CityLife Arts

Artists organise memorial service for all artists who have died as Covid-19 claims huge toll on creative sector

Friends of the late playwright and drama academic Maishe Maponya are appealing to the public for donations for his burial

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

It used to be a once in a while occurrence for arts journalists to write an odd tribute as part of their varied responsibilities in various newsrooms in the country.

However during these Covid-19 times the worst nightmare for an arts journalist is to miss yet another death of a South African artist, as these seems to be a monthly occurrence. In fact one these days considers themselves luck If they have to deal with one tribute writing a month. It has almost become normal to write two tributes a month for yet another top artists who has passed on, and whenever one discusses the issue of yet another artists who has passed on with colleagues, the question that comes up almost immediately is the C-word. It is almost taken for granted that the demise of an artists these days is always related to Covid-19.

However such conclusions that almost become monotonous by their frequency. And this is simply because Covid-19 has taken such a huge toll in the creative industry both directly and indirectly.

Since 2020 when Covid-broke out and ripped the social order apart, the South African   have had to deal with losses at many levels, the loss of life as colleagues succumb, and the loss of income as jobs dried up in the gig economy, especiall;y because it has become almost impossible for the industry to run normal in the midstst of this threat as the country wobbles from one risk adjusted lockdown to another, and unfortunately all the adjustments that have been declared so far have not been viable for artists to work without the risk of a super-spreader situation developing.

However it is the loss of so much human life and consequently art talent to Covid-19, that has cost the industry so much.

The first high profile artist to succumb from Covid-19, almost this time around last year was curator Antoinette Murdock, the former Chief Curator of Johannesburg Art Gallery in central Johannesburg, who at the time of her death, was an independent art specialist working closely with fine art auction houses in assessing art works submitted to auction by collectors.

Then after Murdock’s demise, there was a deluge of these deaths that left the industry in a continual state of mourning the death one artists after another with no break whatsoever.

That high profile Covid-19 death in the arts was followed by so many others, including those of Dawn Avril Lindberg, the founder of the Naledi Theatre Awards,  jazz vocalist Tshepo Tshola, songwriter, performer and recording artist Steve Kekana, Jacana Media publisher Nadia Goetham, Daily Sun photographer Muntu Nkosi,  e.TV cameraman Lungile Tom, and jazz pianist Andre Petersen to name but just a few. But in reality this is just scratching the surface when it comes actual loss of life as so many more died as a result of Covid-19 directly.

Abahlali Movement Drive. Formerly Abahlali Base NAC, a group of artists that occupied the NAC offices for 60 days in protest  against the manner in which the government arts agency handled the disbursement of Covid-19 related economic stimulus funds for artists, are organising a memorial service for artists. The memorial service, what will only physically be attended by a few people due to Covid-restrictions by will also be assessable  via social media platforms, will take place at the Market Theatre in Newtown on August 12, 2021. The memorial service is however not restricted to paying tribute to artists who have died from Covid-19 only, but all artists who died from 2020 to 2021, according to the organisers.

Those who know of such artists irrespective of their public profile need to send images of such artists to Abahlali Movement Drive and the details are on their Facebook page.

Meanwhile friends of the late playwright and academic Maishe Maponya are appealing to the public for donations for his funeral. Maponya died last week. And in his life time, he made a huge contribution to the theatre sector by penning several playwright that also travelled abroad, such as in the UK, US and Germany. He is also a former dram lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand.· 

“Artists and friends as you know we lost our great and wonderful theatre practitioner Maishe Maponya. If you would like to, please donate to the Maishe Maponya Solidarity Fund. As we stand together, we aim to rebuild the dignity and respect that Maishe and the generation that created the Performing Arts Workers Equity (PAWE) stood for. We aim to advance the rights of creatives. We shall rebuild. The banking details are as follows:

FNB Cheque Account

Name: K A Maponya

Acc: 60919077409

Branch: Carlswald

Thank you,” playwright Bobby Rodwell appealed on social media.

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