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By Thato Mahlangu

South Africans have been hit hard during the national lockdown, now in its fourth week – and local artists are no exception.

Corruption Watch spoke to some artists this week, the first of the two-week extended period, and they told us they don’t know what the future holds for them.

“All our gigs have been cancelled as people were told to stay at home. We can longer host poetry and jazz sessions,” said Setu SaAfrika.

SaAfrika, a resident of Maboneng in Johannesburg, is part of a collective of poets and jazz musicians who host jazz and poetry sessions every Sunday. Supporters pay a fee at the door for entry, and drinks, food, artworks and published books are sold.

“Now that has stopped. We can’t even afford to pay for rent and send money back home,” said the father of three. SaAfrika’s children, aged between 16 and 4, all live back in Mafikeng with his elderly mother.

With the lockdown extension, he and many other artists stand to lose a lot.

The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and Sports has established a grant in the form of a relief fund, but SaAfrika believes that the grant won’t help all artists. “You know there is so much corruption happening in the arts sector already, I think some people who are not artistic will benefit from the fund.”

Using the time productively

Tembisa-based visual artist Wisani Benjamin Manyisi said he will be taking this time to do some introspection.

“I find this to be the time to reflect and collect my ideas and conceptualize. As a conceptual artist, I believe one could use this time fruitful,” Manyisi said, adding that he will also be looking out for inspiration and convey his though about the virus on the canvas.

“We should use this time to get new ideas. Even this coronavirus is obviously something that artists could get ideas from, there are challenges that people face and it’s a duty of an artist to comment visually. Art is not separated from our everyday lives, so this obviously gives a lot of ideas to artists, it could be social on political.”

KwaZulu-Natal-based music composer and band manager Mhlengi Nkonzo Mlotshwa said his band has been struggling to collaborate on some of the songs they were meant to work on before the lockdown.

“The Composition Band is an emerging music band. But due to lockdown we are separated, no rehearsals, and we can’t meet,” he said.

Like SaAfrika, most of the band’s income comes from live performances around the country. Most of their gigs, including their tour, have been cancelled. Mlotshwa, who also runs an artist management company called Black Tool Music, which he says puts food on his table, had to put most of its work on hold, or cancel. “The son of the late legendary maskandi singer, Ikhansela, was meant to release a single but it has now been put on standby. I don’t know what we are going to do.” he said.