The European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC)together with Step Zimbabwe Trust, the British Council, Alliance Francaise and the Zimbabwe-German Society held a basket trade policy dialogue conference at the Harare Rainbow Towers Hotel on May 21 to explore ways for sustainable development of the creative industry in Zimbabwe.
The dialogue was run under the theme "Contemporary Art and Traditional Crafts Contributing to Social and Economic Development."
The conference took place to discuss key factors in Craft Trade with stakeholders discussing the main objectives which deal with the craft sector's practitioners awareness of new emerging markets and practices; increase of understanding in provisions that enhance market competitiveness locally and globally, with regards to Zimbabwe's potential for socio-economic gains and to contribute a unified voice towards a broader Arts and Culture Policy Dialogue that is in the process of development by the Government of Zimbabwe. Topics discussed included the economic value of crafts, craft-based cultural tourism, impacts of art and crafts development on the environment, sustainable utilisation of the natural resources in Zimbabwe, defining intellectual property and patent, access to genetic resources, and the benefits of sharing genetic resources, among others.
"The culture sector has lacked aggression to push products," said the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, Thokozile Chitepo. "Intellectual property around these products is important and we the policy makers are open to co-operate and help the sector to go forward. Basket weaving can contribute to food, security, poverty alleviation and value addition to beneficiation in line with the Zim-Asset. "
In addition, Florence Mpani, the director of Africa Region Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) said: "Crafts people are merged to register their work and designs at the patent office to utilise the resources of ARIPO in order to protect their ideas, products and creative content. Crafts communities have unique features such as geographical indicators that are meant to be protected by particular communities."
According to a case study from Swaziland, communities are sustainable by accessing foreign markets through fair trade initiatives that benefit the crafts people. Ethnographic designs are lawfully protected. In Zimbabwe, it is estimated that over 800 000 rural households are involved in basket weaving for livelihoods. Therefore, this dialogue was designed to build further the capacity of weaving communities to interact independently with market players to contribute towards sustainable development of the creative industry in Zimbabwe by establishing links to European and regional markets.
"Sixty-five percent of sales of crafts take place online," stressed a consultant at We Simplify Internet, Nikolina Kobali. "It is essential to be present on the web and make yourself visible online as Art and Craft in Zimbabwe."
The director of the British Council, Samantha Harvey, expressed her organisation and the cluster's commitment to improve the livelihoods of grassroots communities whilst touching on projects such as Creative Zimbabwe, which has enshrined in the Basket Case Exhibition, that focus on supporting Traditional Knowledge Systems with mergers to appropriation and innovation.
The Basket and Craft Trade Dialogue was organised by the European Union National Institutions of Culture (EUNIC) Cluster comprising the British Council, Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institute. This conference coincided with the Zimbabwe Culture Week.
The Zimbabwe Culture Week is a seven-day event that celebrates the importance of cultural diversity in the country, through various cultural and artistic expressions.
In collaboration with the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, five prominent African and European artists, Ifeoma Anyaeji (Nigeria), Alexandra Bircken (Germany), Tapfuma Gutsa (Zimbabwe), Delaine Lebas (United Kingdom) and Michel Paysant (France) were commissioned to create new pieces in collaboration with the country's rural basket weavers.
Two acclaimed European designers, Natali Crasset (France) and Sebastian Herkner (Germany) have also run creative workshops with two weaving communities, drawing from their own expertise and the rich weaving traditions to develop innovative designs that will enhance the technical mastery of basket weaving craft.