BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI

YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry yesterday officially launched this year’s Culture Week commemmorations online where she emphasised that although the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) had interrupted most traditional and cultural practices, it should not be used as a ruse for people to shun their tradition.

Coventry said cultural values should still be honoured even in the wake of the lockdown implemented to help stop the spread of the virulent disease which has so far claimed four people in the country.

“COVID-19 should not break our spirits and lead us to shun our culture. As we practise social distancing, let us not forget our values of ubuntu/unhu. Let us continue to co-exist and engage in respectful dialogue even on social media, where most of us now spend much of our time on, as a result of the lockdown measures,” Coventry said.

“In our online conversations let us celebrate our cultural diversity as it is the driving force for development.”

The 2020 edition of the Culture Week — designed to allow citizens to appreciate the diversity of local arts and culture — is running under the theme Zimbabwe @ 40, Celebrating our Cultural Diversity and Heritage.

Coventry said this year’s edition of Culture Week was significant as it came at a time when families were spending a lot of time together due to the national lockdown measures and parents should use the opportunity to teach children their cultural practices.

“This provides an opportunity for us as Zimbabweans to appreciate and enhance our own knowledge and understanding of our own culture and those of others around us,” she said.

Coventry underscored the importance of acknowledging and recognising cultural diversity through the innovative use of media and information and communication technologies to promote dialogue among civilisations and cultures, respect, and mutual understanding.

“I would like to commend the creative and sporting personalities in the country who have fully embraced technology and have utilised it to inform and educate us about COVID-19 as well as entertain us during this national lockdown,” she said.

“Let us be proud of our heritage by caring for one another and not exposing each other to COVID-19 so that we can use our cultural identity to win the fight over this disease that threatens our existence as humanity.”

The week’s programme will include an online discussion to celebrate International Museums Day through an online conversation between International Organisation of Museums (ICOM) of United Kingdom, The British Council, The National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ), Victoria Albert Museum and the Mori Museum of Japan.

Tomorrow, the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) will lead online discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on traditional Zimbabwean cultural practices while the NGZ will showcase an online visual exhibition dubbed Freedom through the Eyes of General Tongo and online Harare Conversations on Thursday and Friday.

The week’s wrap on Saturday evening will see a music concert featuring some of the country’s top artistes that will be screened on ZBC-TV and social media platforms.

Award-winning gospel musician Janet Manyowa headlined the rich line up of performances at the official opening of 2019 Culture Week commemorations at the Glamis Arena in Harare.

Culture Week is an annual event hosted by Youth ministry through NACZ and coincides with the UNESCO World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development which falls on May 21 every year.

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