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Plight of creative industry in the face of Covid-19

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Black Missionaries

No-one saw it coming and only God knew about Covid-19 pandemic.

The year 2020 has already been written off by many people as a wasted year. A year where people have failed to fulfil their goals and different projects.

Covid-19 pandemic has been a pain in the fresh of almost all the sectors with the creative industry not spared. Artists have been on a long break, not holding shows due to a ban on gatherings by nations to avoid the spread of the pandemic.

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In Malawi, government put up restrictions in the fight against the pandemic following a rise in cases and it includes a ban on gatherings of not more than 100 people.

Although the cases have gone down in the country, the government has not yet loosened some of the restrictions.

This is the tough life that people have experienced in the yet to end 2020 and the creative industry has experienced cancellations of events, festivals, album launches, film and play premieres among others.

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Musician Soldier Lucius Banda, who is Advisor to President Lazarus Chakwera on Youth and Arts, said although slowly artists have started coming back to hold performances, things were not yet completely normal.

“We are trying to come back and make out something but it is still tough. The situation has not yet fully normalised. But we thank God that the cases have gone done, for now all we need is to try as much as possible to observe the restrictions and then see how far we can go with the events,” Lucius said.

The musician with his Impakt Events are going ahead with their festival – Sand Music which will take place at Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima featuring artists such as Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and South Africa’s Master KG from October 30 to November 1 2020.

It is tough for them holding a festival this time when there is the pandemic and it is one of the few top festivals which has decided to go ahead with their event while the rest such as Blantyre Arts and Tumaini have cancelled their events.

Recently, Black Missionaries also returned to the stage having been out of the limelight for over six months.

“It has been tough. This is what we love doing, making music and performing it to the people. This is what gives us our bread and butter but the pandemic stopped all that. Although we are back, things haven’t yet turned to normal and so we are doing things cautiously while reminding people of the pandemic and also to observe the measures,” Black’s lead vocalist Anjiru Fumulani said.

Having suffered for a long time, musicians and other artists have been calling for support from the government to sustain their lives but they have received no feedback.

In Kenya for instance, the government decided to support the creative industry by giving them funds to sustain their lives during this period.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said artists are instrumental in the development of the country and that since they were not holding performances, it was important to support them.

This just shows how the creative industry has suffered this year with the pandemic and it surely needed support from governments.

In Malawi, the situation has even been compounded by the fact that the creative industry does not receive subvention from the government as is the case in other countries.

Artists have struggled to have the Cultural Policy in place and having crossed the bridge on this, they are now lobbying for the existence of the Arts Council which will among others, enable them get support from the government in terms of subvention.

Banda said as an advisor on Youth and Arts, he will try his level best to make sure that the creative industry gets the support having been sidelined for a long time.

Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture Michael Usi, has also pledged to fight for the creative industry admitting that the industry has been sidelined for a long time.

“As an artist, I know the challenges that artists go through. I will make sure that I do the best for the industry so that it benefits. The good thing is that we have a government that is led by President Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice Saulos Chilima, who also love arts,” Usi, popularly known as Manganya in the comic circles, said.

Veteran gospel musician Wycliffe Chimwendo, said recently that the creative industry needs to start getting support as it has a lot to offer to the nation.

Some artists have also called on the government to put much interest on the creative industry if it has to fulfill its one million job promise.

Outside the country, some artists have also been on toes calling for support and assistance looking at the hard times they were going through due to the pandemic.

The BBC reported that a 400-strong ensemble of freelance musicians played outside Parliament in United Kingdom to highlight the plight of the music industry during the current pandemic.

Conductor David Hill led the performers in a short segment of Mars, from Holst’s The Planets, before the attendees held a two-minute silence.

A concurrent protest took place outside Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.

The BBC reported that the events were designed to put pressure on the government to give more support to self-employed artists.

Violinists Nicola Benedetti and Tamsin Little, and Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis also attended to support to the performers, and uploaded footage to social media.

The events were organised by the Let Music Live campaign, and supported by the Musicians Union, which represents more than 32,000 performers in the UK.

It says 70 percent of its members have lost more than three-quarters of their regular work during the lockdown, leaving many in financial hardship.

Freelance musicians, who make up 72 percent of the sector, are particularly affected. Almost half of them are not eligible for grants under the government’s current self-employed income support scheme, the union says.

Former Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) President Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, said he was disappointed that the recent budget did not have anything to do with the creative industry.

In United Kingdom, Members of Parliament saw the need to highlight the plight of UK’s Covid-19 pandemic-ravaged music industry during a debate in Parliament.

“This is commendable where you have MPs discussing the plight of the creative industry. We need this even in our Parliament. You cannot ignore the creative industry for sure. We have been neglected for a long time and it is high time we started getting the support and respect we deserve,” Mhango, who is a board member of Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma), said.

Conservative MP Nickie Aiken, whose cities of London and Westminster constituency includes a host of music venues, secured the debate.

This comes as the industry steps up its calls for the government to help the crippled sector.

“Here, the government also needs to step up its efforts and assist the crippled sector,” Mhango said.

Renowned musician Erik Paliani, who has rubbed shoulders with giants in the music industry including the late Hugh Masekela, said it was sad that the country does not value the creative industry as key in development.

“The mentality in the country needs to change. Our friends in other countries have put in a number of strategies on how to support the industry but there is nothing here because art is not valued. It is hard to progress in the industry in the country and artists are doing things on their own,” Paliani of the ‘Chitukutuku’, fame said.

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