Johannesburg - Dancers and thespians embarked on a protest outside Luthuli House on Monday morning to express their frustrations towards the Covid-19 restrictions in their sector.
Holding placards outside the ANC headquarters, they sang and said they hoped President Cyril Ramaphosa would hear their cries. They also handed a memorandum of demands which was received by an official from the office of the acting secretary-general of the ANC Jessie Duarte.
Among some of the demands were to recall the minister of the Department of Sports and Culture Nathi Mthethwa and reshuffle employees from the department. They also called for the increase of audiences in theatres, saying the 50 person limit was too little as they make money through ticket sales.
Gregory Vuyani Maqoma, founder of the Vuynani Dance Theatre, and opera singer Sibongile Mngoma were amongst the protesters.
Maqoma said they were reaching out to the president as their efforts to engage with government at varying levels had not been acknowledged, had gone unheard and also ignored.
"This is our bread and butter. We are unable to work from home or online.
“With the over-subscription of online meetings and conferences and other engagements; people have had enough of this medium and do not want to watch live theatre and dance online.
“In actuality, all this does is reduce our sacred art forms to nothing more than watching a television show and that detracts from the beauty and magic of live performances.
"Minister Mthethwa has not offered us the courtesy of a formal reciprocal engagement and has shown nothing but disrespect and dismissal to arts practitioners. This is unacceptable," said Maqoma.
Lindiwe Letwaba, Finance Specialist at the Vuyani Dance theater said the arts industry was probably the last industry to be considered for relief funding. She said another thing was that when they thought relief had come, problems with the National Arts Council (NAC) came to light.
Letwaba said it takes a certain amount of skill and effort to stage a production as it involves months of rehearsals, technical planning, marketing and design.
Therefore, she said the 50 person limit as dictated by the president in line with Covid-19 regulations was demoralising to the artists in light if one looks at the effort put in their work.
“The investment into staging work of the highest quality is only negated by the effect on the morale of the performers who have a scattering of 50 audience members in theatres that seat in excess of 500 people. ”Performing to a near-empty theatre is demoralizing. Artists need income from the ticket sales, we need to live comfortably; right now we are hardly able to just need to take care of our families and eat," said Letwaba.
Young dancers from Meadowlands in Soweto also expressed their frustration towards the Covid-19 restrictions in theaters.
Princess Alidzuli, 9 said she has been dancing for three years and misses it. She said dancing made her feel happy and that since Covid-19 the opportunities have been scarce.
Nontobeko Nono Mtshali a dancer from Moving into Dance said dancing was her way of expressing emotions and telling a story.
"I am a very shy person and don't usually talk much. But since I've started dancing I am able to express myself better because of the confidence I gain when I dance on stage," said Mtshali.