By Maiko Zulu
I wasn’t surprised that the entire speech by the National Arts Council Chairman at the recent Ngoma Awards was centered around hero worshipping of politicians in the audience and that nothing was mentioned in terms of policy guidelines or the difficulties artistes go through in building the industry. Even the song that was used to officially open the Ngoma was carefully selected to praise the so called ‘imfumu’ who apparently was guest of honour (or dishonour) at the event. It was clear that artistes are literally beggars who cant survive without the mighty hand of the politicians.
Gone are the days when artistes were the mirrors of society and voices for the voiceless like Rikki Illilonga, PK Chishala, Impi, Twice and many others who used their art to express and highlight people’s conditions of living and were able to provide checks and balances to the ruling elites.
Today, making it in an artistes career is all about singing at State House and at political rallies and being praise singers for the owners of ‘kasaka kandalama’ (the money bag). Already since last year, some musicians have been preoccupied with producing praise and campaign songs for politicians for the 2021 elections and creating artworks that give a good picture to leaders who have literally looted the country’s treasury and sent the country into an economic graveyard. Of course every artiste is at liberty to lick whichever boot or booty they feel like. After all, It’s called democracy.
Sadly, artistes have now become PR managers for the people responsible for those figures we see in the Attorney General’s Report, the EIA report and the FIC report and they are doing it better than qualified PR managers. Today, if an artistes spoke about the $42m for 42 fire trucks, the $288 ambulances, the cheap fuel from Saudi Arabia, the Mukula and wildlife theft, the lack of medicine in hospitals, the inflated cost of construction of roads, the huge external and domestic debt, the cost of doing business, youth unemployment, the tax burden or the general conditions of living of honest and non thieving citizens, they risk everything from police brutality to loss of jobs because they will be labelled as carriers of ‘fake news’ and opponents of the government. Not only that, they will be accused of being sponsored by HH or countries that want to promote homosexuality and regime change.
To my fellow artists my message is simple: you have the POWER and you can decide what to do with it. In the end, posterity will judge all of us according to our contribution to society. As for me, I will not use my art to elevate anyone who is part of the reason why our country is economically crippled. After all, it’s my democratic and moral right not to do so. Eat what you can today because tomorrow may never be yours. The crumbs you are picking at the foot of the golden table today might not be there tomorrow because even the table itself may be a pillar of salt.