By Tawanda Marwizi
Artists need basic training skills so that they are able to package and market their products and services beyond the country’s borders.
There are issues that artists need to understand for them to operate professionally rather than as a hobby as has been the case over the years.
Basic communication skills, the development of a brand, how to handle fame and finance, legal advice and the ability to present a professional package for the market are some of the tenets that will take their careers to another level.
And because art does not have a retirement package, it is essential for the artist to invest and prepare for life after his career.
Most local artists have not been able to save for a rainy day, if cases that have been reported in the media are anything to go by.
Most musicians struggle to raise money for medical bills and relatives usually end up chipping in financially on medical bills and worse still shoulder funeral expenses after the death of an artiste, which should not be the case.
When Ngwenya Brothers frontman Tedious Matsito was involved in a car accident, friends, well-wishers and the corporate world had to sweep to his rescue.
It could have been that when calamity struck, he had not saved enough for such an eventuality.
The issue of investment remains a bone of contention that artists have to address at individual or group level.
Oliver Mtukudzi’s establishment of Pakare Paye Arts Centre should be a lesson to a number of artists who are still to invest.
Sculptor Dominic Benhura has turned one of his houses into a gallery while theatre guru Davis Guzha managed to establish a theatre in the park venue that can be used for years.
The late Simon Chimbetu had a farm and several properties that he left for his family.
So rather than bank on daily gate takings or ticket sales whenever they hold shows, artists should be encouraged to think outside the box and look for other investments to lean on, should they fall ill, or even die .
It is sad that several prominent and internationally-acclaimed artists died, leaving their children wallowing in abject poverty.
Mhosva Marasha a.k.a Biggie Tembo was a world-acclaimed musician who toured countless countries, but after his death, his wife Ratidzai reportedly lived in an unelectrified two-roomed cottage in Snake Park.
So popular was the musician and Bhundu Boys that at one time they staged a show with the world’s female musical icon, Madonna, sleeping in plushy hotels around the globe.
Sadly he failed to invest.
Artists would need also to be taught how to handle fame so that they can relate to their audience and live within their means and not sink into poverty and destitution on retirement.
Actor Lawrence Simbarashe, popularly known as Bhonzo is one artist who failed to handle his fame, blowing the savings he made during the time he was a television personality.
He has since been reduced to a beggar despite having lived large, driving top-of-the-range cars when he was at the crest of his career.
In such cases, artists have to be taught the importance of investment, the areas to invest in, how to manage their incomes and handling fame.
Rather than spend money on frivolous items like flamboyant designer clothes, acquiring expensive cars and renting nice apartments in town, they should be spending time inquiring about different investment portfolios that match and suit their incomes.
In light of all this, it is important that stakeholders of the arts industry should guide artists through different training programmes.
By educating artists on such issues, it is another way of encouraging high level of professionalism within the arts sector.
Once local artists are equipped with basic skills, they stand a better chance in penetrating different global markets and effectively market their brand.
Basic communication skills are also vital for the artists in assisting them to negotiate deals among other issues.
For instance, several artists have been appointed brand ambassadors of international organisations and it becomes imperative for them to have basic communication skills rather than waiting for their managers to communicate everything.
Chitungwiza Arts Centre recently embarked on training of their artists with basic skills.
The chairman of the centre, Taurai Tigere said the programmes are meant to encourage high level of professionalism among their artists.
He said the training programmes were targeted at encouraging professionalism within the stone work industry.
“These programmes are meant to encourage artists to be professionals. The areas covered so far includes development of brand, financial management, marketing, public relations as well as planning, goal-getting and good habits,” he said.
Tigere said they believe that those who are able to attend the seminars will experience change in their artistic business when they begin to implement the principles they learn.
“Many artistes do not plan for a life after ‘working life’ and even issues such as funeral policy as well as medical aid. They should be taught about informed decisions including how to invest money when they have some to spare.
“They should be knowledgeable about different forms of investments like unit trusts, real estates and opportunities in agriculture,” he said.
The arts centre has engaged some professionals in different fields to share their knowledge with the artists at the centre. Artists from the centre said the soft skill seminars were useful not only to their careers but in their entire life.
Rufaro Murenza, an award winning sculptor, said though the artists had the talent they were supposed to have good marketing strategies as well as the ability to communicate with their clients.
“For exhibitions that are held outside the country artists should have the knowledge to communicate with the buyers as well as having the skills to lure them. Such seminars are very useful to us as artists,” he said.
The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) said though it does not deal directly with individual artists they communicate via arts organisations in which the artists are affiliated.
NACZ communications manager Cathrine Mtombeni said arts organisations are registered with National Arts Council of Zimbabwe according to the Statutory Instrument 87 of 2006.
“NACZ organise meetings annually that among other sectoral issues discuss the importance of professionalism in arts and culture business, training workshops for adjudicators and instructors in provinces to equip them with basic skills that add value in their careers
“Annually we hold a national arts and culture indaba to discuss deliberate and recommend specific professional courses of action in the creative industries,” she said.
She said they have been writing articles on how stakeholders in the arts and culture sector should conduct their business in a more organised manner for their growth as well as the sector. They also provide skills coaching lessons to stakeholders in the arts and culture sector.
“We have been partnering with international organisations and individuals in skills training of stakeholders in the arts and culture sector.
“NACZ has successfully lobbied for the teaching of arts and culture courses in tertiary institution as well as the inclusion of the same in the new Primary and Secondary Education New Curriculum,” she added.
Mtombeni said they have been publishing critical information in the sector such as, Arts Directory, User’s Guide to Copyright Law among other publications. Introducing regulation such as Festival Guidelines as a way to ensure standards.
Several other companies should encourage artists and engage them to participate in some of their activities. The Herald