Wanner: More should be done to develop arts in Kenya, SA

A fair share of South African and Kenyan taxes come from artists.

Beyond artists themselves, there are many people who may not be artists but are employed because of art be they curators, printers, publishers, instrumentalists and even weavers. As part of my research , I talked to artists from both countries.

I realised that our problems are similar. In both countries, artists are taxed as full-time employees while unable to access the sort of perks that full-time employees like insurance or loans because they earn in an irregular manner. There is also a lack of appreciation and a constant need for ‘free’ stuff from artists as though artists don’t eat and don’t need a roof over their heads for some animal allegedly called ‘publicity.’

The good news is, despite this, the artists have not been dissuaded from creating. Between Kenya and South Africa, collaborations have, in fact, been happening. The main fields that artists in the two countries have been working together on are in literature, visual arts, music, performing arts, fashion and there seems to be room for working together in film.

Brand SA and Brand Kenya have unfortunately not been as aware of it as they should be so that they can amplify the message to art lovers in Kenya and South Africa.

Initiatives

Kenyan writers have participated in literary festivals in Durban, Franschhoek, and Open Book in Cape Town. There is also a reciprocal relationship with Storymoja with South African writers coming for the last three years through funding from the South African High Commission. Beyond attending literary festivals, Kenyans have participated in pan-African literary initiatives that are of South African origin.

Currently, there is an initiative called LongStoryShort in South Africa where writers from all over the continent have written short stories that are performed by South African artists monthly to a non-paying public. While LongStoryShort currently doesn’t have any Kenyan writers, hopefully, they will have some next year.

In fashion, South Africa’s clothing chain store Mr Price, in partnership with Elle Magazine’s Rising Star Design Search engage home-grown talent to produce for their shops.

If this chain is going to work for Kenya’s fashion industry, perhaps they can suggest that the owners of the local franchise do the same with local designers. It does not do the Kenyan fashion industry any favours.

There is room for work to be done in the world of film. Although Kenyan filmmakers have participated in South Africa’s Durban International Film Festival and the movie Nairobi Half Life won an award, more can be done.

The writer is a South African journalist and novelist

SOURCE: BUSINESS DAILY