The Sunday News
ARTS FOCUS with Raisedon Baya
THE arts sector’s short-lived celebrations after the announcement by the President that the sector will be allowed to open and host shows with minimum crowds is just an example of how Covid-19 has been a nightmare to the sector.
The sector was closed when the pandemic was announced in the country in March last year and it has been closed since. Imagine the job losses.
Imagine how tough it has been for many whose lives depended on their creativity and public performances.
Once, last year, the Government made a gesture towards the sector with some relief fund.
The fund, which is still a good idea, only benefited a few and the amount was not good enough to last more than a month. But it still remains a good gesture.
There is need to look again at this model and see how the Government can continue to help the sector until things are back to normal.
Why artistes are suffering more?
Generally, art has not been paying well for many. Only a few artistes have really been making a proper living from their arts.
We can actually count them. And we believe these had investments and savings that have cushioned them up to now.
So, their cry is not as loud as the rest of the sector. However, for the rest it has always been a kind of “hand to mouth” living, meaning the closure of the sector brought instant suffering.
To be honest a lot of artistes have actually left the sector and are trying other means to survive. And even when things ease up it will be difficult to convince them to come back into the sector. They have seen enough. They have suffered enough.
Since most artistes have been living a “hand to mouth” kind of life it simply means they have no savings.
Without an income and savings, it means most have been living off their parents and relatives. But for how long can relatives help, especially if there’s more than one mouth to feed.
For the few that have had opportunities to make money they forgot to invest or save. Don’t blame them.
They were never taught how to save or invest. It is only now that they are seeing the folly of not investing and saving.
Lessons most of us are learning?
Whether Covid-19 goes away now or not it has taught many of us a lot of things. One of the big lessons, especially for creatives, is to have several income streams.
This is good in that if one stream closes, you still have income coming from other initiatives or projects. Most artistes were caught unaware and learnt the hard way.
It is our hope that most will survive this rough patch.
Another lesson learnt is the need to be flexible and adapt to new changes quickly. Covid-19 came and a lot of things moved to digital spaces. Few artistes moved there.
Now most are realising that the pandemic could be with us for a long time and are slowly moving towards digital space. As creatives we must always be ready and willing to adapt.
It’s a game of survival now. Another lesson, especially to those that have had the opportunity to make some money with their art is the need to always save for darker days. Usually, the darker days don’t announce they are coming.
They just drop in unexpectedly. The pandemic has shown us the need for financial literacy workshops across the sector. They are important to artistes as individuals and the sector at large.
Covid-19 could be here for long
We all are wishing this pandemic monster to go so we can go on with our lives but deep down we are all afraid it may take its time with us, tormenting us as it pleases.
In other words, we must be prepared to have it with us for a long time, meaning we must find ways to manoeuvre around it. Adapt or die.
That is the message we should be preaching to all artistes.