Being a creative is never as easy as it seems- almost solely driven by the artist’s thoughts and feelings. Often time’s people around us fail to understand the raging passion of our craft, which many times consumes us. This is living art. Making a living as an artist is hard, conveying your message is hard; staying true and not conforming is very hard. And no one will ever understand why you didn’t just go into corporate, I personally feel it’s easier, safer, and definitely a vocation happily accepted, generally. Being a creative is hard.
Conversations amongst artists are a toss-up between compelling descriptions of the journey their latest works (and the works of other artists) have taken them on and the talk of struggle as far as money goes. On a broader scale, if you look at the artists, from all spheres, who are getting funding, sponsors, support, they are those that are of a particular demographic, most times a particular hue, and a certain amount of privilege, and most importantly, those that deliver the “right” message… Of course this also brings into question the roles and objectives of the curators and their end game. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Curating The OBS Academy of Inspiration last year opened the floor to many, many conversations and let us into the trials and triumphs of a few artists we invited to talk. I remember in particular Khaya Witbooi, a multi-medium artist and resident at Greatmore Studios, Cape Town and German-South African artist and musician working in photography, sound and performance, Niklas Zimmer. These two gents, on separate occasions spoke of their struggles as artists, how modifying your work to suit the fat cats that run the art associations, the galleries and the money, may be the difference between having bread on the table and having a table without. It is a sad reality, but one that the artist cannot escape until all artists and lovers of art support the arts by putting our money where our mouths are and stop relying solely on the “support” corporates and mainstream media to boost the outreach of our work.
I don’t know, perhaps it’s not that simple. But art as a vocation should be enriching, about more than a struggle to stay afloat. I look at all these amazing filmmakers from Africa and the diaspora and am in awe and their creations. Africans telling African stories, it is truly a dream and an indicator that one can push through. Fimmakers such as Andrew Dosunmu, Justin Simien, Rolie Nikiwe, Frances Bodomo and Akosua Adoma Owusu, to name a few, are some of the best director/writers Africa has to offer. There productions are all centered on African experiences, from rural to urban, from sexual to religious, corporate to family, and their messages are conveyed honestly for the consumption and understanding of a specific target market, which for decades has been marginalized and misrepresented. You and me. Many filmmakers will speak openly about the blood and sweat that goes into starting and finishing a production, about the scarcity of support, and when support is found one still needs to deal with endless amounts of red tape. In South Africa association such The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Emerging Black Filmmakers Fund (EBFF), National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) that are meant to give support to young filmmakers, internationally The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), The Blackhouse Foundation, The Alter-Cine Foundation, and Worldstudio AIGA Scholarships also do their part to breathe life into the concepts of directors and writers. It is no secret, the money has never been in the hands of the black man so it is imperative that you work twice as hard, that you knock down more doors, and that you jump through the hoops as eloquently as possible to reach your goal.
Akosua Adoma Owusu, director of Kwanu Ananse which was supported by Focus Features Africa First Program and The Sarah Jacobson Film Grant, says it is now it is up to us as the viewers, financial backers and people who share in the common goal to do the rest in supporting the film, not just for them and their story but also in the hope of giving others the means to share theirs. This is a noble ideal, and one which I sincerely hope will appeal to other lovers of art, and cause a domino effect throughout the arts in the African community.