Artistes need proper information to do serious Aids education

18 Sep, 2016 - 00:09 0 Views

The Sunday News

This past week I adjudicated a community theatre groups HIV and Aids Competition MacDonald Hall in Mzilikazi. The competition was organised and supported by National Aids Council. The whole idea was good.

When I heard about the competition I remembered the days when we had another HIV and Aids drama competition that used to be supported by Matabeleland Aids Council and took place during the Trade Fair. It was popular and a lot of young artistes were discovered then.

So there I was in Mzilikazi, at MacDonald Hall. The first thing that struck me was how unkempt the hall is. This used to be one of the best community halls in the townships. I remember around 2005 when MacDonald Hall was the main venue for the now defunct Linkfest Arts Festival.

What really happened? The ceiling is falling apart, some of the windows look like they have never been cleaned, and the stage is falling apart, the lighting system is all gone. The sad part is we are all crying that we have few facilities where arts and culture can be nurtured yet the few we have, we have let them fall apart with neglect.

Anyway the competition started a bit late. The community groups were not there. We were expecting about 10 groups and yet only three pitched up. This to me kind of explained the reality on the ground. There are few young people, especially out of school youths, that are pursuing the arts. And the main reason for this is lack of support and absence of proper areas and institutions to nurture the talent.

Also disappointing was the absence of the community from the event. A community event without the community ceases to be a community event. My belief is that if you call yourself a community theatre group you must have a constituency that you service. The expectation of the day was each competing group would bring its own people to support their own and at the same time get the HIV and Aids message.

This was poorly done as the community was conspicuous by its absence.

The theme for the presentations was around ending stigma and moving towards zero infections and zero deaths. However, the presentations exposed the artistes’ lack of research. I think artistes must disabuse themselves of the idea that the community can take anything and that members of the community are not educated and have no information. This is not true. There is so much knowledge in the community.

And community artistes who do not tape into that knowledge are lost to say the least. As an adjudicator I wanted to hear about what we should be doing as communities to reduce rate of infections and HIV related deaths. But the groups chose to tell us what we already know. We needed new information and yet it never came.

I believe community theatre is a specialised art. First the artistes need to clearly know about the community they work in, the community whose issues they bring on stage. If the artistes have no idea about their communities then there is danger of misrepresentation.

The gap between the artistes and their communities was clearly exposed during the competition. After the presentations I am also tempted to say that our artistes are not reading and are not following the HIV and Aids debate. And they need to be. If artistes consider themselves to be educators then they seriously need to have proper information on their fingertips. This last Thursday many were left exposed. Perhaps in the future there is need to arm these artistes with the right information before letting them loose on the communities.

But I must hasten to say the idea of the competition is a good idea that must be grown to something bigger. The support by National Aids Council shows their belief in the arts and the power of the arts as a communication tool. Artistes need to take advantage of this opportunity and do the right thing. Next year we hope to see bigger and better competitions.

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