A lack of international visibility for local Zimbabwean artists has plagued the creative sector for many years. Unfortunately this has severely limited the promotion of local artists and their works abroad. This problem is now being addressed by the introduction of the Southplanet Portal, a free data website which was developed to increase connectivity between artists in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
The website, http://zimbabwe.spla.pro/, is the brainchild of The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe and was unveiled on the 31 July at their offices in Milton Park. Using this online platform, artists are able to create profiles, share work and connect and collaborate with other artists all over the world. Each artist is able to use the website as a tool to advertise shows, events, and job opportunities. The site acts almost like a ‘Facebook’ for artists, in terms of sharing and connecting with people on an international level. Through this, an artist in Zimbabwe is able to connect with other artists in Uganda, Malawi or the Caribbean, sharing new ideas, collaborating on new works, and sharing information.
Southplanet’s aim is to professionalize and structure the creative sector by pooling all information and resources together. Through this, every artist will be able to find their place and connect professionally with other artists with complementary skills.
The long-term objective of Southplanet is to assist creative sector leaders in policy and decision-making by offering exhaustive information in real time which is provided by the artists themselves. All the information collected will be used in data analysis, which will help inform policy-making.
The Culture Fund Trust of Zimbabwe is a non-profit organisation that facilitates “lasting social cohesion, peace, and poverty reduction.” The fund worked closely with the developers of Southplanet to create the site, and has been able to upload more than 1,000 artist profiles in Zimbabwe and 466 in Malawi. The Culture Fund has also posted 48 cultural newsletters in Zimbabwe and 30 in Malawi. They are conducting training on the site, and are currently distributing fliers to artists, cultural hubs and galleries to raise awareness of the portal.
Calvin Chimutuwah is a local and professional painter who sees a lot of potential in the website. “It’s up to the user to make use of it and update their information often,” he says. Chimutuwah added that it was a great way for local artists to connect with other local artists as well.
263Chat’s Nigel Mugamu, who is involved in the training of artists to make use of the website, says, “Online is the most democratic space in Zimbabwe.” This makes this new artist portal the perfect platform for artists to freely connect without restrictions or censorship. Mugamu described the site as “a useful tool where the possibilities are endless, meaning an artist can now collaborate with someone in Ghana or the Carribean.”
The site is an exciting new development that is certain to completely change and improve the Zimbabwean creative sector. It is hoped that it will create many more opportunities for artists to be internationally recognised on a larger scale and to promote the arts in Zimbabwe.