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Creative sector shines at Dubai expo – The Herald

The Herald
Tafadzwa Zimoyo
Recently in Dubai
Exquisite and awesome!
This aptly sums up proceedings, displays, performances by the Zimbabweans at the Expo Dubai 2020.
In exactly 13 days, the curtain comes down to Expo Dubai 2020 and it was befitting that Alicia Keys, Mafikizolo, Ellie Goulding, Balqees Fathi, Abdullah Al-Mustareeh Al-Nuaimi to Abdullah Belkhair, Jah Prayzah and Songs of Lozikeyi fitted into the cast.
Well, when one hears the word expo, what comes to mind is business, business and more business.
But there is also the unheralded entertainment side.
To say that the expo organisers, let alone from the Zimbabwean side, nailed it would be an understatement.
National Arts Council director Nicholas Moyo put together a polished show
Maybe magical is the right word.
From the superb coordination, sublime and well-choreographed acts to time keeping, everything was flawless.
On the Zimbabwe National Day (March 14), which was graced by President Mnangagwa, diplomats, dignitaries, artistes, local arts officials and media among others, it was one of the best event in the history of arts sector in Zimbabwe.
Let’s just go straight to the performances, musician Jah Prayzah was as superb as ever.
The artiste is already on international level and good thing his presentation at the expo proved worthwhile.
The opening of the national day saw Bulawayo outfit, Songs of Lozikeyi, putting up a scintillating show while Sandra Ndebele and others proved they were not on holiday, but were doing national service.
To strangers, they would not be insane to conclude that months were taken putting everything together.
Songs of Lozikeyi performing
However, everything was done in a short period of time.
It was clear the person behind the general coordination, especially the Zimbabwe Day was more than experienced.
Even those who followed proceedings, have endorsed the exceptional work done by our events management team.
It was evident the team had all the expertise needed to put everything in place.
This could be the reason why most visitors who came to Zimbabwe’s Pavillion were left in awe.
It was indeed a well-coordinated stage set that will be engraved in the minds of many fory ears to come.
Thumbs up to the event management team for getting everything right.
But who is this man or woman who made was pulling the string to ensure that Zimbabwe makes an impression at the Expo Dubai 2020.
US soul singer Andra Day performs ‘Rise Up’ amid colourful choreography at Expo 2020 Dubai
The Herald on Saturday Lifestyle caught up with the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) director Nicholas Moyo in Dubai where he shared the story.
If you thought Moyo was only good at administration only, then you were totally wrong.
Raised in Bulawayo, Moyo says event management is his second calling and runs in his DNA.
For those who remember his Midas touch, Moyo was the producer of the inaugural gala in Zimbabwe in 1999 and obvious the then subsequent “Umdala Wethu Galas” among others.
Moyo could not hide his elation after putting together a polished show.
“Now that the expo is coming to an end, there has been a hive of activity in the month of March and an increased number of visitors. I came on March 1 to prepare for the Zimbabwe National Day,” he said.
“I was appointed by Government as coordinator for Zimbabwe National Day and was therefore chairman of the committee.  My role was to oversee the conceptualization, planning, preparation and running the Zimbabwe National Day at the expo. This had spanned over a year.”
The affable administrator shared  some of the lessons that can easily be drawn from the expo in terms of the creative sector. “Countries use their arts to communicate policies as well as to tell their histories, this was seen in the investment put in commissioned audio-visual products.
Scenes at Dubai Expo 2020
“Cultural diplomacy was evident in approaches by some nations, while other countries were clear in positioning their creative sectors for trade and investment opportunities,” he said.
“Even for Zimbabwe, we were not far behind, because we had a fair share of the positioning of arts, culture and heritage products in our storyline as evidenced in Zone One. In terms of performances ,most countries failed to attract attention because of featuring the predictable cultural products,” he said.
Asked to assess how Zimbabwean groups performed, he said: “According to the expo’s events management company for national days, Zimbabwe was placed among the top five great performances.
