Visual artists reluctant to get funds

‘SUPPORT the living artists. The dead ones don’t need it [money],” is a popular adage which encourages the buying of art from the living artists.
It is the most effective way artists believe will make them financially independent.
However, with the current economic meltdown perpetuated by the coronavirus pandemic, art consumers cannot just buy art, which has left many artists financially insolvent.
In order to alleviate the artist’s financial constraints, on August 12, 2020 the government launched a K30 million Presidential Arts Empowerment Fund, for which artists were allowed to apply for loans supervised by the Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC).
On Tuesday, National Arts Council (NAC) chairman Patrick Samwimbila unveiled the received applications
from all the 10 provinces and 116 districts of the country, confirming 916 applications.
The NAC secretariat alone received 254 applications. Lusaka Province had 40, North-Western Province 182, Copperbelt 34, Muchinga 14, Southern 89, Western 102, Northern 31, Eastern 57, Central 39 and Luapula 74.
“As a Council, we are grateful to all the artists that have embraced this empowerment scheme and have made efforts to apply,” Samwimbila said.
“Even with this overwhelming response from the artists, there have been some challenges in the process which undermined the participation of artists.
“Among the main challenges include the process of most arts businesses to formalise took longer than expected particularly with statutory requirements.
“In other areas, lack of banking services meant artists had to travel to other locations to undertake the formalities. The Council and the arts fraternity is committed to ensure this programme is nationwide and all artists from across the country have an opportunity to apply to this empowerment.”
Meanwhile, Zambia National Visual Arts Council (VAC) chairman Chande Kapundu indicated having received 20
applications, which his organisation submitted to NAC.
“I should say that the response was lukewarm,” he said. “As of Friday last week, I reckon about 20 in total. We have had about 20 new members and four affiliates making applications. My observation is that
there are a number of artists out there who need financial assistance but they are scared of the loans. Some lack the understanding and capacity while others just don’t care to apply for reasons best known to them, maybe it could be apathy.
“However, I had a privilege of looking at some proposals and I should they are brilliant. I hope they can be funded.”
But clearly with 916 applications received, the K30m empowerment fund could be a challenge to spur any meaningful development to the arts, never mind national development.
The arts industry needs deliberate budgeting from government in order to position it as a strategic platform for national development. Needless to say the Ministry of Tourism and Arts should act more proactively in fostering development of the arts.
The creative industry is repeatedly pronounced to have great potential of contributing to the country’s gross domestic product, but it cannot be a song of potential all the time. The country needs effective institutions which will prompt development especially with the prevailing economic depression.
For comments, chandamwenya@ gmail.com

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