I asked a few people that I know what their thoughts were. Justice Chikandamina, a Zimbabwean poet, whose book ‘Heart Songs’ has just been published, said that he agreed that on the whole Africans are less supportive of each other when it comes to jobs in the Arts. ‘To ensure I get support I surround myself with fellow writers, poets and other creative people who appreciate the arts’, he said.
Tendayi Ali Mtangi, a Zimbabwean photographer based in the USA, agreed too. As we discussed this topic, I asked him if he knew many Zimbabwean and/or African photographers who are prominent in their field on the international scene. We couldn’t think of many off the top of our heads. For me the Cameroonian photographer, Mario Epanya, immediately sprung to mind. Mario Epanya recently had his bid for a Vogue Africa turned down by the publisher, Conde Nast. It’s arguable that our lack of prominence in the Arts field is also because of another sad state of affairs, that those of colour often have to work twice as hard in these fields. For example, if there is an American, Indian, Australian Vogue etc, one wonders why the bid for Vogue Africa failed when Africans are one of the largest fashion consumers?
There are many other famous black photographers, but I began to question why we seemed to be able to rattle off the names of the non-African photographers much quicker. Is it because that as Africans we are impliedly taught not to take their work seriously and as such we tend not to support them until they are brought to light to us (or are ‘famous’), by the media?
It seems that as Africans we arguably see the creative side of jobs in the Arts as not very taxing on the brain. But I beg to differ. I know that for example, as a model, many of the images that you see me in, are produced after weeks, sometimes months of thinking of an idea, collecting items to bring that one image to fruition, communicating and liaising with photographers etc. If the creative sides of us were not important to humanity, why would we enjoy buying magazines, newspapers, reading books, appreciating paintings etc?
I cannot count the number of people who tell me stories of how ‘they weren’t allowed’ to pursue interests such as singing etc when they were younger. One can look at the postponement of ZIMA 2010 (Zimbabwe International Music Awards) due to lack of funding and support of talented Zimbabwean artists, as an example. Instead of buying their music at full price and supporting them, their CDs are often pirated by their own countrymen and thus these talented artists often struggle to bring their music to the forefront. This is amidst criticism of some of the Hip Hop talent as ‘having lost their culture’. Can someone be said to have lost their culture by expressing themselves in the best way they feel comfortable? It is extremely sad.
I believe that it is important for us to start nurturing our children in a way that allows them to express themselves creatively if they so wish. As Oliver Mtukudzi said, ‘let us allow children to live their dreams’. It’s never too late to make a change, let’s start to support each other a bit more and prevent the next generation regurgitating, ‘I wasn’t allowed to...’
Justice Chikandamina, ‘Heart Songs’: available for sale on:
Tendayi Ali Mtangi: www.sanarpics.com