The two photographs that caused all the trouble

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

These are the two, otherwise beautifully composed photographs, capturing an important event in the on going fight against Covid-19 in the country, that caused all the trouble.

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture is seen receiving the jab, and this image appeared on social media on Wednesday, September,8 2021 There was unhappiness among some artists as he was derided for taking the jab so late when he qualified to do so when his age group was called upon to do so a few months ago.. But other than those remarks from some artists, and quite honestly not a surprising response from an arts industry that has been dissatisfied with the way in which his department and arts agencies under his department have handled the Covid-19 relief funds meant for artists. The artists accuse DSAC and agencies such as the National Arts Council, for the less than satisfactory manner of handling these relief funds, and so deriding the person at the top, honestly speaking would not be a surprise under those circumstances.

But then another picture of well respected singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka emerged on social media on Thursday, surrounded by other famous people, mainly artists. This is the picture that caused all the trouble as social media was flooded yesterday by complaints and messages of mainly ridicule.

It turned out that Yvonne and the other artists were at the launch of a national vaccination day, where among others there were Deputy President David Mabuza and Mthethwa, officially endorsing this campaign.

Under normal circumstances, this is a welcome development as this campaign is aimed at encouraging people to vaccinate and therefore save lives for a people under threat from an invisible but very fatal virus that has so far claimed thousands of lives in South Africa and globally. Countries of the world are busy at the moment sourcing under very difficult circumstances of lack of money and generally lack of availability of these potentially life-saving vaccines. Add the problem of vaccination hesitancy and blatant disinformation campaign undertaken by some is resistance to vaccination, that complicates the situation even further.

And so it goes without saying that when a country’s leaders go out there and do everything they can to encourage a skeptical part of the population to vaccinate, and in doing so rope in influencers, such as famous personalities and artists such as in this case, it is something to be applauded.

But that is not what happened and If someone can from somewhere in another world, he would not understand why these government leaders and artists involved in this campaign are under attack for doing something commendable to encourage people to vaccinate.

But in this case, the issues are more complex. The reality is no matter what DSAC will do in the context of the raging fury and as yet unresolved dispute between a significant and influential segment of the local creative industry about the distribution of Covid-arts money, any effort to do good will simply be dismissed, it seems.

In other words, there exists between the artists and DSAC and its arts agencies, a broken relationship over Covid-arts money. It is that broken relationship  that needs to be fixed in some form of a dialogue first before there is even a chance of appreciating each other’s efforts in doing good between the two parties, that are in effect married to each other.

The posting of these two images on social media, also once gain demonstrated the division between the creative industry, who are not speaking  with one voice on issues of common interest as illustrated by the fight back over these two photographs.

“Waking up to this… I’m disturbed. And then we wonder why Nathi Mthethwa was not reshuffled? Clearly he has the support of artists in his continued rape of the Cultural and Creative industries practitioners. May history be the ultimate judge,” Sibongile Mngoma commented about the picture of Yvonne Chaka Chaka  posted by someone known as Vinolia Mabele on Instagram. This picture was clearly in support of the launch of the vaccination campaign by the deputy President, supported by Mthethwa and a group of artists.

The caption of the picture by Viniolia Mabele reads: “What an amazing  day as we launched the National Vaccination  Campaign led by Deputy President @ddmabuzadp and our very own Social  Cohesion Advocacy  Father  Minister @nathimthethwa_sa. The industry is ready to open and boy oh boy are we ready. Honoured to have these incredible icons as we gear up.”

“Are the above in the picture artists? Im really disappointed especially with uYvonne Shakashaka yini ubumenemene kodwa? Yinde lendlela kwash uMshokozi,” asked Malgeni Nawa.

In a post titled In The Belly of the Beast, Sandile Memela a one time spokesperson for  DSAC but who now works in another government department and also writes regularly on issues of arts and culture wrote the following with regards to the Yvonne Chaka Chaka and others’ picture:

“The industry is deeply divided. They call it diversity. Don’t they say blacks are NOT homogeneous. Frankly there is nothing that will change. Not when we subscribe to values imposed by The System. Love of money. Worship of material. TV appearances. Celebrity limelight. Personal interest first. Crap. Selfishness. Greed. Profit. Individualism This is man eat man society. Dog eat dog. How do you challenge or fight an economic system that has taken over your mind.

The industry is about one-upmanship. Who is more successful. Who dresses better. Who sells more records. Drives the better car.

Dreaming of a better world is still allowed. Know that we are in the belly of the beast.”

“Only vaccinating today?! And in a marquee nogal 🤷🏽‍♀️Wow!!! So responsible. And now he’s advocating for everyone to vaccinate? One wonders what the hell is going on with politicians… He’s been traveling this entire time and interacting with people… Hay foetsek makahambe!!! Qhubekani nisupporte lescam seminister asinamona,” remarked soprano Sibongile Mngoma about the image of Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa taking the jab. Mngoma led a group of artists who then went by the name Abahlali Base NAC, who occupied the National Arts Council offices in Newtown for 60 days, complaining about the debacle of the Presidential Economic Stimulus  Package (PESP) funds and how the NAC handled them. That issue is currently a subject of investigations by the Public Protector and an NAC-appointed investigation firm. The much awaited results are yet to be released.

“Does he really need a standing ovation for getting vaccinated?,” asked Loz Tanner about the minister taking a jab publicly aimed at encouraging more people to be vaccinated.

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