By Mohamed Kimbugwe
In the days that have just gone by, arguments have flown around, regarding a group of artistes who embarked on a pilgrimage to Gulu in pursuit of financial support. However, both opponents and proponents of the move seem stranded about what exactly needs to be done.
As a retired creative artiste and stakeholder in various aspects of the creative economy, I believe that what we need is a policy and deliberate formal interventions in a number of areas.
When I was at Makerere, MDD students used to study in some rotten structures in a small bush near Senate Building. The Margaret Trowel School of Industrial and Fine Art was housed in an equally ailing setting. The question would then be, to what extent can we brag that our public and private institutions produce top notch creative artistes? From producers to actors, vocalists and sculptors, what is the quality of our creative artistes? One can argue that creative artistes don’t need a formal institution to improve their skills, but again, what is the quality of our apprenticeship? What policy guides apprenticeship in creative arts? That’s where investment must be made, to ensure that whether through formal settings or informal ones, our creative artistes have a chance to improve their skills. That will have a huge impact on the quality of their work.
The quality of production reflects heavily on quality of products from the creative arts industry. Equipment, materials and other inputs for creative Arts must be affordable, even if that means reducing taxes on them. Public and private investment can also be targeted towards manufacturing some of those inputs locally, with an eye on both quality and affordability.
Sales, marketing, distribution and promotion is probably the most chaotic section of our creative arts economy. This must be streamlined and guided by both policy and law. There must be public distribution avenues. Save for the joke that National Theater has since become, there must be a public outlet, both physical and virtual, where creators can exhibit and market their works. There must be public and private investment in a distribution structure. What happened to the Kasiiwukira model, for example? Why have we never built on it as a nation, avoiding on its weaknesses and focusing on the strengths? How many creators know their legal rights and obligations, while interacting with other stakeholders in the industry? How many have legal representation? This must be streamlined, or creators will continue to earn peanuts from their talent and resort to begging.
This section also has a lot of support activities like Music Awards and concerts. It is unfortunate that Awards like PAM and Diva were allowed to die. Some of their challenges were a direct reflection of lack of policy, as well as formalized norms. Yet their contribution to the promotion of art was immense!
Technology has eased a lot of aspects in life and this holds true for creators. In a country where Facebook is banned, it is shocking that someone can claim to be interested in supporting creators! Creators must be supported to reap the benefits of technology, through a conducive policy for both public and private investment!
The list could go on and on but the point is clear, handouts can’t transform the creative economy. Policy and investment will.