Creatives thrive on mass gatherings through events like music festivals and others but when the COVID-19 task team cautioned the public against mass gatherings this week, the creative industry is now gearing up for a long, bleak and thirsty festive season.
It is Black Friday today so something tells you that the festive season has already began. Forget Black Friday, this year it won’t be normal so mass gatherings in shops are prohibited according to the national coordinator of the COVID-19 taskforce, Dr Kereng Masupu.
Usually the festive season is the period when promoters, musicians, venue owners and allied players make more money. Holidays festivals like Home Coming Concert, Born & Raised, Clap Your Hands, Gaabo Motho music festival just to mention but a few are generally spread across the country and various villages targeting people who would be going home for the holiday season.
“We further urge people not to travel to and from areas such as Gaborone that are experiencing high number of COVID-19 cases,” stated Masupu in a press release. Moreover people such as DJs and sound equipment owners who usually make money from end of year parties would not get that chance because Dr Masupu has also cautioned individuals and companies to avoid end of year parties.
Currently, the government allows only a maximum limit of 50 people in social gatherings such as chill sessions, weddings and music festivals. Although Dr Masupu didn’t specifically cite music festivals, it is a festive season cancelled for creatives who had been pleading with the task force to end their nine months wait and hunger. Arts & Culture interviewed some of the local creatives who have been engaging with the ‘unbending’ government.
Vocal music promoter who has been advocating for the industry reopening Godwin “Exotic Exoxo” Sebina of Exoxo Entertainment said he was disappointed with Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) and COVID-19 team for neglecting the events sector all year round.
“We have been engaging them through letters and meetings as well as phone calls. They just don’t care. There is no proper response or plan for our industry, and they only say it to the public that they have interest in our sector to grow it, but they are actually killing it. They know how our lives have drastically changed because we tell and show them,” he highlighted.
MYSC after meeting with the Task team.
He also said they are yet to have a second meeting with the Task Force and MYSC to present their proposals just like the transport and alcohol associations have done.
“We want the industry to open. We submitted the first proposal in June and again in October. We are just waiting on our parent Ministry to arrange for that meeting with the COVID-19 Task team,” he said.
Seagile said amongst some of the suggestions to reopening the industry, BEPA suggest that night clubs be allowed a maximum limit of 150, while outdoor concerts should be allowed at least up to 2, 000 people. The association says safety and distancing of people could be achieved through demarcation using barricades.
While some musicians feel that their union Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) has been silent on the matter, their President Fresh Lesokwane who was elected into office this past August told Arts & Culture that they have had meetings with the Task team before.
“We then made our submissions to MYSC, who are supposed to present them to the Task team on our behalf. One of those things we wanted was for the increment of people allowed in a concert. Our biggest worry now is that with these numbers, it will only benefit well-established artists and disadvantage upcoming ones because they will not get any bookings. We have also asked MYSC that we be allowed to do virtual concerts, which we could do through our district chapters,” he highlighted.
Lesokwane further revealed that they have partnered with the Indian community for provision of food hampers to their members in the next three months as a way of cushioning them. He said they are hopeful that they would get a positive feedback from MYSC soon.
Arts & Culture contacted the MYSC Minister Tumiso Rakgare for feedback to inquire about issue, but the latter read the WhatsApp message sent to him and never responded.