The 11th edition of Sanganai-Hlanganani-World Tourism Expo is currently underway in Bulawayo with various local and international tourism and hospitality players exhibiting. Yesterday I found myself touring the stands at the exhibition center in Bulawayo with the hope of bumping into something familiar to my “Arts” life.
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To my surprise there was nothing of that sort. There is no stand in sight under the “Arts” sector even our Zimbabwean arts festivals, performing groups and the ever amazing products that greatly contribute to the tourism ladder were no where to be seen. To add salt to the whole wound, even the Ministry and the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe were all MISSING. Is the arts not part of the Zimbabwean tourism narrative, or are the arts services and products only considered as entertainment for functions and nothing more? Are the arts not suppose to be selling their brands to the corporate world at such a time?
The last time I saw a significant arts representation at the Sanganai/Hlanganani expo was in 2016 and the groups were all hidden in Hall 2 while the buzz of the activity was happening at Hall 3 and 4. One wonders why the sector is being nicodemously kept away from people in the business community and only remembered when its time to “entertain” at functions.
It’s not only at Sanganai/Hlanganani have the arts not been represented even at big trade show events like the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, the sector has continued to be sidelined. The arts needs representation not only to sell their products but also to connect it to the business community. Artistes also need to take into mind that they are not only entertainers but serious business people as well.
The tourism expo has a number of embassies exhibiting and this can be a good platform for the arts to be engaged in collaborative works through other means such as exchange programs.
One wonders who should take the blame for the unavailability/limited representation of the arts sector at such prestigious events. Are the artists themselves not keen on exhibiting or is someone from the relevant authorities not selling them the dream on the importance of showcasing arts products to the world? Is it too costly for the arts stakeholders to exhibit or they just not keen on doing their own research and finding out how they can chip in?
When one takes a tour of the Victoria Falls one will be surprised on the number of arts groups that go around basking and adding to the color of the Zim tourism package in the resort town. One wonders why then are we not having these players at such an event?
The Bulawayo Township Tourism Committee which works with the City of Bulawayo’s public relations department called for artists to participate in one of their exhibition, but seems artistes were not keen. At this stand the only notablework seen was that of Philani Nyoni and a few writers from Bulawayo.
One wonders where are all Zimbabwean festivals and arts groups at such a time where Zimbabwe is OPEN FOR BUSINESS.