THAT a dark cloud engulfed the arts industry in Zimbabwe this week is not in doubt. What with the news of the deaths of the Ruvarashe hit-maker Brian Rusike, Johane Maseko of the House of Rising Sound and former Studio 263 actress, Charmaine Mangwende, who played Mai Huni in the popular soap.
Rusike reportedly died two months ago at his Gunhill home in Harare, where he was staying alone, and his decomposing body was only found on Tuesday by a friend, who had to scale the perimeter wall after failing to reach the former musician over the phone.
Maseko, who died this week, was laid to rest at Luveve Cemetery in Bulawayo on Wednesday, while Mangwende reportedly died a poor woman. These three were some of the country’s impactful creatives in their own rights.
For Rusike and Mangwende, it is not clear how they ended up in these sad situations, but their script sounds so much like many other artistes, whose lives and careers did not have happy endings, owing to various reasons, among them the failure to utilise opportunities.
Clearly, when artistes die, they leave legacies that are lauded with varying degrees of public clamour, and those that come to mind include late great musicians Paul Matavire, John Chibadura, Fortune Mparutsa, Kenneth Chigodora, Simon Chimbetu, Leonard Dembo, Jamal, MC Villa, Andy Brown, Dickson “Cde Chinx” Chingaira and actors Pretty Xaba, Nevernay Chinyanga (Muvengwa) and Lawrence Simbarashe, popularly known as Bhonzo, among many others.
During the golden age of Zimbabwean entertainment, in the 1990s, musicians made hits and many local actors rose to fame, but as the fame died down gradually, so did their wealth.
Just as in the 1990s then, the arts sector today is still filled with a reckless appetite to wantonly spend their savings, with a shocking failure to invest in lifetime assets and knowledge.
No doubt celebrity life brings with it many expectations from the society, forcing the artistes to live a borrowed flashy life, giving the impression that they are rich.
This sadly has led the artistes to living flashy lives at the expense of making solid investment in assets or further their education to prepare for unforeseen circumstances later on in life.
In the end, when the fame wanes, the artistes have to go back to their old, sad and poor lives, and many have died paupers much to the chagrin of society that revered them.
It is unfortunate that some artistes have been forced to sign skewed contracts without first understanding them such that they have had nothing to save in the first place, as their recording companies took everything to themselves.
It is against this background that artistes must understand that fame is like a flower, it wilts overnight, and investment in education, assets or other businesses is crucial as a safety net to cushion them against poverty in the obvious eventuality of the fame dying.
We also urge the artistes to be wary of the kind of contracts they sign with producers, record labels and managers. They must remain in control of their careers than their managers.
It is also prudent for artistes to invest in basic financial management training so that they are able to manage their income in a way that helps them in the future, and this is common even in the United States, where, too, some artistes there have ended up destitute and insolvent after recklessly spending their fortunes.
Overall, government must formulate a policy that enables artistes to fully benefit from their impactful creativities and provide training platforms on finance and investment.