National mourning paralyse Arts Industry

half mast flagBy Saboi Imboela

When I posted the concerns I have on the way national mourning is done in the country on my facebook page, I received a lot of mixed feelings from people from all walks of life and countries. Some people from outside the country were even shocked to hear of such a thing for politicians only, while Zambians in and outside the country mainly expressed concern and sympathy for the sectors that get affected by the way national mourning is currently implemented.

Others felt that it is important to mourn the dead in a very dignified manner and did not care whose work was affected in the process. The other feeling was that politicians seem to respect and honour themselves so much in life and death and other citizens worthy of national mourning should be accorded that than politicians alone.

However, my major concern is the declaration that ‘all activities of an entertainment nature should be cancelled’ during national mourning. Several artists posted similar concerns and some joined the debate on my wall to make the general public aware of what artists go through at such times.

More than national mourning, the failure by our successive governments to realise what a lucrative industry the arts are has resulted in them failing to gain the much needed revenue from the creative industries.

In a country with such high unemployment levels, this is rather very unfortunate because the creative industries can even be a huge employer than currently is. To date, our government views the creative industries as simple entertainment while many countries obtain a good percentage of their Gross Domestic Product – GDP from the sector.

If the government was to quantify money that is lost out by freezing work in the creative industry every time there is a funeral then they would realise that it is not only the artists that are disadvantaged but the country at large. No other sector is affected as all ministries, companies and individuals in various professions work normally at such times.

Therefore, there is need for the government to respect and take into consideration all professions and not disadvantage anyone during national mourning. I sincerely believe that there is nothing wrong with giving individuals that have done a lot for this country the honour of a national mourning, but why should other sectors in the society be forced to down tools and not work during these times?

Some footballers contributed on my wall how this also affects them and takes away money from their pockets and others shared how their functions like weddings and kitchen parties were cancelled after having spent so much money.

To add salt to injury, the last national mourning happened at the time of AFCON games and these games were not cancelled, which raised the question of what criteria the government uses to cancel other ‘entertainment’ and leave others.

It is important to remember that it is people that mourn and not institutions, so the institutionalization of death to a point where the creative industries are paralysed every time a politician dies should be revisited.