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Of Pandemics and Artistry

Of pandemics and anxiety

We can agree that when living in South Africa as a freelancer you have to work twice as hard to book a gig. The industry has quickly identified their freelancers in different industries to make a production work. Ad agencies and production companies have their go-to people that they trust when it comes to bringing jobs to life. On a normal day without COVID-19, it is already a hugely competitive space for freelancers; it is extremely hard to book a gig, and a consistent one at that.

In as much as being a freelance fashion stylist is an unpredictable job I have established coping mechanisms in which I’m guaranteed financial stability even in quiet seasons. But finding myself here, in the middle of this pandemic, has really shaken the validity of how I function in my industry as a fashion stylist. It has made me explore other ways in which I can create more opportunities for myself post-COVID. I have savings and investments but I always live as though I don’t. I only dip into those when I see that I cannot at all survive, and I can survive through the hardest of times without dipping into these entities. Moving from a place of being in a really good season as a freelancer – styling three videos in two days, styling adverts for a week, to guaranteed future gigs – to then moving to confirmed gigs being postponed and then cancelled, to no future gigs in sight, I know that I am looking forward to level 3 with faith and hope that something will show up.

I have always considered art as a form of therapy and motion art as a form of distractive therapy. I would have assumed that in times like these the demands of art, through the mediums of television, social media platforms (music videos, shows, adverts etc.), would be in demand, but at the same time, it has been humbling to see how freelancers and artists have found ways to create content that can help remedy and soothe people through this challenging time through what would – on a normal day – be their bread and butter, and what would pay their rent. It is such a painfully beautiful thing to watch. Artists/freelancers are faced with the paradox of using what feeds them to help feed and heal their fellow humans. I guess that is art after all; artists wouldn’t be artists if they didn’t offer their livelihood, their pain for the consumption of the next person.

As a freelance fashion stylist right now I am feeling scared, alone, shook, unsafe and “weirded” out because what is the future of my industry here in South Africa,? Will I ever find the moderate level of stability/ consistency that I stumbled upon pre-pandemic, post-pandemic?! Jobs were already inconsistent and few and far in-between for a freelancer in South Africa in “our normal reality,” how will it be in our “new reality” because what will human interaction be like then? Or will there be a higher demand for content given the high level of content consumption during this time? Will there be new shows, musicians, ad agencies popping up from this incubation which would offer us more job opportunities? It is certainly an interesting time. I live with anxiety, so all these conversations constantly happen in my head. What helps me have a resounding feeling of peace though, is my spirituality and my belief and faith in God. If I didn’t have this, my grandmother, my boyfriend and my girlfriends I am not sure if I would have made it this far.

Linda Sifumba

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