Artists challenged to remain patriotic

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Harare (New Ziana) – Local artists who fall for the proverbial pieces of silver to betray their country risk curtailing and defiling their artistic potential and creative independence, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Monday.

He was speaking at the private viewing of the Stars are Bright Exhibition, at the National Art Gallery in Harare.

President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe’s true story was yet to be fully told, as such, artists and researchers should work harder to unravel and tell the uncorrupted Zimbabwean story, including through creative works, across various fields.

“I further call upon artists, across all genres within the industry, to understand their power, value and worth. Do not allow yourselves to be manipulated by some western entities for their own dubious agenda.

“Some of them may offer you short term gains which will curtail and defile your artistic potential and creative independence. Yet others may attempt to use you to subvert your own country as well as deprive present and future generations of hearing and seeing the world through the reflections of your artworks,” he said.

“I, therefore, challenge artists and those in the Creative Cultural Industries in general, to continue being patriotic and using their talent and gifts to advance unity, peace and our country’s national development agenda.”

President Mnangagwa said government recognised the need to create an environment for wholistic national development, and this also involved investing in sectors, such as the arts, as they feed and drive the soul and give communities, and the nation identity and character.

“Worldwide, Creative Cultural Industries are considered one of the top five largest economic sectors in terms of turnover after financial services, information technology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology as well as tourism. Hence, as an Administration, we remain committed to supporting and promoting the Creative Cultural Industries,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa called for the unconditional return of more of the country’s symbols of heritage, artefacts and creative works, that were being unjustly kept in several western capitals.

He said the return to Zimbabwe after 70 years- of the Stars are Bright artwork collection, which dates back to 1953, marked a significant step in the country’s quest to have all its stolen historical treasures returned.

The artwork was done by students at Cyrene Mission School and was taken to Europe where the final exhibition was in London, before it was packed and stored at St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Shoreditch.

He said the art lay neglected for a period of 25 years, undamaged at the Church and it was only in 1978, when the Church was formally de-consecrated, that the abandoned boxes were discovered by a Zimbabwean working for the London Architectural Salvage and Supply Company (LASSCO).

“As it was with our land, the people of Zimbabwe deserve to be re-united with all that which belongs to them, in whatever form,” he said.

“This Exhibition must continue to ensure that such and other forms of arts produced by our own people and communities remain part of our rich heritage, as well as shape the narrative of the art and heritage of our motherland, Zimbabwe.”

He praised the Curtain Foundation, through the Honde Valley Hydro Electric Power Trust for their work towards ensuring that the art collection was preserved and safeguarded.

“I equally congratulate the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and all the stakeholders, who have made it possible for this amazing artwork and cultural heritage to be re-united with members of the family of artists who created it.
The works, which draw on an unusual decorative style, translate Christian themes into distinctive African imagery. This stems from the young indigenous artists’ creative style of forging a deep understanding and spiritual connection with our landscapes in their works by re-imagining local realities and biblical narratives,” he said.

“Drawing from the lessons we learn from the journey of these artworks, I exhort the Church to continue partnering, complementing and supporting initiatives which advance Zimbabwe’s national development narrative in close liaison with Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The Church and the State are indispensable partners in our quest for a higher quality of life for our people and a more prosperous nation.”
New Ziana

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