Cultural Exchange

Cultural exchange has the potential to contribute to mutual understanding and tolerance, to strengthen diversity of opinion and to promote debate on socially relevant topics. It helps to move away from the clichees of poverty and wealth to adress the root causes of imbalanced access to resources and social injustice. Cultural exchange is inspiring friendship and solidarity amongst people thus encouraging forces which are able to confront these problems as global challenges. It helps to create alternative structures and networks in civil society and facilitates participation in political life. It releases creative energy and triggers fresh stimuli in local and international art work and development cooperation. Over more than ten years, the Tonga people and their vibrant culture have been the focal point for a wider cultural exchange programme between KUNZWANA Trust in Zimbabwe and ARGEZIM/AZFA in Linz / Austria. The programme, which originally began with a visit by the Austrian duo Attwenger to Zimbabwe in 1993, has from 2001 onwards broadened into an ICT4D project in the Binga area and is now supported by the Austrian Development Cooperation (BMAA/ADA/Land OÖ) and the Dutch humanist organisation, HIVOS.

Kunzwana Trust is a cultural organisation founded in 1991 and based in Harare with Keith Goddard as Director. He wrote in his mission statement for the Tonga.Online project in 2001:

"Human beings are more than bodies with stomachs to feed. We are also thinkers with ideas. This is why KUNZWANA Trust, a cultural organisation, has a part to play in development projects. KUNZWANA has worked in the Binga area since the early 1990ies by taking an interest in Tonga musical culture. This simple activity of showing interest and trying to understand has done much to make people around Siachilaba more reflective about their culture and their position in the world. The journey of Simonga to Austria did not emphasise the poverty and helplessness of the Tonga but the beauty, distinction and resilience of the Tonga and their musical culture. The nyele horns debunk the myth of simple, backward and straight from the bush: Simonga in Austria would not have sounded out of place in the concert halls of any contemporary music festival. By maintaining the attitude that the Tonga are to be preserved and left to their own separate development smacks of apartheid and continues to propagate myths of Tonga being two-toed, backward, dangerous and primitive. We are preserving our ideas of the Tonga, not the Tonga themselves."

Austria Zimbabwe Friendship Association AZFA / ARGEZIM is an Austrian NGO based in Linz and involved in cultural exchange projects with Southern Africa in collaboration with Kunzwana since 1993. The Tonga.Online project is somehow an offspring of these activities after AZFA was invited by the Upper Austrian Landesmuseum to present some results of this cultural exchange with the Tonga as part of the exhibition "Tracing the Rainbow" in 2001.

Since then AZFA has not only sourced funds and support for the Tonga.Online project in Austria but carried on with involving numerous artist in cultural exchange with the Tonga. In 2004 the project won international recognition when it received an Award of Distinction from Prix Ars Electronica at the UN Headquarters in New York.

AZFA has also set up the project website as a communication and promotional platform. The skills and capacity to run the website will be transferred step by step to the ITCs and project stakeholders.

From the first consultations prior to the start of the project until the recent series of planning seminars, Kunzwana and AZFA have always worked closely with the Austrian NGO HORIZONT3000 in the implementation of the project.