"All Protocols Observed" goes Grassroots.

An Exclusive Interview with Cde Isaac Shoes Lambada the Coordinator of the Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights: 10/09/2012

On the 14th of June 2012 the Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights officially launched their breakthrough and breathtaking spoken word and album, "All Protocols Observed €. The album, which is a 'no holds-barred' social commentary on the state of the country, the human rights situation and a parody of some operations of the state, is one the tools that the local arts group has been using to raise awareness on political and socio-economic issues that bedevil Zimbabwe. On the 10th of September 2012, The Crisis Report team's Mehluli Dube (MD) caught up with the Mr. Isaac Shoes Lambada (ISL), the Coordinator of the Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights for an exclusive interview to discuss what has happened to the album and the organization since the launch.

MD: Mr. Lambada, poetry enthusiasts, activists and citizens who have engaged with your poetry, where happy to see you launch your inaugural Spoken Word album, All Protocols observed in June 2012. What has happened to the album since then?

ISL: Since the Launch we had on the 14th of June 2012, at Jazz 105 we have been inundated with calls for wider circulation of the album and public performances of it. However due to the rigorous planning that goes into any good event and also our international commitments as Protests Poets and Activists, we had first to replicate the local launch internationally, which we did a month after the local launch, on the 14th of July 2012, when we took the album to the German communities, through a launch in Munster, Germany, which was attended by young social political activists and ordinary citizens.

Since then, we have been working on plans to make the music album accessible to a lot of young persons in Zimbabwe through physical distribution of Compact Discs (CD) of the album during our outreach and advocacy activities. The intention is also to have the album shared via smart phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) as well as other I.T and new media platforms as a way of making the album contents go viral.

MD: In brief, can you recap what this album is about?

ISL: The album is centered on the daily struggles that the Zimbabwean people have faced in the past decade. It exposes issues such as bad governance, abuse of political office by publicly elected officials, gross human rights violations and closure of political space. The album does not only focus on the negatives and the ills of the current political situation, it also focuses on bringing a ray of hope for the promotion of young people's participation in political processes


MD: As artists, who live off the art, are you not worried about Copyright Infringements?

ISL: Our main goal as ZPHR is to have our work accessible to the public that we service not to make money from our work. Where copyright is concerned, we believe in the philosophy of "good copy bad copy € - a good copy, which we encourage, is when our work is replicated and further distributed to the public for purposes of education, furthering the message or simply sharing. Bad Copy is when someone takes our work and reproduces it for financial gain - this is not right and we will take issue with it, but we encourage people to carry out as many good copies as they can without fear of being cited by us for copy right.

MD: What other initiatives do you intend to use to roll out and popularize the album and spread the messages on 'All Protocols Observed'?

ISL: We have drawn up a concrete plan of action in the form of a six month long Local Grassroots Campaign (LGC), which will see us go into 5 provinces of Zimbabwe conducting Poetry forums, Spoken word challenges and Slams, as well as live performances of the album which will be followed by discussions on the messages contained in the album. The main messages will target young people, whom we will encourage to register to vote and subsequently vote in the next Zimbabwean national election. We believe that young people constitute a silent majority in this country and that they cannot be engaged through orthodox means - our vibrant brand of spoken word art, mixes poetry with the popular sub-cultures of hip-hop and raga, which we believe are the key hooks in getting this demographic engaged.

MD: So when exactly should people be expecting you in these provinces?

ISL: The LGC program begins on the 22nd of September 2012, were we will stage performances in Mashonaland West Province, in the city of Kadoma. After this first event, we have planned to go to Chitungwiza, Masvingo, Manicaland and Bulawayo over a period of 10 weeks.

MD: This LGC that you will be running, will it be a solo act from ZPHR or you will partner other poets and civic groups?

ISL: The ZPHR believes is coordination and collaboration, to that end, we will carry our existing partnerships into this campaign. We have been working with some progressive and likeminded organizations since the inception of ZPHR. We are actually a member of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and are proud to say that we are one of the 82 active member organizations of the Coalition, whose Arts and Culture Committee, we have the privilege to chair. To be more specific but not limited in our focus and partnerships, in Kadoma we are and will continue to work with Berina Community Arts, CHIPRA of Chitungwiza, Masvingo Arts Platform of Masvingo, Platform for Youth Development of Manicaland and Intsha of Bulawayo.


MD: Popularizing the album and performing in the places you mention is all good, but with this brilliant effort, what do you intend to achieve?

ISL: We intend to reach out to communities of young people who do not participate in critical activities that shape the face of their country and its governance structures, because of the orthodox manner in which they are conducted. We intend to wake up the sleeping giant of youth, erupt this dormant volcano, and make sure of that using ways that they can actually engage in, we encourage them to take a positive stand and be masters of their own destiny. Providing this constituency of young people with the necessary information and tools will enable them to realize the need and importance of participation in political processes.

MD: The use of arts and many other forms of poetry to discuss the national political questions has been deemed anathema by some elements of the state. Do you not have fears that your work can be disrupted given the suffocation of art that has been taking place?

ISL: We realize some of the blunt efforts by the government to silence artists and poets around political issues, however as ZPHR we believe that our words are our weapons, and we use these as a weapon of mass instruction. Hence any government efforts to silence the voices of the poets will be a confirmation of some the ills we speak about in our poetry and spoken word. Attempts to hinder our work are direct actions against the freedoms of the Zimbabwean people on whose behalf we speak, and whose voices we carry - these voices, can never be silenced. We will not develop cold feet by restricting ourselves - we cannot fail to live today because of the fear of a future we do not know. If it comes to pass, we will be able to see how best to deal with it then, because our messages are genuine, true, reflective, instructive and constructive rather than destructive.

MD: thank you very much Mr. Lambada, we wish you all the best in your tireless endeavors to be a voice for the voiceless, and attempts to "awaken, the sleeping giant that is the youth €.

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