Yvonne Chaka Chaka: When you stand up for yourself as an artist, it’s the end of your career

Yvonne Chaka Chaka
Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Artists and actors already put up with a lot – from being exploited to being oppressed – because their industry is unregulated. But it seems if one has a big mouth, there’s a good chance of getting blacklisted in the industry.

Singer and humanitarian Yvonne Chaka Chaka told City Press on Friday, that it was not a secret that “when you stand up for yourself and speak the truth as an artist, it’s the end of your career”.

She was speaking in the wake of actress Vatiswa Ndara’s lengthy letter to Nathi Mthethwa, the minister of sports, arts and culture, in which she highlighted the exploitation and unfair working conditions of actors and artists.

Chaka Chaka said she hoped Ndara would still stand a chance of getting a job having spoken out publicly.

“Our industry should be regulated and actors should be paid what they deserve. Out of desperation actors and artists are forced to take gigs that pay far less than they deserve.”

Chaka Chaka also disclosed she recently met a frustrated actor, who told her that she was ready to take any job because she had not been working for nine months.

“It pains my heart that someone as talented as her has to struggle to get jobs. How did it get to this?” she asked.

“It is our responsibility as veteran actors to speak out so that we can pave the way for young actors and musicians otherwise, if we don’t do the right thing, we will be judged badly by the next generation,” she said.

This week when City Press called actors to shed more light on Ndara’s statement, most of them were scared, saying they had families to feed and could not afford to lose their jobs because their lives depended on production companies.

But actor Vusi Thanda, who is known for playing Tshawe in Emzini Wezinsiwa, applauded Ndara for being brave about speaking out.

“Actors have been exploited for many years. I started acting in the 1980s and nothing has changed. Vatiswa needs to be supported by all of us [creatives]. We know she is telling the truth and we are aware that these are the challenges we creatives face on a daily basis,” Thanda said.

He said the salaries they received from acting jobs meant they couldn’t afford to live in a decent home, drive a decent car or have medical aid.

“We use public transport. Just because we are on TV people expect us to have a luxurious life. I’ve been in the industry for more than three decades but I have nothing

to show to this day – that’s how bad our industry is,” he said.

Mthethwa said artists should speak out in one voice.

“As we speak the president is in a difficult position right now because some [creatives] say he must sign the bill, while some say he should not,” said Mthethwa, referring to the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill, which was submitted by the SA Guild of Actors to Parliament in September last year.

The bill is to protect creatives’ rights.

Thanda agreed with Mthethwa that creatives should speak with one voice to fight the challenges in the industry. He also suggested they should establish industry standard rates.

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