National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) are the pinnacle of Zimbabwean awards for the creative and cultural sector, as not much has been done in various arts genres to come up with sector-specific awards due to funding constraints.
But since 2014, the NAMAs have somewhat lost the prestige they are known for. This is mainly because the awards have failed to bring any meaningful value to artists.
For instance, in South Africa, when one wins at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) or the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) they know more gigs and acting jobs will be coming their way, respectively.
This lack of downstream returns, apart from the certificate and the gong, has made the NAMAs more of a non-event.
A classic example is the 2019 edition of the NAMAs where for the first time in close to five years, both Winky D and Jah Prayzah were not on the winners list.
Yet, most promoters had to ensure that their gigs were headlined by the two throughout the course of that year. They remain the sought-after acts in the country to date.
But, all this might change as there is new management for the NAMAs and the crew is coming in with fresh and interesting ideas.
As per procedure, after every five years the National Arts Council invites applications to get a new manager for the NAMAs and this time the deal went to Jacaranda Culture and Media Corporation (JCMC), taking over from AB Communications.
JCMC are known for birthing the intriguing talent search competition, DreamStar Zimbabwe, as well as recently partnering with Chibuku NeShamwari Dance Festival.
On the aforementioned platforms, winners and runner-ups have managed to tour various provinces in China and to date, some local artists from various genres have been touring China as their agents have been sourcing jobs for them. The same, plus more, is brewing for NAMA winners this year.
“We are working with our counterparts in China to export more of Zimbabwe’s culture as there is a ready market for it out there,” said the executive director for JCMC, Steve Ke Zhao.
“ . . . as is the case in DreamStar and Chibuku NeShamwari, we would want to assist NAMA winners to go and showcase their talent in China. However, as JCMC, we are not confined to China. We are also discussing with our partners in Europe to export local talent there as well.”
Asked about monetary rewards as was the case in 2014, the last glitzy NAMA which saw all winners walking away with a cool US$500 cash prize, Zhao said: “If resources permit, we will definitely want to give cash prizes to all winners on February 29 at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC).”