The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part five in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
The Tanzanian culture policy, 'Sera Ya Utamaduni', is compiled in Swahili. With which the Ministry of Education and Culture directly puts its primary objective into actual practice: promoting publications in the country’s language.
Not only the language is part of Tanzania’s cultural heritage, but also the shipwrecks that are centuries old found lying along the coast and all monuments that are more than a century old. The culture policy emphasises the educational and tourist values of these treasures and uses culture to serve social development. What is more, every Tanzanian has the right to enjoy culture, and a network of community centres enables them to make their own art. Radio and television are required to devote airspace to Tanzanian productions and music.
The most important financer of the arts is Mfuko, the Tanzania Cultural Trust Fund. Mfuko is an independent fund for the arts established in 1998 by the Swedish and Tanzanian governments. A committee consisting of ten members, most of whom from the national art world, meets twice each year to evaluate requests for three types of subsidies: support for cultural organisations, subsidies for artists, and grants for international exchange. To date the fund has supported 302 cultural projects and artists. Each year Mfuko also presents the Zeze Cultural Awards: the most prestigious art prize in Tanzania.
The famous ZIFF festival of the Dhow countries on Zanzibar, where more than one hundred East African and international film and video productions are shown each year, put Tanzania on the global map. A striking initiative is Aang Serian (meaning House of Peace in Maasai), established in 1999 by a group of young people in Arusha. Without donor funding, this organisation operates a music studio that focuses on traditional music, fusion and contemporary Swahili hip-hop. ‘Refusing to be called ‘underdeveloped’ enables us to increase our self esteem’ is their motto.