Hivos Southern Africa in partnership with the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE) recently launched a booklet titled “Spotlight on the Culture Frame: Stories from the Ground,” a culmination of eight years of supporting the arts sector in Zimbabwe.
After many years of grant funding to the cultural sector in Zimbabwe, in 2007, Hivos and the Norwegian Embassy decided to combine their various experiences, capacities, expertise, and resources to support the sector in a project called ‘Culture Frame’.
The objective of their collaboration was to strengthen the cultural sector in Zimbabwe, with emphasis on access to culture and improved spaces for cultural and free expression.
Sixteen arts and culture organisations accessed grants through the Culture Frame for periods ranging from two to eight years. The Culture Frame was one of the very few funds available in Zimbabwe which allowed for both institutional and programme support.
“Spotlight on the Culture Frame: Stories from the Ground” documents lessons learned and experience gained by both the donors and the implementing partners as a result of this collaboration.
In his foreword, Norwegian ambassador Bard Hopland writes how the booklet is evidence of the rich cultural life Zimbabwe has to offer: “Freedom of expression is the foundation on which all other democratic freedoms rest. Freedom of expression can take many forms. Through supporting the culture sector in Zimbabwe, we hope that we have helped to expand the space for freedom of expression and thereby strengthened fundamental human right. The right to practice one’s culture freely and without fear of discrimination or persecution is essential to the development of a free and democratic society”.
To this, Hivos Southern Africa Director Tanja Lubbers adds: “In the context of Zimbabwe, as in any other countries where Hivos has supported the arts and culture, every effort has been taken to respect the cultural values, traditions and beliefs of the local people”.
The booklet details how the arts contributed to the expansion of breeding grounds that fomented and nurtured ideas for allowing new voices to be heard. Hundreds of emerging artists and arts practitioners capitalised on platforms like festivals and exhibitions to establish networks that served to improve the cultural infrastructure and the livelihoods of artists.
Examples of the fourteen stories in the booklet include those of youths in poor and marginalised communities using hip hop, spoken word, rap music, paintings, dance and social media to express themselves and amplify their voices. The booklet also tells stories of how community theatre mobilised citizens around specific issues pertinent to their lives.
Despite its successes, the Culture Frame project ended in December 2015. The booklet highlights lessons that can be learnt and experiences that can be drawn on by such collaborative efforts in supporting the arts and culture sector.