Let Arts Speak: Citizen Manifesto tackles social ills through music

Progressive citizens, civil society organisations, students, unions, activists, academics and youth formations converged in Bulawayo for the fourth National Citizens’ Convention (NCC) where artists performed socially conscious music as part of a shared vision for a better Zimbabwe for all.

This Citizens Manifesto builds on the first NCC that was held in July 2018 that allowed citizens to engage on governance, economy and various societal issues.

The event running under the theme, “Let Arts Speak” was held at the Bulawayo National Gallery on Sunday where 16 local artists performed music consisting of various themes that affect Zimbabweans.

Trust Africa Programme Manager, Vivid Gwede, who hosted the Citizens Manifesto, said the objective of the event was to address the deep fragmentation faced by people in the country and put citizens, the country and constitutionalism at the core.

“This is part of the fourth NCC and we have been holding citizens convention from 2018 and the first convention in Harare was attended by the late former United Nations Secretary-General Koffi Anan,” he said.

Gwede noted that this year, they decided to shift from holding panels laden with speeches but allow the arts to do the ‘speaking.’

“Successive conventions have been focusing on panels, speeches and researched papers but this year we thought that we want to have a different convention. In these past conventions, we have been having arts as a supporting acts but this year it centres art as part of the conversation towards illuminating challenges that we are facing as a country and to illuminate what could be the solutions we can implement as a country,” he said.

“We wanted art to speak so our theme means giving artists across the country that platform. We also had an event in Harare where about 15 known artists performed.  We wanted the arts to speak to those issues,  try to inspire us.”

Gwede said art was another way of healing since society had faced several challenges.   

“For the past two years, Covid-19 has been a problem of society at large and society is sort of traumatised and broken because of this pandemic,” Gwede said.

“We also know artists are part of that group that has been affected pretty much by the reality of lockdowns and so forth, so we wanted everyone to just come together – get inspired by arts, listen to messages that are coming out of the artists and find a way of dealing with some issue that we have since artists are singing conscious music.”

Gwede noted that due to Covid-19 restrictions, the event was restricted to less than 100 people but several meetings had been held online for citizens to engage on issues that affected them.

“We are trying to have arts at the centre this year, since we didn’t have so many speeches, we held Twitter Spaces and Ignite talks. A majority of people are following online, including this event, which is live streamed,” he said.

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