BY AGATHA CHUMA
AFRO-jazz artistes living with disability have pleaded for disability-friendly stage settings which do not limit their movements during live shows.
The artistes have also accused promoters of sidelining them for live shows, adding that they are mostly used as curtain raisers, yet they yearn to be at the forefront.
NewsDay Life & Style caught up with some of the artistes who opened up on lack of recognition and resources to stage live performances.
Contemporary gospel artiste Prudence Mabhena said: “Most stages that we are meant to perform on are unfriendly.
“These stages are so high and without a ramp. For example, my wheelchair weighs about 70kg, so you find that asking people to carry me onto the stage is somewhat troubling and also time consuming. My plea is for organisers to create ramps either made of wood or concrete so that artistes with disabilities do not have to bother people to carry them.
Mabhena complained that most of the time they are used as curtain raisers during shows.
“This has taught me to assist myself. I have tried to market my music overseas because I realised that waiting for someone to organise a show for me sometimes does not work. I use social media to market and I sell my music in the United States. I have also managed to organise a show in the US and it was a success, so I think organising our own shows is best because you will be promoting yourself which is easier,” she said.
Contemporary Afro-fusion artiste Tongai “Greatman” Gwaze, who was born with myopathy, a condition that affects muscles, also complained about the type of stages where they are supposed to perform, describing them as not friendly.
“We as the disabled also carry a talent the same as the ones who are not disabled and it is our desire to be given a platform where we can perform without fear of falling. Those who construct places where artistes are meant to perform must bear in mind that a disabled person might want to perform, hence the stage must not be too high because carrying an artiste and a wheelchair at the same time can be troublesome to the people around,” Gwaze said.
“I desire to appear on the stage in a certain way, but it cannot happen because six or seven people must carry me and it becomes difficult. I urge my fellow artistes to come together and talk to our promoters that they should give us a chance to perform and see the outcome. When it comes to hosting my own shows, I haven’t done one but I’m planning to do it in the future so that it helps in empowering myself,” he added.
Another Afro-fusion artiste Tichaona Terrence “Terry G” Green said: “It appears that organisers are not yet used to having disabled artistes appearing on stage. So far I have never encountered a stage where there is a ramp for a wheelchair to move. I actually ask for help from people to carry me all the way onto the stage and it sometimes kills my confidence before I even perform. Other people might not know where to hold the
wheelchair so sometimes I will be afraid that I might fall, so it will take time for my confidence to return.”
Because of the difficulties he has faced working with many promoters who do not believe in his talent, Terry G has decided to work with those who have faith in him.
Like Mabhena, he has also resorted to posting his music on social media, which has its own advantages because as soon as he posts a video it goes viral. He hopes this will help him attain his goal.
“I have also started to host shows in Chitungwiza where I invite colleagues who include Prudence Mabhena and we hope this will help us sustain ourselves,” Green said.
Afro-jazz artiste Chipo Muchegwa, who believes that disability is not inability, said: “Having to perform off stage is somewhat discouraging to me as a disabled artiste. I believe if you perform on stage seeing all your fans it gives you a little bit of motivation. But with my condition, I sometimes fail to get onto the stage and have to perform off stage which is what an artiste is not supposed to do.
“I use an electric wheelchair which has a lot of metal, so it is difficult for people to lift me and this forces me to perform off stage. On the issue of promoters not willing to give their full support, I have decided to work with people who are supportive. Donald Mushoriwa, my manager, has been helping me in lining up shows and that is also helping in empowering and sustaining me.”
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