Creatives decrying slow pace at which ‘presidential order’ is issued

Friday, May 8th, 2020 00:00 |
Jaaz Odongo.

Creatives are decrying the slow pace at which a ‘presidential order’ issued a month ago has taken to be implemented. As JACKSON MUTUA writes, the creatives feel its execution would have turned their fortunes for the better during the Covid-19 crisis, but the cogs aren’t on the move yet and their energy is draining fast.

The creative industry in Kenya suffers the bittersweet syndrome. Despite the entertainment and inspiration it provides for many, enterprising artistes still starve.

After a month after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s announcement of a Sh100-million grant for the creative sector, nothing much seems to be happening. Creatives are decrying the adverse effects brough by the Covid-19 pandemic, because they are yet to receive a coin.

On May 4, 2020, a joint statement by the Collective Management Organisations (CMOs)—Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk) and Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK)— further shed light on the lingering question over the president’s order to pay the creative from the Sports, Culture and Heritage kitty.

“As of today, May 4, 2020, the three collective management organisations Kamp, Prisk and MCSK have not received the said funds from the ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage,” read the statement.

This left a lot of unanswered questions lingering on many people’s minds about how the quota allocated for “actors, artistes and musicians” hasn’t yet reached its final mile in distribution to the said parties.

A section of creatives feel the statement by the CMOs was an attempt to swiftly provoke a blame game at their expense. Concern is already looming as artistes are beginning to sense a similar ordeal of a lack of transparency and credibility from the powers that be.

“The truth about the type of leaders we have chosen in this country is clear to see. There is no hiding from disasters and pandemics like this.

Corruption has affected our lack of preparedness, and any chance of our government could give us respite or a bailout like we are seeing in some Western countries,” veteran producer Jaaz Odongo told Spice.

The crucifixion

On April 20, 2020, according to the CMOs, they sought the attention of the sports, culture and heritage ministry on a follow up mission of the said funds.

“The letter was copied to the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs and Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo).

As of today, we have not received any feedback from the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage in regards to this matter,” added the CMOs statement.

“A lot of people would not be able to cope without all the amazing art, music, books, movies they have right now, which shows you how important our jobs as artistes and creatives in general are,” quips Odongo.

For a strong-willed creative such as Moseh Drummist, he has had the privilege of leaving the country for greener pastures in Europe and Asia due to his talent, but he confesses the economic endurance and social stigma he suffers being an artiste.

It is all he knows how to do and his medicine as a young boy born in Nairobi’s Mathare slums, one of the most dangerous informal settlements in Kenya known for drug abuse and crime.

“Since my childhood in Mathare, I have been a music head and it’s taken me places I thought I’d never see.

The most challenging part of this occupation locally is getting financial empowerment just because you put yourself at risk exposing yourself the way we do and people expect your life to be a certain one.

Not many people understand that we creative souls go through numerous challenges just like everybody else.

I also have family members to take care of, especially being the only boy in the household,” Moseh confides.

Lacking attention

Although a concession in the vagueness in the monitoring of the creative economy, a recent report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) revealed that after proper data analysis, there could be clearer marking of the creative sector’s pull to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As it stands, it is a vital and growing at three per cent on yearly basis.

“The creative economy and its industries are strategic sectors that if nurtured can boost competitiveness, productivity, sustainable growth, employment and exports potential,” UNCTAD’s international trade and commodities director Pamela Coke-Hamilton, says.

Lack of education, information, professional management, corruption and a cocktail of issues ail the sector as it gasps for life to be more productive and profitable.

According to a report by development organisation Hivos, in the textile industry alone Kenya has 75,000 small companies operating in fashion and tailoring units.

More than three quarters of the figure are based in the informal sector with no clear conduit to retail platforms.

A staggering 40,000 workers are also in the garments sector and face competition from imported clothing where mitumba traders get their daily bread.

“It’s been eight years in the industry for me. Amidst this pandemic, I have had to rethink through parts of my business.

I want to be of better use to society, but this pandemic has exposed me such that my capacity to produce has been affected, and I am not able to reach my market effectively.

My area of work is a ‘high risk area’, so I have to abide by the restrictions issued by the government,” Mvoo Wanje, the founder of Bonkerz (a Kenyan apparel line) laments of his handicapped situation during the Covid-19 crisis.

Absent structures

Even if the potential is in smoke-screen effect, one thing is certain; the government’s crutch-like support is unfriendly and unsustainable to the labourers of the creative industry, and especially now during a pandemic.

The taxation and government charges to creatives through bodies such as Kenya Film Classification Board is already hurting the pockets of many, as the costs they have to commit in order to operate legally already dents their hopes of making some sort of stipend. They say it’s becoming excruciatingly expensive being an artiste.

Different notions have been presented to argue the case of creatives’ viability, but one that springs is the positions public and private sectors have taken in building sustainable sectors.

“The government has not invested enough in structures and talent. Celebrity culture in Kenya is not the same as that of Nigeria.

Mostly, the upward and ruling class in Kenya don’t want to imagine that a ‘msanii’ can be bankable,” says rapper and producer Matthew Wakhungu aka Taio Tripper, uging his peers to take responsibility in changing the narrative and rewriting the blueprint to enable the creative community to be included in money matters.

The perpetuating wrangles between Kenya’s creative class and expatriates versus authorities may seem to drag for eternity.

But the democratic space that is the Internet is seeing many individuals and groups empowering themselves with the knowledge and tools to have a different conversation in the foreseeable future. 

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