The Economics of Tanzanian Film, Art and Business:-part 4



THE world has continued to marvel at how Tanzanians “manufacture” and “fabricate” scores of movies in a week. It is reported that but for other African countries, Tanzania produces more movies in quantitative terms than any other country in the world except Nigeria. As joint stakeholders in the development of our motherland, I hope that my presentation today on the “social economics” of the movie industry will provoke processes that could move the industry forward. In the course of this presentation, I will be inviting you to join me as we journey through the past, the present and the future of the Tanzanian film industry. There is a saying that today is tomorrow’s yesterday, in other words, where we are today is a reflection of our past and a foreshadow of our future.

The size of our population and the diverse cultures within it combined with the raw talents that abound within Tanzania makes the phenomenal growth of the film industry inevitable.

It is heart-warming though to note that Tanzanian movies already dominate TV screens all over Africa and going even as far as Central and Southern Africa. There is also a eastern dimension to this export market. According to sum Filmmakers of Tanzania, every film in Tanzania has a potential audience of 15 million people within the country and about 25 million outside. These statistics may be somewhat conservative considering that half of East Africa’s 250 million people are Swahili speakers and according to the World Bank, slightly over 10 million Tanzanians are scattered around the world, most of them in the developed economies. There is a school of thought that talks about the rebirth of the film culture in Tanzania. They claim that like in a horror movie, the infant film market was gruesomely butchered at the altar of the Bongoflavour together with other sectors of the entertainment. The Indigenization Decree of 1972, which sought to transfer ownership of about 15 cinema houses in the country from their foreign proprietors to Tanzanians, did little to help matters. Though this transfer resulted in the eruption of the latent ingenuity of Tanzanian playwrights, screenwriters, poets, and film producers, the gradual dip in the value of the Tanzanian shilling, combined with lack of finance, marketing support, quality studio and production equipment as well as inexperience on the part of practitioners, hampered the growth of the local film industry.

At this juncture, I would like to go back a little in history. Film as a medium first arrived on our shores in the form of itinerant peephole hawkers of still

pictures. These were soon replaced with roving cinemas, which began feeding us with doses of American western films.
Most of us old enough to remember this era of the Tanzania society refer to it as the good old ‘50s and ‘60s and it was perfect timing for a love affair between Tanzanian film and Tanzanian music. Sadly, we had neither the technology nor the means to do our own films and had to be satisfied with mostly foreign fare. Soon vast acres of our urban surroundings became flooded with wall posters of alien culture in the form of American, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese films. Our kids caught on to the Kung-fu and Karate culture. Tanzanians began to know more about Bruce Lee, James Bond, and the travails of the American Indians than they did about the Mbari Mbayo cultural group.
Some significant successes were recorded after independence when for about ten years after the Tanzania Kagera war, Tanzanian literature and theatre got introduced to motion picture. Representative of this new wave were the works of Late Hon. Rashid Mfaume Kawawa, a doyen of Tanzanian art who understood that film and theatre were vehicles for promoting indigenous language, art and culture. The Tanzanian nightlife scene subsequently came alive. Highlife music was the in-thing and the music of the Marijani Rajabu, Ottu Jazz Band, Sikinde ngoma ya Ukae and others reigned.
This early example of Tanzanian art on celluloid using the best of Western film techniques, was a breath of fresh air even if it was a low technology, low budget experiment unable to impress the market against the dominance of imports which though exotic did little to promote Tanzanian art. Came to early 2000’s the film Girlfriend, was another fair effort on celluloid, which captured Tanzanians on film. Love Story, of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Nsyuka and Mzee wa Busara was another first generation Tanzanian film by the duo of Chief Amri Bawji and Sultan Tamba. Mtitu Game’s Johari was also another valiant film which was unfortunately censored by the authorities. Thankfully in the 2003’s, the TV serialization of Mambo Hayo, Kaole groups
became hugely successful video culture in Tanzania.
The Entertainment Industry was one of the worst victims and had to move indoors. The few cinema houses existing either had to close shop or were taken over by religious bodies. This accelerated the birth of home video entertainment. Credit must now be given to our second generation film industry pioneers such Stephen Kanumba (late), Jacob Stephene(JB), Vyonne Cherry (Monalisa), Selles Mapunda, Vicent Kigosi, Blandina Chagula, Issa Mussa, Mohamed Mwikongi, Irine Uwoya, Aunt Ezekiel, Yusuf Mlela, Hemed Suleyman, Riyama Ally, and others – who inherited, without hesitation, the commercial and artistic traditions of Tanzanian film and theatre from the likes of Bishanga Bashaija, Natasha, Single Mtambalike, Simoni Mwakifamba (TAFF president) just to name a few, and began to tell our stories using the video format.
(to be continued)


Story by SELLES Mapunda

 

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