‘Judges actually decide the arts awards’: BAA organisers

By Khanyile Mlotshwa

The organisers of the Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) have said contrary to the general belief, the awards are decided by various technical committees of judges rather than a popular public vote on online platforms.

Responding to Bulawayo writer, Byron Rheam, who has questioned the awards’ voting process as a way of determining the winners of the gongs, the BAA spokesperson, Nkululeko Nkala said the popular vote is a publicity stunt.

“We have judges for the awards,” he said. “The judges marks make up 75 percent of the overall results. The popular vote is so that people are aware and know the creative work that is produced around. It accounts for 25 percent of the overall results.”

In a comment shared by publisher, Jane Morris, Rheam had questioned the rationale of having literary awards decided through a popular vote.

“I have thought long and hard about posting this. Writers are not celebrities and nor are we contestants on Strictly Come Dancing,” she said. “I don’t believe an award for literary fiction should depend on how many people vote for you. It shouldn’t depend on how many friends you have on Facebook or any other social media site.

“Ultimately, this kind of approach can only be fair if someone has read all the shortlisted books and they are not just voting for someone because they are a family member, an old friend from school or the only person they know on the list”

Nkala said the popular vote process has worked well in publicising the awards and the creative work contesting.

“I can assure you many people know the creative works in the contest because of the circulating posters,” he said.

Prominent playwright and one of the organisers of the awards, Raisedon Baya said they noted Rheam’s comment and added that votes were a negligible part of the whole process.

 “The awards have judges who look at the work and sift and judge. Their mark constitutes a higher percentage. Then the votes come in. The idea of the votes is basically to get the general public to vote and add some excitement to the process. Only a few awards are solely decided by votes. These are songs of the year and the people’s choice.”

The awards will this year be held on Saturday 6 November.

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