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by Sefako
Rated: E · Article · Arts · #2171520
It's time to improve the situation of artists living in poverty.
South Africa is a country with too many artists, hence some people says we are a Demo-crazy nation. Generally, artists are poor and our socio-economic situation is uncertain. One month we may have some income and the next ons het vokol. Artists have a precarious situation; we are poor in spite of the high value of art. The situation leads to us being exploited too many times by all sort of non-monetary advantages, like work enjoyment, recognition by peers and status until we find ourselves being "poor and happy" about our state of affairs. We have a situation that medically in Afrikaans is called a Lekkerkrap; it's a kind of skin itching disease that feels very nice to scratch but leaves your body with very bad sores and a definite ill health.

Many of us work for very low income; some haven't even started working for income yet. In North West Province, particularly Mahikeng, {the capital city} we have cultural officers who keep telling artists that "lo a go ipapatsa" which is a loosely translated Bantu Education word for Marketing yourself as an artist. That simply means as an artist you are going to perform for hope or wish that someone you don't even know exist might be there to notice you and hopefully or rather wishfully give you a better gig or some deal.
Our artists are not recognized for what they produce or their talent; they get exploited for their products and works. In the case of still excited young upcoming artists, the situation is far worse than in the middle class or professional standard. Their excitement to make it, see themselves on stage with their role models and the thought of appearing on TV and newspapers, it all opens them to all sorts of opportunistic attacks from sharks and bloodsuckers posing as producers, talent managers, festival organizers, arts and cultural developers.

Artists have somehow become a society of lonely, mobile, over-worked individuals for whom socialising and leisure are only opportunities to do a deal. Our challenge is education and language; we need to invent a new vocabulary for engaging with the arts and cultural sector that sees opportunities in our poverty as a ticket to solicit funding from government and arts funding NGO's. In the artist world, "Self-employment" is the mantra, but it is ironic that we don't set up businesses related to our artistic talents nor study or work in related fields. We are not free to do our own thing; we don't live and work like artists. We honestly don't believe in what we say we are, we are living a hypocrite lifestyle immersed in dirty lyrics about each other on a daily basis.

In some cases it is clear that good genes selection and runaway processes can never happen, we must somehow face the monsters and demons of arts and culture head on without any fear or prejudice, benefits for the exploiter cannot in any way imply benefits for the exploited. My own experience is that the more we study Arts, the less we care about fame which is the potent weapon in the hands of the artist exploiter. By empowering ourselves with knowledge, we'll be emancipating ourselves from mental slavery paper carbonated into our minds by exploitative festivals, concerts, calabashes, competitions etc.

Thinking is the unhealthiest thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease, poor artist's overthinks and it kills them, overthinking in my world simply means thinking beyond your brain capacity or thinking abilities that is the time I hint to artists that they are then travelling into the abyss psychologically. You'll find us spending R4500 to a Music Festival or Competition that is going to pay R3000. It is happening in villages, a music group of about 15 members will hire a taxi for R2000 to perform at a wedding that pays R1500. It is something that even a grade R learner can figure out its abnormality but it happens nevertheless and remember, we are "poor and happy" about it. But I am afraid that we are beginning to be over-educated through television series and soapies but not through arts and culture books, workshops, seminars, conferences and summits.

What I have noted about corn artists that exploit us is that they have superb irresponsibility; they can make the worse appear better and are not ashamed to tell beautiful untrue things as their proper aim of development or their work. Their parasitism is perpetuated by the fact that artists have saint-like qualities, in doing our work, we forget about ourselves and only care about what we do. The fact that average money incomes in the arts are lower than in comparable professions, and that artists have second jobs far more often than other professionals, confirms the hypothesis that average artists have a relatively strong inclination to exchange money for non-monetary rewards and therefore have a low standard of living, which is close to a survival constraint which gives the exploiter a perfect happy hunting ground for exploitation.

The only way to reduce poverty is to discourage youngsters from going into events that has no monetary benefit to them or an equivalent that can enable them to make a reasonable amount of income overtime. We must always remind them that the rich are rich because of the poor, the sooner we stop running after the rich and create our own world the rich will become stagnant and we will manage to bridge the economic gap between us and them. We must not allow our arts and culture careers and talents exploiters to take our lives to the precipice of extinction. The more complex the animal, the less limiting the circle of captivation.

It's time we stop sacrificing ourselves for the sake of being called passionate artists, we need money, if the rich and wealthy still sweat blood and tears for more money, why do we think our passion will earn us paradise in the afterlife? We are living here on earth, the materialistic planet, money is not a luxury, it's a necessity and we must be paid for every work we produce. Applauds and compliments won't get us anywhere, it's time we change this culture of giving ourselves up for exploitation and weep the God forsaken tune later in our lives. Let us take control of our own destinations. We can no longer depend on donations and subsidies for approximately half of our total revenues. Considering that artists' incomes remain low or even decrease implies that our efforts are largely ineffective which means our poverty in the arts is structural.

It's time to improve the situation of talented artists living in poverty by clamping down artist exploitation. We must help poor artists get along in the modern world--to use modern instruments for managing the ownership of knowledge either to collect on the commercial value of that knowledge or to prevent its use in a way that its owners consider inappropriate. We must help poor artists earn more from their knowledge, including through marketing ethno botanical knowledge and creating new opportunities for music composers and performers in rural areas.

Pablo Picasso is widely quoted as having said that "good artists borrow, great artists steal." What we are left with is an artistic practice that no longer expresses certainty or transparency. We need strategies to navigate the artistic field as it exists today from our rural setting.


Andrea Fraser - "What do I, as an artist, provide?"
Hans Abbing - Why Are Artists Poor?
Lee Devin - It Is Okay for Artists to Make Money...No, Really, It's Okay
Hans Abbing - Support for artists
Poor People's Knowledge

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