By kind permission of Thami aka Mbongo (Posted on http://www.artslink.co.za)
When there was a march against the SABC (4 June 2009) in Cape Town… a call was made to the artists of Cape Town, but very few responded to the call. Last weekend (21 November 2009), there was another call by the South African Guild of Actors for a meeting in Cape Town… the attendance was not that great to represent what Cape Town artists can offer. I wonder why?
South Africa is a freedom-fighting country – one can’t really believe that there are no unions for artists in this country. Artists have played a huge role in liberating our country.
Yet artists are still not respected and are not being taken seriously in this country. One also needs to ask the question – are South African artists taking themselves seriously?
People believe that artists die poor… we have in South Africa so many great artists who have passed away bankrupt. As much as some of these artists needed to take full responsibility for their well-being and finances, there is so much that our government can do for the artists in this country.
If the government can change the police law in this country why can’t they just look at the needs of artists and the fact that artists need to be regarded as professionals, not just independent contractors. Our government knows well that artists are also taxpayers. Like the rest of professional workers, artists need access to medical benefits, retirement plans and other workers benefits.
Artists in this country have been badly exploited since the apartheid regime and still are up until this day. Artists need to be represented, so that they can get fair treatment, health benefits, pensions and decent working conditions. That’s why South Africa needs a union for artists that will protect artists against exploitation and mistreatment. The unions help protect unrecognised workers by providing them with the same benefits most employers would provide.
It is encouraging to know that the South African Guild of Actors saw that it is high time that South Africa had its own union for actors.
Actors who work in television, films, radio, theatre and elsewhere must also take a stand; not by feeling sorry for themselves and being victims who just complain and don’t do anything about the situation.
Have your say… take part in initiatives like South African Guild of Actors and make a difference.
Thami aka Mbongo
The reason the majority of actors unions have failed in South Africa is because of the issue of subscription — you can’t run a union on peanuts. Fulltime staff, office expenditure, etc, etc, etc … doesn’t fall like manna from heaven. Somebody is going to have to pay for it! And most actors only pay subscriptions when they are in deep shit and very few pay up front. If SAGA is planning to run an organisation with such a huge responsibility on that kind of minimalist subscription and love and fresh air, I’m wondering about how seriously you can take that Union? Or if I should just write the obituary now and pull it out of my drawer at a later date.
Let us mobilise for an Artists Equity now! I hope those artists that are getting government tenders for their arts projects, roles in city/town theatres,SABC soapies and dramas, and those priviledged enough to “have” emails , or respond to blogs, those “famous” celebrities, listen to this call.
Let’s hear your voice! Are you supportive of the Artists Equity? Speak up, make your voice heard!!!
Posted by Thando
The only way we can achieve this change in policy is through SOLIDARITY! Please keep spreading the word about SAGA and get people to join!!! There IS strength in numers. Our industry’s biggest downfall is the APATHY of its artists.
(Thanks for a great post.)
Posted by Jackie
I agree with Thami and Thando. In order to gain respect as artists and to avoid thorny problems such as the exploitation of artists; casting of international stars in our movies; pathetic performers payments; shabby treatment on the sets and sound representation from the casting agents and many others, we need to establish a tight ARTISTS organisation to represent us.
I searched on the net for relevant Artists organisations and I have found the British Artists Equity to be a better model that we can build our own from… their reference link is http://www.equity.org.uk/AboutUs/WhatIsEquity.aspx
And here is part of what I was impressed with, which I think can inspire ANYONE to join and Artists Equity in South Africa!
“Equity is the only Trade Union to represent artists from across the entire spectrum of arts and entertainment.
Equity quickly spread to encompass the whole range of professional entertainment so our membership includes actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, variety and circus artists, television and radio presenters, walk-on and supporting artists, stunt performers and directors and theatre fight directors.
Although we are a Trade Union, Equity is not politically affiliated and so does not make payments to any political party. This puts Equity in the strong position of being able to lobby with impunity governments of all political colours. We are however affiliated to the Trades Unions Congress and Equity delegates attend the annual TUC conference as a means of bringing performers’ issues to a wider audience.
The main function of Equity is to negotiate minimum terms and conditions of employment throughout the entire world of entertainment and to endeavour to ensure these take account of social and economic changes. We look to the future as well, negotiating agreements to embrace the new and emerging technologies which affect performers so satellite, digital television, new media and so on are all covered, as are the more traditional areas. We also work at national level by lobbying government and other bodies on issues of paramount importance to the membership. In addition we operate at an international level through the Federation of International Artists which Equity helped to establish, the International Committee for Artistic Freedom and through agreements with sister unions overseas.
In addition to these core activities, Equity strives to provide a wide range of services for members and so they are eligible for a whole host of benefits of membership which are continually being revised and developed.”
I am prepared to be part of any initiative along these lines.
Posted by Sabata Sesiu
I agree with you Thami. Fully. However, we should first affirm our own identity as “artists” before forming the union. we should unpack questions such as “what is an artist and what does it mean in South Africa? We need to find an “artistic meeting point” that relates to ideological, political and the business of being artists… I think it us far fetched to assume that the “artists” in the country think and even speak in one voice. In fact, they shouldn’t… but there needs to be a common ground where the needs are similar and the artistic identity is the same, as in the USA and the UK, where where “artists” are respected at all levels. We need an “artistic” Equity. Unions in our country are party political and I for one is an artist and not a politician and therefore favour an Equity. A follow up to your letter is crucial and we should now open an debate about it which will lead to a fully fledged artists Equity, which is by now, long overdue,
Posted by thando
I absolutely agree with you that artists need to take stand and be part of the solution to their problems, it cannot be correct that artists are bystanders in the resolution of their problems. However it is worth noting that one of the contributing factors is the survivalist nature (hand to mouth) of the industry. So artists must unite and push for development of their industry, few must sacrifice for the many passive hungry lot. It is amazing to note the development and progress made by the taxi industry over the years, albeit all the existing challenges, they are a key stakeholder in their industry, nothing about them without them. Please note though that there is a union, CWUSA (Creative Workers Union of SA), unfortunately is very weak. It needs to look at broader policy issues, issues of common interest to the broader industry, not gigs because that is the source of conflict and lack of growth. I am hopeful though that we will overcome, one day is one day. We do have a government that listens, so we should know exactly what we are asking, in terms of support from the government, not only complain and sound as if we are pushing for “poor artists” grants. Self-empowerment and developing/growing the industry is the key to moving forward. I am saying all the above fully aware that the industry’s challenges are complex and will need very thorough and well thought out intervention strategy.
Posted by Willie Reetsang
What is Equity
Equity is the only Trade Union to represent artists from across the entire spectrum of arts and entertainment. Formed in 1930 by a group of West End of London performers, Equity quickly spread to encompass the whole range of professional entertainment so our membership includes actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, variety and circus artists, television and radio presenters, walk-on and supporting artists, stunt performers and directors and theatre fight directors.