Artists struggle as economy withers

HARARE - Performing artists are struggling to earn a living as few people still attend their showcases because of the economic hardships facing the country.

Arts practitioners and artists interviewed by the Daily News said the arts industry is no longer vibrant and only a few popular musicians are earning a living from their art.

Others are of the opinion that as long as the Zanu PF government still rules, nothing will change and the situation within the arts sector is set to worsen.

Arts practitioner Mthabilisi Phili said there is no growth in the arts sector as it is more like a regress.

“Most artists have simply changed professions altogether. The arts sector is a beneficiary of vibrant NGO sector and industries.

“The reality that these have been hard-hit by the economy means dire situations for the arts industry. The so-called airwaves liberation or TV and radio licences fuss that happened a year ago has not seen growth of the arts sector.”

Phili added that everything rests on a change in government “as far as I am concerned. There is a ceiling that needs removal for new policies that facilitate growth to be implemented.”

The arts practitioner said most artists have migrated to South Africa or overseas, especially with performing arts. Their big bucks come from outside the country.

“We cannot speak of any growth in Zimbabwe. Everything is dilapidating. Lousy politics equals to lousy economy equals to dysfunctional industries.

“The only thing that the current government has been good at is to create ‘authorities’ for everything . . . media authority . . . tourism authority and no policy of growth, just policy of control. Anyway, what can we expect from a dictatorship?”

Singer Agnes Gudza said: “I think being an artist in Zimbabwe is very difficult at the moment. I have seen a lot of artists who are suffering because people are not going to part with their hard-earned cash to go and watch an artist performing.

“I think there are a few artists who are making a bit of cash, the likes of Jah Prayzah. The industry will not grow any time soon and I feel pity for the artists. I really don’t know how they are able to improve their trade in such a situation.”

Playwright Silvanos Mudzvova said: “I personally think the arts sector is paralysed at the moment except for big bands, the likes of Alick Macheso and Oliver Mtukudzi.

“The majority of Zimbabweans don’t have extra resources to spend on arts. Most are surviving from hand to mouth and the arts are no longer considered as basic hence it affects the artists who survive on creating art.”

Mudzvova said artists are now surviving on doing extra jobs like vending or going into some other professions “while giving a few hours to art creation which compromises the quality of art they produce. Ronnie Mudhindo spends hours driving cross-border trucks and with few hours of rest he then creates music.”

Poet Mbizo Chirasha said: “It is always a norm that the budgetary considerations on the arts sector by the government are very much scarce and undesirable. The arts do not have a budget that we know.

“Imagine with these serious constraints where we are under serious political economic hurdles — artists are stuck.”

Guitarist Mono Mukundu said: “Of all sectors, the arts sector is the most affected by the bad economy, bearing in mind that piracy is also a product of the bad economy.

“As a result, there is zero income coming from record sales, so artists are now sorely dependent on music shows which have also been affected because the number of people attending shows has gone down, so it’s a very bad period for the arts industry.”

Music promoter Benjamin Nyandoro said: “I believe the arts sector is the most affected, especially looking at the performance side. An average earning person’s shopping list prioritises essential and immediate livelihood commodities — things like food, and shelter.

“Everything else, unfortunately including health and education, becomes a luxury, let alone entertainment. Performing artists are at the receiving end. I can say they are just hanging in there and primarily driven by passion.”

Actor and producer Daves Guzha said artists are barely surviving at all.

“In an already shrinking economy where disposable income is very thin, coupled with bank withdrawal limits, naturally, potential clientele must ask whether they use the money for transport or bread for the kids.

“It’s pretty obvious where it goes. In order to arrest these loses we have had to work pretty fast on introducing POS. Still from our observations, we have realised that shows which have an inclination toward highly current topical issues get in the crowds.”

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