The long road to freedom for artists in Tanzania

Saturday March 02 2024

Tanzanian musician Diamond Platinumz during a past concert performance. PHOTO | POOL


The Mapping Report on Artistic Freedom in Tanzania cites cultural protectionism, political interference, lack of harmonisation of laws and regulations, and the lack of professionalism as challenges to the art sector.

According to the study conducted by Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA), artistes are not aware of the laws, policies and regulations governing them.

“It is not uncommon to come across officials in the institutions that regulate the art sector who have little or no knowledge at all of the art sector,” the report notes.

The report says that the freedom for artistes to create is not only limited by authorities such as Baraza la Sanaa la Taifa (Basata, or National Arts Council), Tanzania Film Board or Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), but censorship also comes in many forms, including political, religious, corporate and professional interference; moral or ethical censorship, and self-censorship.

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Tanzania has witnessed the banning of artworks and even arrest or detention of artists accused of criticising the government on the grounds that the said artistic expressions could incite political unrest.


Examples provided are the arrest of Sifa Bajune, a gospel musician who released a song called Tanzania Inaelekea Wapi. While her song was not banned, a decision was made by Basata for her music video, which was considered offensive, to be removed from online platforms.

Basata also petitioned TRCA to ban the video of song Mtasubiri by Diamond Platinumz in May 2022, saying it was blasphemous.
The programme officer in charge of artists rights at CDEA Sarah Balozi, told The EastAfrican that creative activities "always thrive in environments where diverse viewpoints are encouraged."

"In Tanzania, exchange of ideas and expression is limited to fit within the norms and values set by the society and the government. Artistes feel constrained by what they can or cannot express themselves about and hence limit their ability to create, challenge norms or even push boundaries,” she said.

The major challenges facing the movement of artistes and arts in Tanzania include administrative barriers, cultural protectionism and lack of harmonisation of laws and regulations.

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“Suppressive laws and regulations are still present,” Ms Balozi said.

CDEA in partnership with Tanzania Artists Rights Organisation is implementing a three-year project dubbed “Promoting Artistic Rights,” to promote a policy and legislative framework for the arts.

Ms Balozi said the study acts as an empowering tool for artistes and cultural practitioners to advocate their rights and seek support for their works. It will also facilitate collaboration between policy makers, NGOs and artists to work together in promoting artistic freedom.

According to the report, improving artistic freedom in Tanzania, particularly the Tanzanian arts scene, requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the various challenges artists face and ensures the protection of their rights.

Balozi says that the major policy recommendations in the report relate to legislative reforms, and policy implementation. “This study advocates for the revision of the existing laws and implementation of the cultural policy to ensure that the laws safeguard artistic freedom in its broader sense.

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The cultural policy provides for almost all the important needs that artists lack in Tanzania, but implementation of the policy is the current setback.”

According to Balozi, the report is currently being disseminated to reach all artists and art stakeholders within the country and those outside the country; it will then be used as an advocacy tool to facilitate artistic freedom through policy dialogues, production of policy briefs, and roundtable meetings with policy makers.