Universities must look beyond A-Level
Knowledge Mushowe Art Zone
The just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo was an ideal eye opener for Zimbabwe tertiary institutions’ art educators.The exhibition stands for tertiary institutions offering art degrees and diplomas were inundated by individuals from all walks of life enquiring about how they could enrol as students.
The phrase, “I never did Art at A-Level” became a chorus at the exhibition park.
The majority of potential applicants, particularly those that visited Chinhoyi University of Technology’s Creative Art and Design School did not identify themselves primarily as artists.
Members of the country’s uniformed forces were among those interested, as were primary and high school teachers, as well as nurses and freelance “park” photographers.
One policeman aptly contextualised his reasons for wanting to know more by saying: “It’s not like I want to leave the profession and start a new career. I have always wanted to be a policeman and I am happy at work. But I feel further education is important and, because art has been my passion for years, I need to find ways to communicate visually and more effectively with the public.”
For art educators, the overwhelming interest by members of the public is a clear testament that potential applicants to their institutions are not just A-Level art students.
Advanced Level art students have the experience and passion required for one to succeed at university level, but they are not the only suitable candidates.
There are some “closet” artists in our midst that, for one reason of the other, do not openly showcase their talents to the public.
Some do not choose to do art at Advanced Level because their parents may disapprove, or because they feel they can obtain more points with other subjects.
Yet in their spare time, they feel the need to be creative.
Others never got the chance to go to university, owing to pressing family or personal commitments.
The entry requirements for university students should therefore not emphasise on students having some class experience with art because those that take up art as a subject in primary and secondary schools are only a fraction of the creative population.
By accepting students with interests in other fields, tertiary institutions may enhance multiple sectors as the creative personnel find alternative ways to communicate.
Other artists, such as freelance amateur photographers and young sculptors may, through higher education, get theoretical and conceptual understanding of their crafts so that they know that there is a clear distinction between good and bad art.
Some amateur photographers may not know specifics such as aperture settings, shutter speed or photo editing software.
The passion for art is nonetheless there and the quest for more knowledge AND RESEARCH will always be abundant in every artist.
Art education was never meant to be an exclusive club.
Workers in the hospitality and tourism sector, for example, would benefit with art education.
Not only will they learn to understand and appreciate the art that surrounds their industry, they may also use knowledge in graphic design, sculpture, public art, photography and film and video to create their own theme-related products.
Those in the health sector may also use similar skills to inform and educate the public on health-related issues such as typhoid, cholera, HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and Ebola.
The skills to apply drawing skills to particular messages are only obtained at tertiary level as secondary and primary school art education emphasises on observational skills.
It is important that each of Zimbabwe’s economic sectors embrace creative personnel.
Advertising agencies are charging a fortune for small and simple things that one can do alone with minimum fuss.
While lamenting the lack of collective efforts in art education, a dean from a local prominent university asked,
”Zimbabwe has a rich fine art tradition; its stone sculpture tradition ranks among the best in the world. Yet, there is a dearth of scholarship in fine art in the country. We grow (or at least used to) a lot of cotton in Zimbabwe, yet our clothing industry has all but collapsed. Why is it that in a country with a great stone sculpture tradition valorised worldwide there is no university level scholarship and research in fine art? Why is it that in a country with vast supply of cotton there is not much left of the textile industry?”
The statement shows that art is not created for art’s sake.
He gave the example of the textile industry but the truth is that art is directly related to just about every industry in our country.
Looking to educate only a section of our society because they may have previous experience with art may be counter-productive.
Open the gates and encourage all to come out and see just how much value addition they will effect in a variety of sectors.
Art is for artists, and they are everywhere.