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Public outcry over NAMA adjudication process

Story by Patience Nyagato

THE adjudication of the National Arts Merit Awards has come under the spotlight after a public outcry over some of the awards dished out at the weekend.

The country’s biggest awards ceremony in the arts sector has over the years attracted criticism and the 22nd edition of the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) is no exception as fans took to social media to express their disagreement over some of the awards.

One of the categories that stirred debate is the Best Video Production, which is said to be unavailable for public scrutiny.

While the outcry is based on the availability of the video on public platforms, NAMA follows a set of regulations, including quality and originality, among other factors as explained by National Arts Council of Zimbabwe Director, Mr Josiah Kusena.

“At NAMA, there is a panel of 25 people who constitute the adjudication committee. So, when entries come this committee goes through everything until they reach the ultimate winner. However, we also have monitors who are individual arts organisations, who also nominate people. So even if you don’t submit your work, you can be nominated by these monitors. So, we have a set of guidelines for what is looked at for one to win. Everything that gets awarded deserves that,” he explained.

This is, however, in sharp contrast to international best practice where global awards like the Oscars, Grammys and the BETs are based on a monitoring system.

“We can use systems like the ones used by the Grammys and other systems across the world which use expertise and quality control. To improve their process, they have to approach it with a clear criterion and do public awareness and independent education. There is also a need to balance accessibility with expert evaluation to ensure that deserving artists from diverse backgrounds get a fair chance to win. Right now, artists from other regions have more leverage and the system is not so clear for different categories. The judges are not made public, so I think that takes away the credibility for the awards,” said Music and arts expert, Plot Mhako.

The NAMA awards have over the years honoured the best creatives to emerge from the country and have become a yardstick for excellence in Zimbabwe.

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