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Lockdown: A huge setback for the arts sector

Players in the arts and entertainment sector in Bulawayo have described the latest lockdown regulations as a huge setback on their projects and livelihoods.

Last year local entertainers failed to hold shows as usual owing to the Covid-19 induced lockdown which saw the ban of all gatherings of more than 100 people.

Madlela Skhobokhobo, of the “Ngamnanka usaMamo” fame, told CITE in an interview that this latest lockdown has ‘added salt to the injury of the artists’.

“This lockdown is a nightmare for everyone but honestly speaking artists are part of, if not the most affected lot. We cannot move around to do our productions, we can’t hold shows and this affects our careers significantly,” Madlela said. 

“From last year we have been holding virtual shows, whose reach is limited as compared to bookings we get from time to time. We are deeply affected. The challenge with virtual shows is the fact that they are capital intensive, as artists we cannot single handedly afford them. We thus rely on major companies to fund us for such shows. Without their investment in us we cannot be able to host these virtual shows.”

Madlela noted that owing to the restrictions in movement, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) needs to lobby the government to avail exemption letters for artists so that when they need to record their projects they can be able to travel from one point to another.

“Sometimes when we need to go for live interviews with media people it is a challenge. At some roadblocks they let us through because we have familiar faces but as artists we also want to comply with restrictions like everybody else,” he said.

Nkululeko Nkala, a Bulawayo artiste and spokesperson of the annual Bulawayo Arts Awards said as an industry that strives mainly on audiences, the lockdown has been a major setback.

“Being an industry that thrives on audiences it will obviously affect us even more. There was little hope that the industry was opening with some of the less hectic genres like Theatre and poetry already open officially. But now we are all back to the stone age which is not good. But we would be unwise to think the lockdown is for nothing because we all see the numbers (Covid-19 cases) rising,” Nkala said.

Nkala lamented that the government is taking forever to release the long-promised Covid-19 relief funds to cushion artistes who have been hit hard by the lockdown.

“It is quite disappointing that the Ministry who promised artists Covid Relief last year only gave a chosen few. They should be on the forefront of trying to cushion creatives. Hoping for assistance from it (government) is a strain as there is no faith in them delivering anything,” he said.

Nkala said live streaming for artists is not financially valuable but assists them in gaining popularity and should the situation not normalise there would be need for sponsorships from various organisations.

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