The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WHEN the world has finally weathered the storm brought about by the rampant Covid-19 (coronavirus), Zimbabwean artistes will never look at their art the same way, as the restrictions bought about by the virus have forced them to think of new ways of making money from their craft.
With large gatherings prohibited, bars and other places of leisure shut, artistes have been forced to work from home as social distancing is encouraged. However, most artistes were living from money made from gig to gig and few had monetised their brands on the digital front.
Speaking to Sunday News this week, veteran arts administrator and playwright Raisedon Baya said artistes had been driven to desperation, and out of that desperation would come innovation if artistes learnt their lessons.
“This is how things evolve. When a disruption happens, it always forces you to change how you do and look at business. I don’t think we will ever look at business the same way after this. I think in the end, when it is all over, there will be something positive to come out of this. For example, before this shutdown, artistes didn’t think it was possible to work from home. Now we realise that it can be done,” he said.
Baya said save for a few stars that were making a lot of money before the shutdown, a lot of artistes had never foreseen a day in which their freedom of movement or work would be restricted.
“This caught us unprepared. I don’t think most artistes were prepared for this virus and we were also unprepared for any event that demanded a shutdown. For a lot of artistes everything has completely shut down and I think one can safely say that save for one or two performers like Jah Prayzah, most will not be making money during this period,” he said.
Baya observed that Covid-19 had come with a lot of lessons for artistes, chief among them the realisation that simply producing art on its own was not enough.
“We have realised that as an artiste the only employer is your audience. No one is obligated to give you money when you’re not performing. In the past artistes were thinking like content creators and not businesspeople. We thought all you had to do was make the content and then people would come to our shows and that was it. Now we have to think like shoemakers. When you’re a shoemaker and you make shoes, you know when the shoes have been made, you need to find buyers for whatever you would have made. I think that’s the kind mentality that we need to have,” he said.
As things stood, Baya said, artistes did not have anyone to turn to as the Government already had its hands full with a resource draining pandemic.
“In other countries, people have been receiving bailouts but I think with our economy I don’t think that is possible. Even if people in the arts asked for a sit-down with the president right now it would be difficult because he can’t even meet with large groups of people as we had become accustomed to,” he said.
The next few weeks will see a lot of trial and error, he said, as artistes look for ways around Covid-19.