Just like coffee, our Arts industry could be a dollar basket

Last Wednesday October 26th, I was invited to attend a dynamic poetry and usical evening, SpokenWordRwanda that happens twice a month and argely promotes self expression among the young. eing the first time, I was astonished by the level of boldness, eloquence and creativity with which some of our youth brought out key messages hidden in different themes of poetry.
Arthur Asiimwe
Arthur Asiimwe

Last Wednesday October 26th, I was invited to attend a dynamic poetry and usical evening, SpokenWordRwanda that happens twice a month and argely promotes self expression among the young.

Being the first time, I was astonished by the level of boldness, eloquence and creativity with which some of our youth brought out key messages hidden in different themes of poetry.

Having been a one time student of literature, I now how difficult it is for any lay-person to retrieve meaning out of a sequence of lines arranged in stanzas since poetry is characterized by linguistic elements that go beyond standard sentence structure.

This is why the talent hat was showcased that evening and the attentive audience present, is a revolution within this country’s contemporary Arts setting.

In my humble view and going by the poems that were recited that evening, one would only point to potentiality that is yet to be fully tapped within our arts industry. This potentiality is partly shaped by the diversity in the background of many Rwandans today.

But again, poetry is no stranger to the Rwandan culture, historically expressed as ‘Umuvugo’.

However, what needs to be discussed today is how we can translate these rich cultural values into money machines for our people. I’m saying this because much of the African society tends to undermine, despise or overlook the Arts industry.

As such our music or film or comedy industry remain largely underdeveloped or ignored and yet we are quick to swallow what crosses the Atlantic from Hollywood.

Today, it is only Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria that is seriously reaping returns from its cultural industry. Nigeria’s fast growing movie industry is not only a force to reckon with on the continent, but is also making a significant mark on the global film
industry.

It is estimated that Nigerian films fetch an average $250m per annum, through movie exports. This emerging industry employs close to 100,000 people that produce close to 2,000 films a year and because of this growth, the Nigerian government set aside $150m loan fund for use by people in creative industry.

In fact, when compared to our top three major export earnings, minerals ($67.9m), tea ($55.7m) and coffee ($56.1m) as of last year, they do not add up to the equivalent of what Nigerians fetch from their movie industry.

Can our very own ‘Hillywood’ build on the rich Rwandan culture and evolve to take on a bigger stage in the hope that one day, it would spread its own brand across oceans? The answer is affirmative but
would only happen after a general change in mindset---to one that recognizes the contribution of such sectors to society.

Our very own music industry is struggling to remain afloat. Just like the film industry, it faces numerous hurdles that hinder it progress.

First, there’s serious lack of regulation of the industry that has led to piracy, hence affecting the dividends that our musicians would receive from their sweat.

Secondly, unlike elsewhere especially within the region where the private sector is the main driver of the Arts industry, it’s the
opposite here. I know Bralirwa Ltd occasionally throws in some sponsorships or promotional campaigns that bring on board a section of artistes. Unfortunately, this happens only once a year and the
remaining part is a dry season.

Thirdly, and I stand to be corrected here; I have never heard of any graduate from any of our universities in field of Music, Dance  and Drama and yet such a critical mass of graduates with a more appreciation of the discipline, is what will lead to more advocacy for recognition.

SpokenWordRwanda has opened our eyes to recognize the potential within the Arts/cultural industry. The next step is to understand that just like coffee, this industry can earn us a few
bucks!

On twitter @aasiimwe   
akaeus@yahoo.com

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