Many people are not willing to pay for arts events. In fact most are shocked when asked to do so when they attend arts events. It is common to find many people preferring to buy drinks, food, and others things found around the venue and still not comfortable in paying for the actual artistic performance. A lot of us see no reason why we should pay. We believe our being there is good enough. But crowds, no matter how big they are, do not add value to the artist and his performance, particularly when they are not prepared to pay for the performance. What would be the value of screaming and shouting and dancing for hours in front of a big crowd when in the end one goes home empty handed? My belief is that when an arts event takes place it must always be the artists that runs to the bank smiling. But the reality in most cases is that it is the service providers that run to the bank while the artiste is left clutching nothing but fading dreams. Frankly speaking the artistes must benefit most from the products of his or her sweat.
For so long the sector has been struggling to portray itself as a business sector. A sector with some significant influence on the country’s economy. A sector with a reasonable income. For some time now the struggle has been about turning the arts from just being recreational to a serious business sector. Many artistes have been urged to treat their art activities as business ventures. There have been attempts to re-label the sector as the creative industry. The creative business. And we cannot talk business without alluding to the economics of the said activities. The reason why most business sectors have refused to see the arts as a business has mainly been because the sector has failed to show concrete figures of how much they make per month or per year. And without these figures it has been difficult to convince a lot of people about the income generating abilities of the arts.
The arts are not free. That is what we need to take out of the minds of many people, especially many of us. When artistes say they need support they don’t mean audiences must just come to watch them for free, even family members, relatives and friends of the artistes must pay. Proper support should be both financial and moral. Recently some friends of mine were looking at the Intwasa program and their concern was about the gate charges. The festival charges range from $1 to $10 per show. However, there are about 31 free events – almost half the events at the festival. Also the festival has special rates for students and artistes. While the festival has reasonable support from partners such Hivos, Delta Beverages, Africalia Belgium, Culture Fund, Plan Zimbabwe, Habitat Africa Safaris and National Youth Development Trust to name but a few it still needs to generate some funds for the running of Intwasa throughout the year, more so now that Intwasa has activity taking place from January to December. The gate charges are one way of fundraising and meant to help support these other activity that will in-turn add value to future editions of the festival. So if we seriously want to talk sustainability in the arts then surely the public aught to subsidies some of these activities by paying at the gate. Lets also not forget that our partners will not always be there.
The festival strongly believes that art is not, and should not be free. Even the festival’ s 31 so called free shows are being paid for by our partners. In essence they are not free. People, especially those with the arts at heart, must get it out of their minds that arts events, Intwasa arts festival included, are free events. The arts are not for free but a business. And a serious one for that matter.