Female artists challenged

HARARE - Women from different career paths including dancers, musicians, poets, make-up artists, lighting technicians and designers, directors met in the City of Kings during the third edition of the Bulawayo Art and Culture Agenda open dialogue series.

The discussion was part of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence and focused on attitudes and perceptions about women in the arts, local media’s portrayal of women in the arts, women artists and leadership and, opportunities for women in the arts and culture sector.

Samukeliso Khumalo from the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development branding is key to the success and growth of any artist. “Artists need to brand themselves, use the internet and social media effectively to create a community or a following and market their products. Artists need to take their business seriously and package their products well.

“There is power in networking, female artists need to build partnerships horizontally and vertically and learn to collaborate amongst themselves.”

Khumalo urged women in the arts to refrain from making excuses for not propelling. “They need to find their own resources, create their own opportunities, be business minded and invest so as to build a legacy for themselves. They need not be apologetic.

“Women are capacitated but they need to go the extra mile to be in leadership positions. Women in the arts who are in leadership positions need to pull other women up with them.”

Journalist Daisy Jeremani said the media plays a vital role in dissemination of information because usually what comes out in the press tends to become the gospel truth.

“Women artists are not proactive, don't comment on issues and are media shy. They are not aggressive and don't push their own agendas. In some instances reporters are forced to add flesh to stories submitted by female artistes to make them more interesting.

“Newspapers are manned by male editors who will push their own agendas hence a lot of articles written about female artists are negative or controversial,” said Jeremani.

She added that women artists are treated as rebels because they have gone out of the boxes that were created for them. “The perception is that they are invading men’s space. Female artists need to change that narrative, show that they are aggressive and give positive stories to the media.

“There are few female editors across the country like business or political editors, as women tend to be given roles to talk about smaller issues.”

Priscilla Sithole from Ibhayiskopo Film Project said women in the arts sector should look for opportunities in the midst of the challenges currently being faced in the country.

“Opportunities are there but women need to take action towards getting them using resources available to them. Social media platforms are key in finding opportunities if made use of properly.

“Many women suffer from low self-esteem therefore they wait for men to facilitate opportunities for them e.g. most institutions in the country are run by men – women support men to advance and in turn do not get the same support,” said Sithole.

Sithole added that women have been boxed in particular genres like make-up artists, fashion design, gospel music, dancers and backing vocalists.

“There is need for female artists to be vigilant, create unique ideas that will create revenue streams for them through the manufacture music instruments and curating exhibitions.

“Women in the arts also need to have an identity of their own, set goals, have values, be professional, brands and role models, identify mentors and mentor others.”

She added that female artists should have career aspirations, increase their knowledge and skills through studying.

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