By Johannes Marisa
THE arts sector was the most affected when the world was struck by the heinous COVID-19.
Everyone watched with incredulity as thousands of our dear friends departed to the world yonder.
A lot of public health measures were put in place in order to combat the spread of the barbarous virus.
Social distancing, sanitisation, banning of mass gatherings were some of the measures, but the effects were quite unbearable on the economy.
The arts sector was badly hit with musical shows and theatres remaining closed until now.
Many artistes have found the going very tough to the extent of becoming incessant beggars.
Accessing healthcare has been very difficult for many as they cannot afford private healthcare because of prohibitive costs.
It is an incontrovertible fact that so many artists could have lost their lives in the past 16 months and might not have been recorded.
An artiste is a person who creates art and this can come in the form of drawing, painting, sculpting, acting, dancing, writing, film-making, photography and music.
The sector which is very broad, is made up of people who have stood firm to put Zimbabwe on the world map.
Everyone appreciates the good work of some of our departed cadres like Leonard Dembo, Oliver Mtukudzi, James Chimombe, John Chibadura, Chinx Chingaira, Safirio Madzikatire, Cephas Mashakada, Biggie Tembo, Simon Chimbetu, Admire Kasenga, and Marshall Munhumumwe, to mention just a few.
Some of us were inspired by these departed legends who tirelessly comforted us with their music.
Life has not been rosy for many of the families left behind and some of them are languishing in abject poverty. It is a pity that many people do not even remember the families of such legends.
The National Arts Council (NAC) has been frantically trying to engage medical practitioners in a bid to lobby them to offer discounted services to artists and their families.
The initiative will see all registered artists accessing health services at designated health institutions at reasonable prices or at no cost at all depending on the circumstances.
This is a move in the right direction as it allows increased access to health by artists, many of whom have suffered alone at home because they could not afford hospital care.
Medical attention is quite expensive in our country, hence it is beyond the reach of many artists since they are not holding shows.
They are stabbed in the back by piracy, further incapacitating them, thus reducing them to beggars.
It is time the country appreciated the work done by artists and move to recognise them and their families if the entertainment industry is to remain viable.
Radio stations cannot run smoothly without the involvement of the artists. Parties and weddings cannot be exciting without entertainment from the artists, so why do we forget them especially in times of need?
The move taken by NAC to facilitate medical treatment for artists will surely reduce morbidity and mortality among artistes as medical tests and treatment can be availed at reasonable cost.
Many of our departed artists succumbed to diseases that could be treated, but could not afford the cost.
While many people argue that a lot of artists are reckless when it comes to spending during their heyday, it is not everyone who exhibits that character.
Yes, I admit that there may be some bad apples, a phenomenon that is indubitable, but there should not be blanket criticism of everyone in the arts sector.
There are many sober artists who are tirelessly working for their families but are failing to reap from what they sowed because of numerous factors which include piracy.
In view of what Nicholas Moyo, the director for NAC highlighted, I think it is imperative that artists do the following:
- Register with the NAC so that the council has a record of the existing artists. That will allow the council to have a proper follow-up on members who may be unwell or are in dire need of assistance.
Fund-raising for such members will be made easy if there is an updated register.
NAC has a verbal agreement with members of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe to refer cases for treatment.
Such cases have been treated free of charge as part of medical doctors’ corporate social responsibility.
- Artists should have a formidable association that represents members. It seems the young or up-and-coming artists are being left behind in many programmes. It is a pity that the same artists continuously benefit every time there are donations. An association that encompasses all artists is the best way to go. Health is important for everyone, you are no exception.