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Is pursuing a qualification and career in art and design (and a creative career in general) in Africa today respected and acknowledged as being just as worthy as the more traditionally accepted subjects i.e. law, accountancy, engineering, medicine, or is it still being viewed as something that is not serious?  

I currently live in London, widely considered the creative capital of the world, and where there are plenty of opportunities to study all sorts of creative subjects, which I have taken advantage of to grow and develop in my interests as and when I need to. But growing up in Zimbabwe, when I announced that I wanted to study art rather than law as had been my original plan, to say my dad was disappointed was an understatement, he kept asking me ‘what is art…?’ as in what would be the value and security in following such a career, his confusion soon changed to acceptance and he became my advocate to the extent of finding and getting the application forms for the local design diploma course at Harare Polytechnic, a place I didn’t even know existed; and when family, friends and colleagues would ask what I was up to he would tell them I was studying ‘art’, and even began taking photos of my work for my portfolio when required.

[bctt tweet=”Is pursuing a creative career in Africa a luxury?”]

This was back in the early nineties when perceptions of a career in art were either a waste of time or the preserve of the rich. Fast forward to the present day, in the research and interviews I do I am still reading and hearing about doctors, accountants, scientists and yes, lawyers who have done all the training required to earn their degrees, only to abandon the career a few years down the line to pursue their true love of designing, acting, writing or whatever the creative calling may be, and in the process emerging as some of the continent’s or diaspora’s leading talent. To me this indicates that for one reason or another their creativity was stifled, and more likely they were not ‘allowed’ to study their desired creative subject, doing what was expected of them until they had the means to switch. I myself, have pursued a creative career in several guises, and the road I have travelled has admittedly been a bumpy one of highs and lows, but it has taken me to places and experiences I never imagined when I first started out and I cannot see myself doing something that does not connect me creatively.

[bctt tweet=”Studies show that investing in creative industries can significantly contribute to a country’s economy.”]

Studies in different parts of the world have shown that investing in the creative industries is known to contribute significantly to a country’s economy, and whilst there is some indication of changing perceptions in Africa and increasing investment into creative industries, I take you back to my original question of whether or not pursuing a creative career is seen as being worthy. And, what, if any challenges have you faced in choosing to pursue a creative career? It would be great to hear your thoughts and experiences, and maybe what measures you think will help change the perceptions for African countries to nurture and harness the true potential of their local creative industries and talented citizens.

– Tapiwa Matsinde

[Image credit: The image used belongs to Tapiwa Matsinde. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]

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