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Zim artists in ‘stage fright’

Itai Mushekwe

ARTISTS have admitted that the current political and economic challenges are impeding them from criticising President Robert Mugabe and his government for

dismantling a once prosperous nation.

According to interviews conducted by Independent Xtra, artists from various genres are failing to make a candid denunciation of government’s skewed policies and dereliction of duty. Musicians who declined to be named for fear of State retribution said it was precarious for them to openly criticise government as one would do so “at their own peril”, thus forcing “us to mind our own business”.

“We’re not being passive my brother,” said one irate jazz musician. “Neither are we subjecting ourselves to government manipulation. As you’re aware music like any medium of art is powerful and influences public opinion. It’s a risky affair to sing politics in this atmosphere. So its aimless to place yourself behind the eight ball.”

Local musicians were recently outwitted by their international counterparts who include American rapper Nasire Jones and Damaine Marley whose collaboration song The Road to Zion lampoons
Mugabe for causing suffering in Zimbabwe.

Emerging protest poet, Farai Monro, popularly known as Comrade Fatso said it was high time the arts industry and individual artists came out in the open in condemning government for precipitating the current economic meltdown.

“Artists in Zimbabwe have to do more insofar as denouncing the status quo is concerned,” said Monro.

“I feel that this year the arts industry together with artists must shift their line of thinking into becoming more political. You can’t continue putting lipstick on a frog.”

Monro added that the young and underground poets appear to have done their homework because “their poetry is highly critical of the regime”.

Theatre practitioner, Daves Guzha said it was not every artist who has decided to turn a blind eye on the local crisis. Guzha said theatre was one artistic discipline which had gone a long way in covering the true Zimbabwe story.

“In terms of theatre, a lot of work has been done in exposing the ills affecting society as a result of the current crisis. It is not possible to create any work of art ignoring the environment you operate in.”

Guzha added that it is imperative for artists to make collaborations when taking a political stand against government, because “there is power in numbers”. “If artists collaborate in denouncing the status quo the risk of victimisation and fear is reduced. I believe we’re not alone in the struggle. Saka hatisikurowa dondo (so we are not off the mark).

Tsitsi Dangarembga, arguably the leading filmmaker at the moment, said most artists have a story to tell but “the economic environment has affected the way we operate, so we’re very silent.” Dangarembga however warned that artists should not entrench themselves in politics because the arts are bigger than the political game.

“The role of the artist is something more enduring than the politics of the day. Our concerns should go beyond politics. However as artist we must not ignore the human spirit. If you neglect the human spirit, you won’t have fertile ground for anything else.”

Dangarembga is currently working on a film about fuel queues.

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