AS Head of the Creative Arts Department (CAD) at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Kedmon Mapana, is quite clear of the challenges ahead of them.
For those who might be wondering, this is none other than the section within the College of Humanities, on “The Hill” that was previously known, as the “Fine and Performing Arts Department” (FPAD), up until 2014.
“It was the FPAD because it was all about Fine Arts, in terms of drawing, sculpture and painting, while the Performing Arts was all about music, drama and theatre,” Mapana, who hails from Chamwino District in Dodoma Region, where he grew-up playing, dancing, singing and drumming traditional music, told the ‘Daily News’ earlier this week. Now, under their new mandate since 2015, they have other disciplines coming in, such as Films and Designs.
That is textile graphics and fashion designs, being incorporated into their syllabus. Added to this is the result of their recognition of the growth in the local Arts environment recently.
Within this growth, film has been very powerful, Mapana says and they have been taking note of the noticeable strides being made in music technology, which has attracted attention from outside of the academic world.
All of this has not passed by unnoticed by those on The Hill. “Our university realised that we have to take steps so that when our graduates go outside to serve the community, they can.
Now, if we don’t feature what is going on in the community while they’re here, we’ll be training people to go out there to the communities just to sit,” Mapana suggested during a conversation with the ‘Daily News’ earlier this week.
It was after such realisations that they in the Department and the College of Humanities, agreed to revise their content. In actual fact, they then went from offering only one BA degree programme to four.
Now instead of having just BA in Fine and Performing Arts, there is BA in Art and Design, BA in Music, BA in Film & Television and BA in Theatre. Next came another change towards bringing into these four BA courses some practical, so that they can be more applicable to requirements outside the establishment and into the working Creative Industry (CI).
From then they set out to have a half practical and half theory ratio in each of these BA’s courses. For this to happen they realised a need for the infrastructure, which they have been building-on in the last couple years.
“The University has invested in this Department new Mac computers, which are very important for this kind of work and also for the music, we had to acknowledge that recording music can be a career as well.
So, we started asking the University to invest in that, for we have some students who are very interested in this. It’s critical that when you add these new disciplines, to get current teachers,” he admitted.
Seeing that the Government hasn’t such teachers in their employment, they at the CAD started partnering with those people, doing exactly that in the industry. For example, last semester they invited the local artists, who has made a name as a Fashion Designer, Ndesumbuka Merinyo, to run a Textile and Fashions workshop there.
According to Mapana, the students were “just overwhelmed” how experienced this man is. He himself, the Department head was also happy. For them on The Hill this was a connection that is still being explored.
Another person who they have brought in from the industry is the local Filmmaker, Amil Shivji, who was “very influential” when they were restructuring, Mapana said. Now after two full academic years in operation they’re preparing to expand in the number of students they take for each course this coming academic 2017-2018 year.
They have had the go-ahead to prepare for 100 students in each programme, instead of the 25 to 30, which was previously. This is quite a challenge, which he acknowledges in a positive way, for it is all towards moving with the natural growth of the industry, he says.
When the ‘Daily News’ contacted Merinyo during the week, he mentioned having been an active member of the local and international Fashion and Design Industry for the last 30 years. His first lectures in the CAD were about “Entrepreneurship in the Arts”.
That is, he explained how one can come from their studies and apply what they got there in real life situations. Merinyo said he was ready and pleased for the opportunity to address students when Mapana made the proposal because he had first discussed the issue seven years passed with a former head of the department, Dr Herbert Makoye.
In the beginning, he said it more of a theoretical exchange between him and the students, when he was sharing his experiences with them. He had noticed when he received students for field work, who were sent by Makoye, after he had been transferred to Dodoma University (UDOM), that they had problems getting into the handson reality required.
However, Merinyo was very proud of the fact that one of the four students he got this way, today is a “successful” practicing Fashion Designer. “And then after a long time again I was contacted by the new head of the department, Dr Mapana, who wanted us to do something for the students again.
This time it was more practical. He wanted a hands-on kind of thing, like a workshop. A lecture but also a workshop,” Merinyo explained. “So, I would go with my equipment and teach them things like pattern marking, making and cutting.
Then we would talk about theoretical things like colour coding,” he added. Now he maintains hav ing such programmes is very big and positive step towards expanding the industry effectively.
Plans have been made to take his contribution to another level, by him coming from this coming semester, which begins next month, more as a part-time lecturer. Such action, the veteran Fashion Designer says will certainly bring more talented people with academic backgrounds into the industry.
Having heard what Mapana and Merinyo had to say concerning their roles in making the CAD more in-line with requirements of the local CI, the ‘Daily News’ went looking for the local Filmmaker Shivji, who had joined the Department two years, as a Tutorial Assistant.
However, the space here makes it impossible to say much on his remarks, other than he is pleased to see that the department is taking on a different role. Actually, Shivji referred to it as being “a very strong and deep role” into the cultural sector and mentality locals.
All-the-same, nothing’s lost, for more about his comment could be used for another article.