“This was so because we didn’t take the expected and predictable acts, we broke the norm and did a contemporary musical (music, dance and poetry).
“Songs of Queen Lozikeyi, a Bulawayo Arts Festival commissioned production bringing in artists from seven groups, did not just lift the Zimbabwe flag high, but attracted a lot of visitors to the stage of nations at Al Wals Plaza.
“The group also had an opportunity to perform at the Angola Pavilion to a full house and became the first group to attract full capacity with emirates dominating the numbers.
“The energy, voices, costume and choreography was just of another level.”
Moyo also hailed various stakeholder who made the event a success.
“We are thankful to the private sector that responded positively to the call to support Government effort at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“The Covid-19 restrictions and travel bans affected the participation of others that had indicated interest like the Complete Arts Project. However, two privately supported creative expo products did very well.
“Intombi Zomqangala led by Sandra Ndebele was a private initiative. They held four 30-minute drumming and dance sessions at different venues over four days.
“They raised the Zimbabwean flag high and got bookings to perform at private events within and outside the expo, these are business deals clinched.

“Above all the artistes have been recruited to participate at the Expo closing ceremony. This a big score for Zimbabwe.
“As for Jah Prayzah, he came and conquered.
“The show held at the Dubai Millennium Amphitheatre (DMA) was over-subscribed with about 5 000 revellers, most of them being Zimbabweans residentin the UAE.
“The one-hour show shocked the organisers as the Zimbabwean artists filled DMA on a national day that many countries failed to do. The show was the icing on the cake as the Zimbabwe National Day ended on a celebratory note.
“The National Gallery of Zimbabwe hosted a two-month exhibition at the AKKA Gallery in Dubai outside the expo. The exhibition attracted a number of buyers and art lovers,” he said.
Despite their success, Moyo said they will not rest on their laurels.
“I honestly think we need to expose our artistes more to these international platforms as well as support arts administrators to learn from others on these big platforms.
“It is important to realise that it is not just the performance or presentation that matters.
“The ‘how to’ matters a lot also. When I look at the standard of our events and performances, we are already competitive, we just need to invest more in exposing ourselves to other platforms.”
He also revealed some of the global festivals that artistes have been benefiting with the support of Government.
“In 2022, the Government has already been supporting different creatives to participate in various platforms.
Just to mention a few in the first half; – mbira outfit, Duramazwi, went to Egypt in February to a folk music festival.
“Evans Mapfumo and Kiat Band, went to Zanzibar in February to a Music Festival. Umkhathi Theatre are on their way to India for a dance festival and the Venice Biennale coordinated by National Gallery of Zimbabwe is affording some visual artists an opportunity to exhibit,” he said.
He, however, conceded that they encountered challenges in Dubai.
“I kept on pushing the three groups because the demands to participate here were high.
“Meeting the set criteria and deadlines was not easy. Most of our Zimbabwean artistes are not used to supplying information for international shows to set standards, completing many forms, doing technical riders in a particular way. This was a learning curve but thankfully we managed pulled it off,” said.
On the uniqueness of the Zimbabwe Pavilion, he added: “The Zimbabwe Pavilion has generally everything on offer.
“However to note it that when one visits the pavilion, you start at Zone One.  Here you are greeted with culture and heritage. Mbira has been our draw card, we are proud of the instrument that was listed by UNESCO as masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
“After the Mbira, our tsoro stood out as an attraction of heritage recreation.
“Exhibitors in Zone One were busy most of the time as issues of culture are of interests across board, whether one is a tourist or business investor.”
He also spoke glowingly about the Songs of Queen Lozikeyi act.
“Songs of Queen Lozikeyi, like I already pointed out was a collaboration by various artistes in Bulawayo totalling 30.
“However for the Dubai presentation, we worked with 14 and had to curate a new the production to bring issues of tourism, mining, agriculture and general investment to the fore in line with the Expo 2020 theme.
“After the production was premièred at the Bulawayo Festival, the Government took a decision to support the production by female musicians also in the celebration of Women’s Month,” he said.
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