RURAL Development, Promotion and Preservation of National Culture and Heritage minister Abednigo Ncube yesterday described music superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi and internationally acclaimed sculptor Dominic Benhura as extremely skilled artists.
Speaking during a tour of Tuku’s Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton and Benhura’s Dominic’s Studios in Harare, the minister said it was important to honour the trendsetting creatives for their immense contribution to the country’s tourism sector.
“We thought those people with some skills are medical doctors, police officers, engineers and nurses, but we are beginning to realise that there are also people like my brother, Dr. Tuku in music and Dominic Benhura, who also have the skill.”
“The artists have been able to travel to many places, visiting Europe and America, selling their skills.”
Ncube said Benhura’s sculpture studio was a blessing for the nation as it was a tourist attraction centre because of tourists “who came here to buy the artworks and the inflow of foreign currency”.
Tuku bemoaned the widespread disrespect for artists and said there was need for people to change their attitude towards artists.
“People don’t respect artists that is what we want to fight at Pakare Paye and educate the community on the issue of attitude towards artists,” he said.
“We have the problem that government does not look at us as an entity. They only feel our importance when they want us to perform and when we tell them that we are busy, they don’t take it lightly.”
Tuku said he built the centre to nurture talent from the grassroots level and called on government officials to visit the centre.
“At times we feel very inferior that we don’t have the big chefs who come and see us and what we are doing. We need to be appreciated,” he said.
Tuku said government had to appreciate that dancing was work and artists needed to be valued just as doctors are valued.
Benhura, whose works have been pirated across the world, appealed to the minister to facilitate the tightening of the law against piracy.
“Certainly, a custodial sentence will plug the loophole. That will solve the problem in all art sectors and protect our products’ value overseas,” he said.
Rural Development principal director, Paul Damasane pledged that the government would ensure that artists were not short-changed through effective implementation of the culture policy.
Story by WINSTONE ANTONIO