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Artistes in times of Covid-19 crisis

BY SHARON SIBINDI

Artistes have jumped onto the train to educate the public on the dangers of Covid-19 as a way of helping disaster management in times of the pandemic.

The role of artistes has been underrated, but their voice has been playing an important job in conscientising the public on the dangers of the pandemic, as even during the time of measles in the 1980s, the time of the HIV and Aids songs were sung.

We have music icons such as the late Oliver Mtukudzi who raised awareness on HIV and Aids, and collaborations were done, same as done during Covid-19 to the extent that Liberian President George Weah sang a song about Covid-19 uniting people in Africa to fight against the scourge.

Artistes remain unsung heroes of Covid-19 as the focus has always been given to the “frontline soldiers” — the nurses and doctors, among others — leaving out morale givers (artistes) who are singing behind them, giving the zeal to work just like in any war where they are praise choirs which spread information and also encourage fighters to fight on.

This is the same role that artistes are playing because through songs which encourage doctors to fight on, to research and find the cure and encourage doctors not to give up, but help people.

So you find that in the liberation struggle, we had singers like the Light Machine Gun Choir and Cde Chinx who fought the war through song. Those are the same roles played by our artistes today in the fight against Covid-19, but it appears they are not being fully recognised as the focus is on frontline professionals.

Standard Style last week spoke to some artistes who shared their views on their role in the fight against Covid-19.

“Artistes are very important indeed in fighting against diseases in general and Covid-19 the current challenge. All of us feel very unsafe, everybody is not safe and people usually like art, theatre, poetry and comedy, among others,” renowned poet Albert Nyathi said.

“So, if you bring a message along those mediums of communication, it becomes easier for people to grab the information and understand it.

“I think the artistes are very important people, people believe in artistes and they have followed them for a long time and tend to believe what they say.”

Apart from his ambassadorial role at various organisations, Nyathi has worked with the National Aids Council, creating theme songs for World Aids Day.

He has also authored poems My Daughter (2012) and My Son, a sequel to My Daughter, co-written with renowned author Ignatius Mabasa and was launched in Durban, South Africa, during the International Aids Conference in 2016.

Evangelista Chenge Mukombe of Bulawayo Choristers said artistes spread information faster through music and play an important role in raising awareness.

“Artistes are important in terms of awareness and they are regarded as celebrities and are famous, which means they are an inspiration to a lot of people and most people look up to them,” Mukombe said.

“So, if they advice on this pandemic the word is taken seriously. Also it spreads faster and it’s always a reminder to the public if songs on Covid-19 are put out there.”

Mukombe said the role played by artistes was appreciated but to a lesser extent.

“We try to hustle all the time for funding, pushing ourselves and projects forward and to the people. So, the focus is only on the front liners,” she said.

“The government can assist artistes by funding some of their projects because music is life and keeps the world running.

“During this time of Covid-19, the government should actually avail funds to artistes who are producing music and other arts forms on the fight against the pandemic.

“Living in this kind of economy is a struggle, but artistes out there still make efforts to inspire people to do pros and cons against Covid-19. It’s a struggle, but they still have the zeal to do it.”

Iyasa director Nkululeko Innocent Dube said artistes play a crucial role, hence being the voice of society.

“They need to lead the fight. They need to join the frontline as people listen to them, look up to them and through their creativity they are the best source of information. They ‘edutain’ — that is, educate and entertain,” Dube said.

“I think to a huge extent we have overlooked artistes’ role. I feel more could be done to utilise the artistes in the fight.

“Most of what we have seen are personal initiatives from the artistes rather than authorities such as health organisations and government working with artistes to spearhead campaigns.”

He said many have been confused by the suspension of cultural activity as if it means the work of artistes during the fight against Covid-19 should also be limited and more can be done with the artistes.

Victory Siyanqoba director Desire “Moyoxide” Moyo said: “Where there’s money involved artistes are called in to lick the leftovers… For now the elders are feasting. We are not appreciated at all.”

“By denouncing corruption and misgovernance, so we don’t have divided attention as artistes. We are tired on fighting double tragedies.”

Actor-cum-musician Madlela Skhobokhobo said: “I think this is an unusual setup that affects everyone badly. We can’t as artistes request for special treatment.

I think what’s important more than anything else is that this virus goes and only God can see us through.”

“If resources permit government needs to cushion the country in general just like what South Africa did to its citizens… I really do not want to narrow it to us artistes only because everyone is equally affected worldwide.”

His sentiments were echoed by Mzobanzi Mlauzi, aka Mzoe7, saying: “I don’t think the role of the artiste has been really appreciated in our country during these times.

“The government has tried to give grants, but I feel there is more that can be done. Artistes have been seriously affected.”

Indosakusa the Morning Star leader Oscaar Siziba weighed in and said: “Sometimes our role is not well appreciated because people think that the arts industry is just a pastime, but they should know that arts is bussiness too.”

“The government should complement artistes in their work, especially when we work together on awareness campaigns.”

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