The Lamu County government has been urged to support local artists, as they form vulnerable persons whose livelihoods have now been affected adversely since the COVID-19 crisis began in March
Speaking to KNA in Shela town Sauti za Pwani founder Umra Omar stated that artists who had been deriving their livelihoods from weddings and public gatherings have suffered immensely since the turn of the Corona virus outbreak and stringent measures being put in place to curb the spread of the disease.
She further said that the county government, artists and community based organizations in Lamu need to collaborate in ways in which such talented groups who are largely derived from the youths can be given grants through which they can build viable income streams through their talents.
She made these comments as the community based organization donated public address systems worth Kshs 350,000 to a roving band of nine popular musicians and spoken word poets known as “Al Nur Sunny and Party” led by Khalid Omari a blind self-taught musician and spoken word savant.
“Such groups promote the “Shairi” (spoken word) culture that is always a staple in major functions across the coast, yet you find that these artists are so poorly paid for the creative work they usually do,” Umra said, adding that there was a need to empower such groups via sustainable grants.
“We also need to cancel the culture of handouts among these artists, for whom this is the only way they survive,” she said.
Sentiments echoed by Fakrudin Hashim Said, a renowned spoken word artist who said that they are often forced to resort to handouts due to lack of appreciation for written contracts for performing artists.
“The County department of public health contracted me to do a Shairi for them as part of the COVID-19 crisis campaign but was only given Kshs 500 for my troubles,” Fakrudin lamented.
He further divulged that donations or equipment grants such as those donated by Sauti za Pwani can go a long way towards empowering artists, to earn a better living by hiring out equipment for the functions that they perform in.
“We are also yet to be recognized as artists by the Ministry of Sports and Culture which has donated Kshs 200 million to artists across the country, despite being the main artists here in Lamu,” he pointed out saying that the county government needs to ramp up efforts to support cultural talent within the county that can be a source of employment.
“Although there are no public gatherings currently due to prevailing Corona Virus crisis, we anticipate that the donated equipment by Sauti za Pwani Organization will go a long way towards bringing in new income streams that we have never had before,” Fakrudin stated.
On his part, Gender, Sports and Culture CEC Paul Thairu acknowledged a lot still needs to be done to improve the plight of talented youths in the arts.
He revealed that the county government had set aside a 14.7 million grant in the 2020/2021 financial year budget and urged the talent groups and musicians to apply for the fund once made available.
By Amenya Ochieng