Piracy destroying artistes carriers

HARARE - The recently held National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) which took place in Bulawayo brought to the fore a burning issue that artists have always raised with no solution in sight — piracy.

While the Nama are an extraordinary gathering that rewards excellence within the arts sector, it is also a platform through which artists come together to share concerns within their industry.

Television screen writer and actor, Enock Chihombori was in tears as he accepted a Nama for his outstanding movie, Gringo the Trouble Maker which he said was pirated the day he released it and killed potential sales.

The platform at which Chihombori raised this sensitive issue was appropriate as stakeholders from across the arts fraternity were in attendance.

Government was also there, represented by the Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa.

The National Arts Council (Nacz) which safeguards our arts industry was well represented at the awards presentation.

One could not help feel sorry for Chihombori who had to borrow money from his family to finance the film project hoping the film would make some profit.

Gospel music star Olivia Charamba implored Langa to act on piracy, saying she was touched with Chihombori’s sad tale.

She said, while as musicians they could hold live concerts to supplement their incomes which have also been destroyed by piracy, those producing film cannot do the same.

It is important that Nacz and ministry of Arts and Culture take the artists’ concern on the rampant piracy seriously and deal with it as a matter of urgency.

While Nacz is playing its part to award excelling artists, it should protect the work that it is rewarding, otherwise artists will feel reluctant to produce works that will quickly be eroded through piracy.

There is a lot put into any production, be it film or music for it to be destroyed by irresponsible pirates who are practising their trade openly.

The artists are too busy working on new productions that they cannot monitor their products and they cannot be seen day in day out chasing pirates on the streets who are pirating their products.

The artists need protection and that protection can be spearheaded by the Nacz and the ministry of Arts and Culture.

As Chihombori narrated his ordeal during the recent Nama, minister Langa was in attendance and I am sure the script writer was directly reporting his complaint to him.

The problem in Zimbabwe concerning piracy is that those practising it are well known and even their places of operations are known, but little is being done to eradicate or even minimise its operation.

It will take a strong stance by Nacz and ministry of Arts and Culture to stop this rot that is affecting artists across the board.

Most musicians have long stopped releasing new albums citing piracy and soon filmmakers will follow suit, a result that will affect events like Nama as there will be few quality entries.

The arts industry should gather together and formulate policies and strategies to combat piracy. It is a cancer that needs urgent treatment before it wipes out a whole generation of productions and renders artists jobless.

Like Langa said at the Nama, all issues raised were directed at his ministry as the custodian of the arts so that they can act on them. Now that word of the piracy menace has reached his ministry, artists are waiting patiently to see how he will take it from here.

The minister and Nacz have the power to summon help from the police to stop this rot.

With the two institutions’ blessing, those selling pirated CD and film DVDs can be cleared off the streets by the police in no time.

In Zimbabwe, we have witnessed the police embarking on various code-name operations and artists are hoping one day an ‘anti-piracy’ operation will sweep the streets and get rid of the culprits and their masters who I am sure are now filthy rich selling products they have not invested in.

It is criminal, to say the least.

But like I said, it will require Nacz and ministry of Arts and Culture to effect concrete measures, starting of course with formulating a policy document that can even be tabled in Parliament.

Yes, bring the issue of piracy to Parliament and let the legislators deliberate on it so that arrests and action can take root.

There is need to factor piracy in some Act and make provisions with deterrent sentences that will make pirates think twice.

*Chinoperekwei is the 2013 Nama Arts Promoter of the Year winner.

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