NAMAs 2021 Loading: A ‘Legendary’ Virtual Affair Celebrating Our History, Our Legacy and Our Pride…….

The countdown to the biggest annual event on the National Arts Calendar is officially in full gear and as the clock ticks closer and closer to the big day, our anticipation is definitely getting the better of us. It’s that time of the year again, and the 20th edition of the National Arts Merit Awards is scheduled for this Saturday, the 27th of March 2021. Although the Covid 19 Pandemic has brought about some changes to the usual proceedings of the event, the show must and will go on, and this year we are promised the experience of a lifetime. This year’s edition falls under the theme….. ‘Our Legacy, Our Pride’ in celebration of the country’s 40 years of Independence as well as the 35th Year Anniversary of the National Arts Council. Moving in line with the theme, 40 living legends who have done outstanding work in the arts industry will be honoured in a virtual celebration that is guaranteed to be of the highest quality, with live performances from some of our country’s biggest and brightest stars including Busi Ncube, Tamy Moyo, Nutty O, Anita Jaxson and Dj Tamuka, just to name a few. We spoke with the man in charge of putting it all together, NAMA Executive Director, Napoleon Nyanhi, who gave us a preview of what to expect on Arts’ Biggest night……..


This year the NAMAs are going to be one of a kind, under the theme ‘Our Legacy, Our Pride’ to honour 40 legends in celebration of the country’s 40 years of Independence  as well as the 35 years of the National Arts Council’s existence. Which criteria will be used to select these legends?

The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe conducted a rigorous process which started in November 2020 with artists and Arts associations nominating living legends in the arts. An adjudication panel then sat through December and January to decide on the 40 names who’ve had outstanding impact on the arts.

We have some newcomers who got their big break last year. Will they in some way get recognition as well?

NAMA is there to celebrate the arts. Last year the majority of arts sectors were crippled by Covid-19 induced lockdowns hence why we postponed the competitive NAMA to 2022. A fragmented celebration would be remiss of us, we will therefore recognize them in 2022 since those awards will judge the 2 years (2020 and 2021)

Can you briefly take us through the course of preparations for this year’s event? 

This year’s show is a virtual celebration. There will be no gathering, no red carpet, no big crowds cheering their favourite artists on, but we are still expecting to deliver an epic show. In its 20 year history, this is the first time that the show is going virtual and we’ve done everything in our power to make it a high quality entertaining show that is befitting the legendary tag it carries. We are quite excited and the preparations are on schedule.

Apart from going virtual, any other changes that we can expect?

You can definitely expect some surprises!!

Any major challenges that you faced during the process of organising, and how did you get around those?

The major challenge has been the lockdowns especially in January and February. They crippled our preparations and made it very difficult for our staff and performers to travel to work. We had to decentralize everything and coordinate multiple operations in people’s backyards. It was daunting but we pushed through.

As you alluded to earlier, the Arts industry has been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. How would you advise the artists to go forward from here and adapt to the ‘new normal’?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in the last 2 years is that art speaks for itself. Art is timeless, resilient and fierce. Art will take care of itself and will reward the artists in the process. Artists must simply build strong businesses around their art which is a gift from God. Covid is just but a stumbling block, it’s not apocalyptic and art will live through it and still impact lives and someone will make money from it – I hope it will be the artist.

 We know the NAMAs never disappoint. What fireworks can we look forward to this year?

Thank you for the compliment. This year’s show is laden with history and Zimbabwean pride. It will be a roller coaster that will take you from an 80’s night club to a history lecture room then straight to an ama2000 house party all in a matter of minutes. My only advice is “pay attention”, there will be a lot happening in the short space of time.

What has been the most memorable moment you’ve had so far while organising this year’s NAMAs?

Seeing it all coming together. That’s been the most satisfying feeling because the Fragmentation and Decentralisation of the planning and implementation made me very nervous but seeing it all come together has been wonderful.

You were appointed as the NAMA Executive Director in 2019.How has the overall experience been so far for you? 

It has been a most rewarding experience. I have learnt a lot about the arts and culture industries and seen the gaps that I can personally fill. It has given me a great sense of purpose to know that I’m in a position to bring meaningful change and progress in my country.

What is your vision for the NAMAs in 2022?

To raise the bar higher. The world MUST pay attention to Zimbabwean art!!!!

By:Chido Kakora


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