Johannesburg - In Mpumalanga – where the creative arts industry has not exactly boomed yet – local artists have to take extraordinary measures to make their mark in the cut-throat movie business.
However, the industry has seemingly gained support form Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, which means that creative and cultural arts at last have the potential to be a “critical economic engine” for the province.
Mabuza has instructed the departments of economic development and tourism; arts and culture; and sport and recreation to investigate the prospects of establishing a provincial creative industries body to facilitate, promote and support the movie production industry, among other functions.
Nationally, the movie industry contributes about R90.5bn or 3% to the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs mostly younger people under 34 years old. Although its impact in the province has never been researched to determine its contribution and standing in the economy, local actors are adamant it is creating jobs.
But owing to a lack of funding and institutional support, at least from the provincial government, its growth has been stunted.
The sector argues that indifference thwarts their potential to unlock related economic activities and to increase the province’s GDP.
City Press visits a small production studio
City Press visited the production studio of a film-making company in Block C village outside Malalane in Mpumalanga, a tiny back-yard bedroom in a rural village – roofed with corrugated iron sheets – that becomes a furnace on a hot sunny day.
25-year-old Nkosinathi Mbalati’s bedroom is the production studio for Nkomazi Hustle Productions – the company he founded with four of his friends in 2014. This is where two movies have been put together and finalised with mere R20 000 budgets. Their first flick, titled Isalakutshelwa Sibona Ngomopho (A Stubborn Person Learns The Hard Way), sold more than 100 DVDs at R50 each.
“It’s a daunting venture,” Mbalati said. “There’s no support here and we’ve had to raise funds ourselves to produce movies,” he said.
His business partner, Geoffrey Magagula, 36, said Hustle Productions members, as the name of the company aptly suggests, truly hustle hard to produce and sell their work on their own.
“We’ve developed an attitude that, wherever one of us is going, he takes DVDs to sell. As a result, we’ve managed to buy some cameras,” Magagula said.
Hustle Productions has finished shooting another movie – Ifa Lami (My Inheritance) – which is being edited in Mbalati’s bedroom with financial support from a local undertaker.
“We usually need 20 people, including actors, directors, scriptwriters and photographers to make a movie.
“Our actors are mostly unemployed young people. Each of us takes two roles. I act and I’m also director of photography,” Mbalati said.
Mpumalanga ready to develop the industry
Mabuza said the province was ready to join hands with the private sector to develop the industry.
“It is important that, as government, in partnership with the private sector and other stakeholders, we harness this industry,” he said.
“The industry has ample opportunities for income and employment generation along the production value chain, including exhibition, marketing, manufacturing, distribution and consumption,” he said.
Government, said Mabuza, was also planning to establish a cultural hub in Mbombela as an anchor project to leverage investment and support for the development of the creative industries in Mpumalanga.
Letshela Jonas, economic development and tourism spokesperson, said a programme of action would be developed at the beginning of the new financial year.
A lack of “political will”
Meanwhile, Goodenough Mashego – a book writer, film director and record label owner based in Bushbuckridge – said political will was lacking to develop Mpumalanga’s creative industry.
“All government needs to do is to compile a database of creative artists and come up with a strategy,” Mashego said.
He said artists – particularly musicians, filmmakers and writers – were not getting support from local radio stations and film institutions.
“This tells you why there’s no Swati, Pulana [a dialect linked to Pedi spoken in Bushbuckridge] or Shangaan movie.
“Music produced by local artists is also never played on locally based radio stations such as Ligwalagwala FM. Although the Mpumalanga government does buy some books from local writers, [the writers] gain nothing when someone pays membership to a library and borrows it,” Mashego said.