Cultural products undervalued

Zimbabwean cultural products are undervalued and artists are not getting the true worth of their work.

Enock Kolimbo and Paul Brickhill
Enock Kolimbo and Paul Brickhill

Paul Brickhill, creative director of the Book Café, told The Zimbabwean on the side-lines of a fair held by artists from across the country that despite the work done by artists in developing the local cultural industry it still lagged behind other countries.

“The material culture of Zimbabwe is well developed but underexposed and underappreciated. It’s a very important industry for our culture and history,” Brickhill said. But the craft industry worldwide was huge and “we are not taking maximum advantage – maybe because of isolation or because of our economic problems”.

Wider audience

“For example in Thailand this is a multimillion dollar industry with thousands of products made by Thai crafters. They have their own culture, their own way of doing it. It’s highly valued and it’s highly appreciated globally,” Brickhill said, adding that bringing artists to Harare to hold fairs would help them market their products to a wider audience.

“We want to bring in artists from areas such as Binga, Bulawayo and Gwanda and Dande, Karoi and Rushinga and all the parts in between. The most beautiful and the most authentic products are made out there,” he said.

Zimbabwe Applied Art in Craft Association chairman, Enock Kolimbo, said it was important to hold such fairs to help talented crafters market their products.

“The value of holding a crafts fair is to expose ourselves and increase awareness of our industry to the public,” Kolimbo said. He admitted that the market was scarce and urged artists to take the initiative and publicise their craftwork.

“The visitors are pleased with our products because they are not found anywhere else,” he said. Brickhill said most artists lacked buyers, market contacts and exposure, despite the fact that their products had a rich history.

“Some of the wood and clay products, basketry and jewellery have a history longer than you or me – sometimes 200 years or even 300 years. Therefore the point is to nurture them, to keep them alive in the modern era where everything is factory-produced whereas these products are handmade,” he said.

Brickhill said he wanted to take the fair to beyond the country’s borders. “My dream is to develop this fair into a high class event and to take it to Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm and Tokyo to establish both a domestic market and an export market and to turn it into a real industry,” he said.

He said that cultural pieces exported to other markets were fetching prices up to 10 times or more what they were valued back home.

“We underestimate our own value. We simply don’t understand the economic value of culture,” he added.

Post published in: Arts

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