The government attempt to clump down on the arts showed yet again this week when the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development recommended new Artist Regulations.
While still playing competitive football, coach Mike Mutebi constantly cautioned us, saying: “Do not discuss things of technical football with many people. They will get annoyed and beat you up for trying to educate them”
Indeed, Ugandan artists have been placed in a situation where they must discuss the technicalities of their profession with people who know next to nothing about the trade. For a long time, artists have wanted to have own ministry in vain. No one has cared to listen or attend to their concerns and instead what they are seeing is a proposal to regulations their activities.
Regulations are laws and laws must have descriptions, a scope of operation and must be contextualised, among other things. Sadly, what the ministry is proposing seems to lack all the above. Let us have a break down of the proposals:
Regulation one and two talks about artists getting a licence and that practicing without one will be illegal. Regulation three talks about getting permission from the ministry to shoot a music video; while proposal four talks about performing in more than one venue.
This is what Idi Amin calls “milking an economic cow without feeding it”.
What has the ministry invested in arts for it to start claiming returns? How many art teaching institutions has the ministry built? How many audio, visual, painting studios have they built? How many Funds or Trusts have they put in place to help artistes to produce better? How many performing spaces (theatres, etc) have they built? What anti-artists exploitation regulations have they drafted and implemented? Why would an artist owe them anything?
Regulation five says performance time shall not be less than 60 minutes and not more than 120 minutes. This is ridiculous. Help me to inform the ministry that while they were sleeping or attending to their farms, artistes started making five, 10 and 15 minutes plays. Making three, two and three minutes full films have been adopted as global standards. Many plays go for less than an hour and a 45-minute documentary is considered a full one.
The last time I performed King Lea by William Shakespeare, it took three hours. How about if someone wanted to experiment on medieval theatre by giving Ugandans a feel of a 24-hour production?
Regulation number six prohibits one from performing abroad without the ministry’s authorisation. Do we need their authorisation to go for Kyeyo? What do the existing laws say about the rights of Ugandans to trade their labour/skill anywhere in the world? Isn’t the Labour ministry violating labour laws here?
The regulation talks about performance abroad. But Uganda has exported writers, directors, painters, cinematographers, camera persons, etc. I will leave regulation seven, which talks about indecent dressing by reminding them to check on what happened with the mini skirt law.
Take resolution 14, which talks about a censorship board. Yes, we can institute one, but what will the board do? Do they have the capacity to create one? Besides, are they talking about artists or artistes? The ministry’s proposed regulation are a clear indication that there is a challenge somewhere.