1995 failed to repeat and became a uno-ennial.
Mr Manjengwa (Zimbabwe tourism authority) told us about the great opportunity available. A visual arts festival at the Victoria Falls. There would be tourists, hotels, a new airport runway. Each party could benefit, from the crafts people to the hotels to the taxi drives. “The cake is here”, he said, and continued to explain that it is a great opportunity for any organisation to put a plan on the table for the Victoria Falls, and we would share the cake. His message was clear as daylight, a circus manifestation, football conference, diamond digging conference it all brings in the tourists.
Questions from the public: is this the right place with no museums or galleries, are the tourists our main viewing public to our culture and art, what about the environment, will my weaving practice be seen, will there be facilities to exhibit the works and will they be save from the rains, will my district be fairly represented, will there be censorship?
Mr Manjengwa being a natural father figure took it upon himself to answer most of the questions with patience. The bottom line: his business is tourism. With the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly next year 2013 there would be new facilities such as the 5 000 seater conference centre boosting Victoria Fall’s reputation as a world-class conferencing destination. I am sure he had other meetings scheduled from the birdwatching association to to the gold miners association.
The outcome of the dialogue: a committee had to be formed quickly. Seven to eight members. A hand was raised and Calvin Dondo was nominated. I raised my hand, and being in the front row could nominate Moffat Takadiwa. Before long the committee was made. There was quick discussion if all districts, disciplines were present and gender. (Jane became gender). For those committee members that have attended an international art event will be aware of the importance of the cultural exchange of art and education, whereas other artists would be focused on show casing and selling their products to the tourists. An interesting thought on cake and culture.
This is the start to a possible Mosi-oa-Tunya Biennial of Southern Africa.
Back in the first floor gallery I had three more little visitors, I hope they remember the arts and one day frequent the museums and galleries of contemporary art in Zimbabwe.