Creative Arts and the Pandemic
From the onset of the pandemic, OSISA has been working with artists, content creators and other creatives to produce social, economic and political commentary on the effects of COVID-19 in society. Levi Kabwato, OSISA’s Communications & Advocacy Manager explains how it happened
Why was this intervention necessary?
We have always appreciated the value of arts in the work we do, and this has been the case way before COVID-19. In fact, OSISA has consistently and progressively supported creative arts across southern Africa as way of shaping narratives, driving engagement and promoting calls to action. Therefore, our creative response to COVID-19 is in sequence with the broader view of arts within this space.
What determined the approach you took?
A lot of factors! Initial lockdowns from March 2020 created such a huge demand for content, globally, and this necessarily reshaped media consumption patterns, behaviours and how we relate to platforms. Sitting in our homes, afraid to go out, most people realized they needed distractions and diversions from the pandemic. As such, demand for content rose significantly but we also saw a lot of people becoming creators themselves and this was very consequential because of the information and entertainment value that was being created.
Hence, we paid more attention to the social impact of these dramatic changes that were happening at lightning speed and decided to explore ways of pushing narratives that could creatively fit within that spectrum without seeming out-of-place. In short, we wanted to produce content that was smart, edgy, relevant and thought-provoking without alienating anyone.
What did you do differently?
We shifted resources to existing Partners so that they could adapt their grants and work to account for the impact of COVID-19. Then, we decided to work with creatives and content creators who would not ordinarily fit the profile of a typical partner or grantee at OSISA. This was important because we needed alternative views and perspectives that could also challenge us as an institution and cause us to see the unfolding pandemic through multiple lenses.
We created The Creative Space (www.osisa.org/creativespace) and invited the initial group of creatives to provide commentary through their preferred media on what COVID-19 was doing to human rights, education, democracy, social welfare, relationships and many other topics such as disability rights, LGBTIQ+ etc.
As The Creative Space evolved, we brought in more creatives, content creators and artists to probe the issues further. Then we decided to pull all the various bodies of work under a campaign, aptly titled, #NumbersAsFaces (www.osisa.org/numbersasfaces).
The key idea here was to humanize our collective experiences of COVID-19 not just as numbers or statistics but as faces; as people who were going through one of the most consequential moments in world history. We felt we needed to document these experiences and also use art and creative media to connect with another and provide space to articulate our stories as way of coping and also finding healing.