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Performing arts sector have been victims of the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic

By Manuel Ntoyai
Monday, July 27th, 2020
Alfred Munyua.

Players in the performing arts sector have been victims of the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic. However, they say the government’s stimulus package has to some degree cushioned them against the adverse effects of the pandemic, writes Manuel Ntoyai.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a Sh100 million-stimulus package for artists, actors and musicians on April 6 this year, the usual ugly squabble about who was getting what and when showed its shameful face again.

Following the presidential order, thespians and poets—especially spoken word artistes—were a hopeful lot that they would get their rightful share of the cake.

“What we thought at that very time and what is happening now is impressive because we have seen more than 1,000 poets and spoken word artistes receive the funds,” says Kenya Cultural Centre creative development officer Kennet B.

“We went to major towns around the country to get the submissions and what we achieved was massive.

The package is not only a relief to us, but has also sprayed some hope that the industry can get even better with more support from the government,” adds Kennet, who is also the founder of Poetry After Lunch (PAL).

Actress and thespian Amalie Chopetta says just like every other sector, the filming industry has also been massively affected by the pandemic.

“Many shows were cancelled and productions put on hold. It’s so sad that I can’t even get into the theatre right now.

A member of Lodwar’s Poetry After Lunch presents a piece.

However, this has also led us to venture more into uncharted waters such as Vskits, among other short funny video social and sharing platforms.

But side hustles have helped us a lot to stay afloat. I have a catering company known as Tandika Mkeka, and even though things are slow, people still got to eat, right?,” she poses.

Rough sailing

At the same time, Chopetta acknowledges that players in the performance arts have been able to access the government’s stimulus package funds, which has helped in cushioning them against the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Some of us have received the money from the stimulus package. I’m glad artists have been helped out by this, not as much as I’d have hoped for, but they do say half a loaf is better than none.

More could be done to help out artists, including kitties and more sponsored projects.

My only worry is, if this doesn’t happen soon, we will not only deal with Covid-19, but also a serious wave of depression amongst the artists,” she tells Spice.

For poet Mwanamkuu Idd, the opportunity to work with both the government through the Kenya Cultural Centre has been the highlight of the pandemic.

“I have done several poems including Pambazuko, which highlights the challenges caused by the pandemic and also sensitise people to strictly adhere to safety measures issued by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.

As a poet working away from the cities, my expectations were met because both the government and community appreciated my work,” she says.

Theatre, film actors and filmakers have also been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, but due to some of the measures set up to cushion them against its adverse effects—including grants by the Kenya Film Commission—they are pesevering through the crisis.

“ It’s been a rough ride for us since public shows at the theatre are not happening, shoots are becoming leaner on cast and crew because we have to adhere to the 15 people on set at any given time rule.

On the brighter side though, actors are helping each other out. A number of kitties have been formed and different people are chipping in what they can, and with the stewardship of people such as Eddy Peter, the most needy among us are getting the much needed help,” says actor and film director Alfred Munyua.

Kennet B.

Award-winning poet and rapper Vidze Kaladze says the stimulus package for the creatives is timely.

“We have some of us who have been acting setbooks and since schools have been closed, we’ve lost a source of income.

Some of us have received Sh10,000 from the government’s package, which I can say is a massive boost to us,” he says.

However Vidze also recognises the fact that it will take time before people can congregate in large numbers.

“We saw in China they tried to open the Disney, but were forced to close it again, meaning this pandemic will be here for a while, necessitating the need to go digital,” he adds.

The main aim of the Sh100-stimulus package was to cushion artists and also educate the community about the Covid-19 pandemic. But players in the arts sector have been forced to deal with various teething challenges.

“We are really trying as much as we can to educate our people on this deadly disease.

With a huge number of them being illiterate they are coping up regardless. The money from the government has been a big boost in our activities, but sometimes we are forced to deal with challenges such as insufficient means of transport to enable us travel to some of the remote parts of our county.

But we are looking forward to the phase two of the project,” says Elizabeth Aiton, PAL’s team leader in Turkana county.

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