By LaWanda McAllister
The creative world is a wonderful escape for many people, allowing them to transcend to an alternate universe where they can forget, even for just a moment, all their worldly problems.
Creatures allow us to enter their space and make us feel at home. They can summon emotions that we did not know existed. Their work can take us to the happiest place on earth or cause us to intervene.
However, 2020 has not been good for creative people, who were already barely winning. In Guyana, the creative world has the potential to be one of the best in the world but lacks the protections for our artists.
So when the coronavirus pandemic struck and brought the world to a halt, creatures made a big impact. Those in show business were hit especially hard because their sources of income were taken away in a matter of days.
In Guyana, the COVID-19 guidelines did not cater to those in the creative industry since initially closing bars and restaurants. Large assemblies were also hampered by the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking about how the creative world was affected, Unique Arts Entertainment (AU) Director Kelton Jennings told the Sunday Times they were being forced to cancel their annual dance production which meant taking a big financial loss. While he understood the public health implications of large gatherings, he was also disappointed that they were unable to perform for a personal audience.
Jennings said ever since the pandemic hit Guyana, the Afro-centric dance school, like all other companies, has been deeply affected.
“Personally, as a coach, I have suffered from work. Due to the fact that performing arts is what I do for a living, and COVID-19, everything was postponed. In terms of dance school, we couldn’t meet as a group to perform for the public, ”he said.
Unique Arts Entertainment was founded on July 1, 2009, by Jennings and to date serves as one of the nation’s leading entertainment companies. It has more than 200 dancers as part of its membership and has been spread across Guyana.
The dance company doesn’t limit its performances to just one genre of dance, but they all want to push the boundaries. However, they are known for their flawless Afro performances that they were initially formed to perform.
For dancers Jennings and Unique Arts Entertainment, the joy of dancing is unmatched. They are allowed to express themselves through their movements and allow their bodies to tell the story.
Now they are unable to perform for their physical audiences because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the odds, Jennings said they still managed to make a virtual production earlier in the year that showcased the challenges Guyana faced during this difficult year, while giving hope to all Guyanese. They used their art to tell the story of everyone who emerged during the 8 months plus quarantine.
They focused on activities such as the horrific murders of West Coast Berbice youngsters – Joel and Isiah Henry and Haresh Singh, race relations, the importance of a paternal figure, messages to single parents and others. They called that production “Painting the Picture.”
“The pandemic is definitely one of the main factors for us not having to put our plans, dreams and aspirations into action this Christmas …”, he said.
Jennings said even with COVID-19 still standing in the path of the company, he will not use it as an excuse as he hopes to hold a Christmas production.
“Our Christmas production was supposed to be titled ‘Grateful’ showing that we had a really rough year from January to now,” he said.
As for 2021, the Director said that he would not want to tell the public what is in store for the dance company, because of the way the pandemic destroyed all plans for 2020. However, he said that he was waiting for what is happening. by the future. He hopes his company will be able to gather public support for performers attached to the company who have been out of work for nearly a year due to closed theaters.
To give your support to Unique Arts Entertainment, you can contact Director Kelton Jennings at 656-7499 or visit Unique Arts Entertainment on Facebook.
As COVID-19 continues to constrain the functioning of the world, it is inevitable that some Guyana musicians will have had to find alternative means of income, as the pandemic practically brought the music industry to an end.
The winner of the 2019 Chutney Monarch, Stephen Ramphal, is one of those singers who would have had to find other means of providing for his family. The 28-year-old now relies solely on his new career in photography to support his family.
Ramphal said in an interview with the Sunday Times that this year has been a challenging year for musicians not only in Guyana, but worldwide. He said he was still tackling the pandemic, and was struggling to produce content.
“It’s been very difficult because as a musician we rely on shows, events, we rely on everything entertainment-based and because of the pandemic, the whole entertainment industry crashed,” he said.
The young artiste said now that there are no events for the musicians to attend and perform so that means no income for them. They are now forced to do other jobs to make ends meet as they watch their entertainment career slowly diminish. He said the only things presented to them are virtual shows that don’t feel the same.
“Some of them get paid and some have to because we have to keep our name out there,” he explained.
The musician said for about five months he was not getting any jobs with music, and it was hard not to get a job, and still try to produce content.
“As much as we want to keep our name out there, we can’t invest when we don’t get back … I know people haven’t been hearing from me, but I guarantee them a new year ahead that you’ll get some of music, ”he said.
He said he wants Guyanese to know it’s not just about putting music out there, but it’s a struggle and it’s a job. Ramphal said he has been told on numerous occasions that musicians have to produce music constantly so that people can know about them, but that can’t happen because there is no source of income.
“We have to invest to get quality things out there, and it is very difficult to get sponsorship from businesses because many businesses have crashed because of COVID and can’t lend a hand when they need help,” he said.
The winner of the 2019 Chutney Monarch said from the time he lost his source of income that came from music, he had been spending his time trying to better himself in various fields. He said he had been digging for new ideas and doing a lot of writing.
Ramphal said had it not been for his photography business, he would not have been able to cope.
“My career is in music but if it’s not there to bring in income, the photography business is there to bring in the income. COVID didn’t give a choice … knowing now that I was young and that I had a family, and having to rely on both of these things was my lifelong dream, ”he said.
He encouraged other musicians facing the same dilemma, to stay focused and continue to push through this challenging time. To book Stephen Ramphal for any event either for photography, videography, or musical performance, you can contact him at + 592-618-8820, or his business, SR photography page on Facebook.