There is a huge, troubling and very visible crisis of people contracting Covid, being rushed to hospitals and struggling for oxygen. What is rendered invisible is the daily crisis of starvation of artists who are living on the fringes, both literally and metaphorically. These artists are often not seen in the formal economy and they live in poverty and penury. Even under normal circumstances their plight is not given recognition – under Covid, this situation is exacerbated.
A vast variety of these artforms are recognised by UNESCO for their precarity. Yet, they have been practised for generations. Usually between March and September each year, the main season of festivals begin for these artists who travel between towns and villages performing in temples, markets centres, funerals, and on the street to make their main income for the year. As well as the performing artists - musicians, dancers, theatre makers, there are technicians, makeup artists and other vendors who are also an invisible part of the arts economy. It was hoped that 2021 would allow them to make up lost income. However, given the growing crisis, their lives and livelihoods are in real danger. If left without basic support, these arts will evaporate before us.
Sangam has a long-term relationship with many of these artists. In these arts communities, both rural and urban, there are over 500 artists in total, spreading across villages near Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and around Bengaluru in Karnataka.
With the support of MAV (Multicultural Arts Victoria) and our partner in South India, SNS Arts Development Consultancy, we will direct support for the provision of supplies. This includes basic food staples such as rice, dal and spices for immediate needs for approximately 2/3 months. This is usually about Rs. 6000 (approx. $100 AUD) for a family of three.
Closing our borders and making it illegal for people from India to enter Australia does not mean we should avoid our responsibilities as global citizens. It is more important than ever that our cultural exchange is not just about good times, but about what we do in the hardest of times.
We call upon you, our friends and colleagues across the arts to do what you can to support these artists.
- The Sangam Team
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- Supriya Singh
- Naomi Francis