Artistes can help fight stigma against chronic illnesses

FEMALE dancehall chanter Ninja Lipsy’s entry into the local mainstream music industry is an open chapter of history, which many are witnesses to.

SOUND TRACK: Kennedy Nyavaya

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Ninja Lipsy

Born Tendazvaitwa Chitimbe, the female lyricist stormed onto the local music scene through Winky D’s mega hit Taitirana in 2011 and has since maintained relevance in the highly-competitive music business.

It has, of course, taken more than just her pretty face or general feminine appeal, but inner strength to survive beyond the mere featuring on Ninja President’s song from whom she inherited part of her stage name.

Ninja Lipsy has demonstrated her strength and staying power after successfully riding the storms that have buried many an aspiring dancehall chanters – male or female − and today is recognised as one of the big names in the cutthroat industry that continues to attract thousands, many of them no more than pretenders.

However, Ninja Lipsy’s recent public revelation that she was epileptic has introduced a new dimension to the kind of person she is on and off-stage, an attribute that has further demonstrated that she was, indeed, a woman of courage.

Over the years, the musician has confirmed missing a number of shows and − in worst case scenarios − even collapsing on stage during performances owing to the condition.
However, she kept it a secret, relying on her emotional strength although many would often assume it was drug abuse at play.

After coming clean about her health, the singer told this publication that she felt more secure and free while she also got messages from some of her followers in the same situation who felt inspired by her story not to give up.

“I told myself that if there are some people out there who are epileptic and are going through the same things I am going through, why can’t I just represent them, especially females, who have the huge disadvantage on issues of epilepsy as they can be prone to rape,” she said.

That is a progressive function that most artistes ought to take in a society where chronic illnesses are claiming a shocking number of lives, with some suffering in silence yet they could get help.

In a radio interview two years ago, award-winning singer Soul Jah Love gave an account of how his own battle with diabetes had created a rift between him and some music promoters following his failure to perform at some events as a result of spiked sugar levels.


“When I sing, maybe they can hear my pain through my voice despite that I have bad luck (because) I am diabetic…I could be sick right now, but strengthening myself when I fail to go to shows, that I cannot tell people because they will say I am abusing drugs,” Soul Jah Love said then.

His story not only attracted sympathy for him, but gave stakeholders a clear picture of his reality, while also revealing the deeper meaning of some emotionally-charged songs in his discography.

Research has proven that the number of people, mainly youths, diagnosed with the chronic illness is on the rise and having a famous survivor speak out may have a great impact in raising awareness and help in managing the deadly effects of the disease.

Perhaps musicians, especially those directly affected, could do more in addressing the stigma surrounding chronic illnesses in the country.

In May, controversial comedian-cum-gospel musician Felistas Maruta, popularly known as Mai Titi, also opened up about her HIV status, demystifying the wrong perceptions about the health condition.

Although the issue came to the fore following an acrimonious fallout with a lover, if taken for all its worth, it could reduce significantly deaths from either shunning medication or getting tested as a degrading exercise.

There is no doubt that artistes inspire their followers in both positive and negative ways across all aspects of everyday life. Bearing this in mind, creatives could serve as middle ground between the government and ordinary citizens in the fight against chronic illnesses.

Artistes could also work as perfect prototypes of how people might lead normal lives by adhering to healthy lifestyles even when they are said to be infected by incurable diseases.

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