September 27, 2021

Fighting the Covid-19 Pandemic through Music and Arts: NCAC and UNESCO initiative lauded

Following the outbreak of Covid-19 Virus in December 2019 and its rapid spread, The Gambia did not become an exception as it continued to register cases in the wake of the new variant. After the discovery of the first case in Africa in February 2020, the virus gradually surfaced in many other countries.

What followed as a consequence were the restrictions on public gatherings as well as the eventual intermittent lock-down of virtually all countries. Gambian arts sector was completely caught off guard and also severely hit. Gambian artists lost earnings due to cancelled shows and restrictions on public gatherings.

This is why acquisition of funds by the National Centre Arts and Culture (NCAC) from UNESCO Dakar Office and ECOWAS to carry out a campaign on raising awareness about the prevention of Covid -19 and vaccine hesitancy using Gambian artists is laudable.

The ubiquitous billboards and sms messages warning the Gambian public about the pandemic and encouraging them to take the vaccine, in addition to three hit songs made by Gambian singers, is indeed an artistic and cultural riposte to the pandemic. For too long we have expected only medical personnel to be in the frontline to fight the pandemic. Now this initiative involving Gambian artists shows that artists can also be marshaled into the frontline to combat the pandemic and encouraging more people to take the Covid019 jabs. The 11 per cent of fully vaccinated Gambians is not enough!

The NCAC used the artistic prowess of 5 genres of the creative and performing arts sector to create new ways to communicate and raise awareness on the importance of preventive measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19, debunk and prevent stigma and stigmatization, and against the hesitancy on the vaccination that had just started in the country.

The creative works engaged in combating social stigma towards people infected with the new coronavirus, and showcased the perspective of artistes towards the jab, thus providing an important contribution to government’s efforts to halt the spread of social media misinformation against the vaccination in the country.

The NCAC strategy included the harnessing of the literary arts such as writing messages/essays on the theme, music production, dance performances, drama skits, video clip, and visual arts performance to portray the message. This is total artistic engagement for sensitization. However, music was to be at the centre of the campaigns such that all the other activities will roll around music.

The plank of the campaign was music; songs carrying the messages written by Writers, Choreographed to by Dancers; Dramatized by dramatists and the music clips shot by Film makers. From a written piece of song or poem to a drama act, from an act to a song; from song into choreography and dance and then to celluloid for mass viewing on TV and online platforms. Indeed, our aim was to attract various and respective audiovisual interests of the entire Gambian population on the essence of the theme.

All told, arts and culture can be developmental. The sector can be harnessed to create jobs and also help answer burning questions of the day such as the ongoing pandemic. Government should therefore bear this in mind and allocate more resource to the arts and culture sector.

(Guest Editorial)

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