Mzilikazi Arts Centre has come a long way

The history of the vibrant arts industry here cannot be complete without mentioning the Mzilikazi Arts and Crafts Centre, a community training centre in the heart of one of the oldest high density suburbs, Mzilikazi.

Mzilikazi Art and Craft Centre.
Mzilikazi Art and Craft Centre.

The pottery and art schools were established in 1963 by the City of Bulawayo under the then Native Department of African Administration. In its early days, it served as a cultural place intended to keep young unemployed school leavers off the streets while giving them art skills so that they could become self–reliant.

Since then, it has been used to cultivate and nurture the development of cultural activities and the promotion of artistic talent in the city. It is run by the City of Kings Business Ventures, a wholly owned Bulawayo City Council company that is registered as an educational vocational training institution.

The training school section provides graduate labour and skills transfer while the pottery section provides industrial attachment and employment to graduates.

“Commercialization of the centre has further enhanced its focus on creating an art graduate who is an entrepreneur and self-reliant. The pottery section is customer oriented and aims to make a profit,” said Moses Munthali, the general manager of City of Kings Business Ventures.

The school offers courses in fine art, commercial art, ceramics, wood and stone sculpture, batik, pottery and batik and tie and dye. Students from as far as Botswana, Zambia and South Africa have studied here.

Award-winning artists produced by the centre include Dominic Benhura, Mbizo Khumalo, Esther Nhliziyo, Samuel Jubane, Sipho Masina and Vote Thebe, the current Bulawayo National Art Gallery Director.

The school works closely with primary and secondary schools as well as colleges in and around the city to identify and nurture new talent among youths, who are trained during school holidays.

Munthali said the school had partnered with the International Labour Organization to train youths under the Informal Apprenticeship training programme.

“About 300 unemployed youths in Bulawayo were trained in art and then attached to various master craftsmen within the city to gain practical experience in the industry,” he said.

In preparation for the forthcoming UNWTO conference, the Centre has resuscitated its previous distribution outlets such as the Jairos Jiri Centre. “Plans are also underway to set-up our own retail outlet in Victoria Falls as a way of increasing sales as well as exposing the artists to foreign tourists,” said Munthali.

The major challenges facing the centre include ageing machinery and buildings, stiff competition from cheap imported pottery and the high cost of raw materials from South Africa. Munthali also bemoaned the fall in tourist arrivals.

Post published in: Arts
  1. Wadzanai Tirimboyi

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