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The creative sector deeply hurt by Covid-19 lockdown

By People Reporter
Monday, July 13th, 2020
Christine Ekuam.
In summary

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, leaving many shattered lives and dashed dreams in its wake. Kenyan commercial creatives and entertainers are also feeling the negative economic effects of the lockdown, as Jackson Onyango explores.

A week or so ago, a majority of Kenyans was high with hopes that President Uhuru Kenyatta would fully re-open the economy, but he did so partially by opting to extend the nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew for another 30 days.

The nation did not know how to react considering the lockdown and stay-at-home orders have been in effect for four months now.

Income sources have become limited or compromised and the future of social-gathering driven businesses—especially in the entertainment sector—is uncertain.

“It’s not just us artistes that depend on performing for large crowds that are on our knees.

Picture the food industry that offer their services at these events, or the production set-up crew, or those that supply washroom services and the likes. It’s a harsh time,” singer Ayrosh tells Spice.

Bars, restaurants and recreation facilities will have to endure more patience as they have been deemed high-risk areas and asked to resort to take-away models as the situation is mitigated observantly.

In light of the Covid-19 cases cruising to hit the 10,000 mark, entertainment arts and their ancillary partners sustainability have been shoved aside to prioritise the health of the nation.

To add salt to injury, some creatives are still puzzled and skeptical over how to access the different stimulus packages distributed by the Culture, Sports and Heritage ministry, which would help them navigate the pandemic’s strenuous economic period.

“The government claims to have a funding scheme for creative, but personally I’m not particularly familiar with the means they wish to do this through,” says poet Jaaz Iyah Satar.

 For instance, recording and performing artiste Steph Kapela has expressed concerns on the ‘Work for Pay’ stimulus package for creatives.

He highlights a wider scope of inadequacies and indifferences from the government’s relief programme.

“The gesture was decent of them I suppose, and I’ll admit I was kind of excited when the government initially said there would be Sh200 million for artistes every month.

But a whole lot of people has been affected by this pandemic beyond artistes and entertainers. The solution should be set to benefit everyone affected,” he says. 

Slow revival

Milan, one of Nairobi’s most popular entertainment joints has re-opened its doors for revelers and as its brand ambassador Christine Ekuam states, they are strictly observing the set guidelines.

“The restaurant has set up new standards and services approach to ensure that we are complying with the government directives.

There’s reduced contact at the reception, we have mandatory temperature checks, we’ve set up sanitising stations all over the restaurant and at every table.

Also, there are rigorous cleaning procedures before the restaurant opens; frequent disinfection of surfaces and staff training when it comes to better handling of food and beverages, cleanliness and social distancing procedures,” she intimates to Spice.

Art galleries, social halls, stadia and recreation centres have also felt the devastating effects of the pandemic, and fear it will hover over their heads for prolonged times.

“At the moment, having social gatherings and physical pop-ups or exhibitions are certainly not feasible, but we are extremely fortunate to live in a generation with the Internet, and social media, which then helps marketing yourself and your small business a click away,” says fine artist and designer Patti Endo.

As some optimism strives to take shape in the form of digitalism, a crop of professionals not dancing to this beat is the film and theatre industry.

Jobs have been suspended, and promised payments have been withdrawn from their mouths ruthlessly, further displacing and affecting the pay-as-you-work professionals.

For actor Benson Obiero, the future seems bleak. He says: “There is no work, hence no paying bills and no food for the family.

All my jobs have been cancelled and no cash is coming in. I am now looking for menial jobs such as washing cars and mjengo, and they are also rare to find.”  

Empty pockets

The pandemic is despairingly hurting many people’s pride and pockets, leaving many with fear as they search for new entrepreneurial schemes to remain financially potent.

I think the world is so different that I will be curious to see what other producers and production companies do.

I think YouTube and other video content platforms will get way more valuable as content and promotional tools,” shares Mwangi Njanja, a screenwriter with TTT Productions.

He adds, “Other than that, it’s really hard to say ‘our next production is going to be a stage play’. This brings up so many questions; what will stage plays look like in 2021?

Will they even exist? Will there still be social distancing? Will there be enough people with disposable income to attend shows? And so on and so on.” 

Virtual is the way to go now, and this is a reality muse and artprenuer Patti Endo concurs with.

“I would say as of now it would definitely be digital, which really is the direction the whole world is moving towards.

This is a great time for galleries and establishments to think of innovative ways to showcase art in a non-traditional way,” she says, adding that artists have to embrace the neo-consumerism mannerisms, for example, working in their studio spaces.

“I personally believe being in isolation creates a sense of self-betterment, in the fact that you’re constantly living in somewhat of a loop, which makes you think of new innovative ways to push your art, experiment with new material and definitely helps you immerse yourself in your work.

“Given the time we’ve have to spend indoors, it’s a great opportunity to look at the silver lining and self reflect and centre oneself,” she says.