Tough Times for African Artists as Covid-19 Takes Its Toll

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the arts and culture industry's vulnerability and it's clear that the effect on the creative sector continues to be devastating. In South Africa, the government has introduced the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme, to assist creatives who do not have 9 to 5 jobs and who rely heavily on the "gig economy". However, the artist relief fund offers little hope for the rebirth of an industry after the lockdown. A group of artists recently staged a sit-in at the National Arts Council offices in the cities of Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, and Kimberley to highlight the challenges facing the industry in their respective provinces.

Sadly, the historical theatre, The Fugard in Cape Town, has closed its doors for good. Covid-19 restrictions severely impacted theatres and there were several initiatives launched at the commencement of the national lockdown to provide artists with immediate relief both financially and materially. Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Arts and Culture, has been silent on the situation and has evoked an outcry from creatives who are calling for his resignation.

In Nigeria, since the country announced lockdown measures in March 2021, the cumulative toll on its creative communities has been immense. Nigeria's government has, for the most part, remained inactive. Musicians have had to creatively adapt and embrace new digital opportunities to survive.

In Zimbabwe, arts practitioners are lobbying the government for essential services status and prioritisation in the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive.

Meanwhile, Namibian musicians who are members of the Namibian Society of Composers and Authors of Music and who missed out on the first assistance offered by the Namibia Arts Council in 2020, will receive Covid-19 relief in 2021.

InFocus

The front door of the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town.

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