VASCO CHAYA AND MYLES MATARISE
POPULAR artists and celebrities in Zimbabwe have been challenged to use their social standing in society to denounce the current violence in the country.
This comes as debate is raging within the arts sector after several high profile Zimbabwean artists and celebrities went quiet as others including politicians from all over the world participated in the hugely successful #zimbabweanlivesmatter campaign.
The social media hashtag is tapping into the energy and anger of the global #BlackLivesMatter phenomenon.
Over the last few days, in response to on-going clampdown by security forces, the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has gone viral, globally.
The #zimbabweanlivesmatter campaign was endorsed by international and regional artists that include celebrities like rappers Ice Cube, and Lecrae, R&B singer Tinashe, actresses Thandie Newton and Pearl Thusi, award-winning South African house musician Zakes Bantwin, multi-award-winning South African artist AKA, DJ Tira, multi-award winning South African artist Cassper Nyovest, SA-based dancehall chanter Buffalo Souljah, Amsterdam- based singer Vimbai Zimuto and Nigeria’s Burna Boy among others.
In Zimbabwe though, award-winning Zimbabwean hip-hop artist Kikky Badass; popular musicians Nox Guni, Sanii Makhalima; Zimdancehall chanters Freeman, Seh Calaz, Winky D, DJ Stavo and radio personality Misred are among those to wade into the debate. Author Tsitsi Dangarembga , who was recently arrested also joined the campaign.
The online campaign #zimbabweanlivesmatter is meant to condemn the human rights violations in the country and to push for an end to the seemingly perennial suffering of Zimbabweans at the hands of an ‘‘oppressive’’ government. There are several high profile artists who have, however, decided not to participate and add their voice to the campaign.
Seasoned music promoter Josh Hozheri of 105 Promotions challenged all artists to be the voice of the society when it matters.
“They (artists) need to speak against issues that affect society without fear or favour. Human rights abuses should never be tolerated in any society. At times it’s not enough to just speak through their works.
“They must not hide behind that. In a democratic society, artists must be able to say things as they are.”
Hozheri said the artists should not underestimate their power and influence in society. “They take their works to their audience who consume their products and as such they must also speak on their behalf. Their voices carry so much-needed weight and act as a corrector, arbiter and advisor to society misnomers.”
Musician Edith WeUtonga believes artists should be allowed to comment and participate in political developments of the country without being victimised.
“As artists we are not supposed to have a beginning and finishing line when it comes to commenting on political developments in the society. “Even during elections, we are meant to speak up and comment not on the ideal leader we want in order to help our societies see too, but in Zimbabwe it’s a different story.
“Fellow artists have been victimised for commenting and putting up artistic works on critical issues in the country,” she said.
Gospel singer Togarepi Chivaviro said artists are artists because of their works. “They are only good when it comes to their areas of specialty; for example a musician can only speak through music. An author speaks through writing and it is unfair to expect artists to take head-on authorities outside their works.”
Commenting on the arrest of celebrated author Dangarembga on July 31 after she demonstrated against human rights abuses, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe director Nicholas Moyo said: “Artists are also human beings who might choose to exercise their rights in their wisdom and in this regard we will not be able to act in defence of the artist. We can only act if the artist is arrested or victimised for his or her work.”
Moyo told the Daily News on Sunday that his organisation respects artists’ rights.
“If the artists are quiet, it does not mean they fear someone or something but it is their right to do so.
“Our mandate is to promote the work of artists in the country and beyond. We do not censor their artistic freedom and we are here to support them.”