One of the news about theatre development in Zimbabwe that was shared by some thespians who celebrated the World Theatre Day on March 27, was the support provided by the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust to  theatre organisations to secure rental of office space for a theatre centre at No.1 Robert Mugabe Road in Harare.

These premises were in the late 1980s used by the defunct National Theatre Organisation as office and library for rental of theatre scripts.Six months ago, Culture Fund of Zimbabwe  Trust provided funds for the International Theatre Institute (Zimbabwe Centre), Zimbabwe Theatre Association, The Zimbabwe Association of Theatre for Children and Young People and Chipawo to  rent office space and set-up what, in many respects, is now a theatre centre.

The support by Culture Fund ensures the opening to the theatre public the library of theatre scripts for rental and several books of theatre donated to Chipawo over the years.A number of Zimbabwean published plays which were donated to Chipawo by concerned playwrights and have been put into the playscript library are available to theatre groups that would like consider producing them. The playscript library has also the capacity to stork unpublished playscripts which theatre groups may want to consider. It is hoped that this Zimbabwean playscript database will grow and that a system of securing permission from respective authors will be developed and that in the near future the playscript database and concerned authors will be accessed online.

When the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust provided funds for the rental of the theatre centre space,  it indicated that the three theatre organisations and Chipawo will generate resources from their membership subscriptions to take over the responsibility of paying the required rent for the theatre centre.What has become apparent is that the three

organisations have not yet adopted strategies to secure such resources from its members, well-wishers, corporations and development organisations that are funding theatre campaigns, theatre projects, groups and institutions.

Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust had by the end of March expected the three theatre organisations and Chipawo to sit down and adopt a viable approach towards raising funds for theatre centre rentals.Clearly that was the emergency of appreciation of the importance of the theatre centre and accessible offices of national theatre organisations. These offices have capacity to host meetings of executive committees of the theatre organisations .

Quite recently, participants at the Zimbabwe Theatre Association cluster meeting held in Mutare observed that theatre groups in the country have not appreciated the need for national organisations in the arts and culture sector and that many groups have nothing to show for being members of those few organisations that exist. It is therefore very good that the forthcoming national theatre indaba will examine the functions of national associations as well as local centres or branches of international theatre associations and their place in the development of theatre practice.
The view that theatre practitioners in Zimbabwe have not found such platforms as crucial tools for advancing the professionalisation of theatre practice was heightened in 2011 when some thespians argued that the creation of the Zimbabwe Creative Civil Society and the adoption of its five year National Plan of Action on Arts and Culture would not change the prevailing negative attitude of artistes and cultural workers towards collective actions for advocacy and lobbying for recognition of the critical need for the creation of an environment that promotes viable full-time occupation in the arts sector in Zimbabwe.

The dominant view expressed then was that most cultural operators in Zimbabwe find working independent of others as the only beneficial approach and that in such situations, collaborations or creation of national platforms for adopting collective actions and common voice on safeguarding interests and rights of cultural operators are not possible.
Of the 21 national arts and culture organisations registered with the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and reflected in the Zimbabwe Arts Directory of 2011, only about nine have remained active.The rest may appear on the list of registered national arts and culture organisations but with neither activity nor membership.
It was quite revealing that some of the most well- known Zimbabwean theatre artistes who were at the celebrations to mark the World Theatre Day held at the University of Zimbabwe on March 27 were not aware of the existence of many international organisations for the performing arts sector.
Those which were singled out for mention as critical partners of the International Theatre Institute in the effective promotion of the growth and development of performing arts worldwide were: International Federation of Actors, International Association of Amateur Theatre, International Association of Theatre Critics, International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People, International Association of University Theatre, International Union of Puppeteers, International Association of Scenographers and International Dance Council.
One member of the executive committee of the  International Theatre Institute (Zimbabwe Centre) observed that if theatre practitioners are finding it difficult to raise enough funds to meet the rental of the Culture Fund-supported theatre centre, is it unrealistic to expect them to contribute towards payment of the annual subscription fees to these international theatre organisations.Another member of International Theatre Institute (Zimbabwe Centre) said it only needed about 115 theatre practitioners in the whole of Zimbabwe to each pay US$1 to meet the annual subscription for the Zimbabwe Centre of the International Theatre Institute.
It would be very hard to argue convincingly that a committed theater practitioner in Zimbabwe will find it difficult to spare US$1 to become a member of such a vital international platform for theater practitioners worldwide.
It would therefore be very fair to conclude that the absence, in Zimbabwe, of local chapters or branches of most of these vital international performing arts organizations is mainly because of the lack awareness  among performing artistes about the existence of these international organizations on one hand and the absence of initiators for the establishment of such international platforms on the other hand.
Feedback: stephen.chifunyise@gmail.com

The Culture Fund envisions a thriving Zimbabwe that is confident in its innovation and creativity that is nurtured through a culture of open dialogue and creation of knowledge accessible to all its citizens. The Culture Fund plays a leading role in gearing the country towards becoming a creative society benefiting from a creative economy. It supports the cultural sphere through results-based programming.

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