THIS is not the first time we are saying the creative sector needs Government support and by support we are not talking political speeches but real support. Tangible support. It is also not the last time we are saying this. We will continue saying it until someone hears our cry and something happens. In fact, the sector, now more than ever, needs serious Government support. And here is why we are saying so.
We know in the past we have been advocating for Government support and have been told, quite frankly, that we have a begging mentality. At some point we have been told the creative sector has to show proof that it can make money for it to attract Government support.
Others have said Government is already supporting the creative sector because there is a whole Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture. On the last point our argument has always been that whatever budget goes to the ministry is swallowed by administrative cost leaving the ordinary creative not benefiting directly from Government efforts. It’s like whatever resources are there for the creative sector go to pay office bearers, who are not even creatives themselves, instead of those resources coming down to the ordinary creative who actually needs assistance.
So, it is not surprising that, with little or nothing going directly to the creatives, corporates the like of Delta Beverages, Ingwebu, Old Mutual and others have tried to fill this glaring gap by supporting some creative initiatives here and there. But the bulk of support for the creative sector in the country has come from outside the country, from the international community through various donor organisations.
We could sit here and spend the whole day mentioning creative endeavours that were supported by the donor community. Government has been nowhere near the scene. Why is this so? Because the tendency has been that international agencies have tended to support more of art that speaks to issues that our Government may not be happy or is very uncomfortable with; issues like human rights, good governance, social justice, transparency and the like. This has led to Government secretly thinking many artistes who get support from international donor agencies are regime change agents — yet that is not true.
One reason why Government should properly support the creative sector is that it can properly influence narrational narratives. It is important that the sector has a visible stand in terms of national stories and how to tell them to the rest of the world. Learned people might have a good term for this kind of approach.
As it is Government has no real influence — the stories being told and taken out there are influenced by other people’s money and consequently it is their views and their chosen issues that get taken up and discussed through various art forms and platforms. So, for Government to properly influence the creative sector and the narratives that come out of the sector it needs to pour in serious resources. If Government can see the importance of investing in other sectors, even where it has gotten zero benefits, it must do the same with the creative sector. Only then will it get proper value from the sector.
But now with Covid-19 having come and disrupted everything the situation is very dire for the creative sector. And the prognosis is not good too. Covid-19 has come with lockdown and movement restrictions. The arts sector has been closed since March last year. Those with international tours cancelled and may not travel for another year or two.
Corporates have suffered too. This means they may not be able to support the creative sector for a while. Since the pandemic is global it also means that the international community that used to support the creative sector may shift their priorities to more humanitarian work. So once again creatives will have to turn to their own Government for support. For now, it could start as just mere relief support — to survive these Covid-19 times — but later it could grow to something more meaningful and tangible.