On 24th July, 2019, a group of actors from Kumasi, led by Nana Ama McBrown, embarked on a protest and presented a petition to Parliament over a proposed construction of a film village at Bunso in the Eastern Region.
They had requested that a film village be built in Kumasi, which they described as the hub of the Ghanaian movie industry, before anywhere else.
I remember how the decision was changed from Bunso to Kumasi while in the 2019 budget, it was stated that the government had acquired 200 acres of land in the Eastern Region to build the supposed film village.
The government, through the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, later made steps to acquire lands in the Ashanti Region for the film village. That came with its own drama and politics. We’ll talk about it on another day but the crux of the matter is, their protest caused the government to look their way and jettison the Bunso idea.
I also remember how protests by George Bosompem (the Public Relations Officer for Ghana Association of Film and Television Arts) and and other film industry stakeholders gave birth to the film act and the National Film Authority.
The saying “charity begins at home” rang louder in my mind upon seeing some showbiz personalities take part in the #OccupyJulorbiHouse demonstration organised by Democracy Hub from September 21-23, 2023.
Protests are very important. They give voice to the voiceless. That is why I commend the young people including the celebrities (KiDi, Stonebwoy, M.anifest, Kwaw Kese, Kelvynboy, Worlasi, OB Amponsah, Efya, Efia Odo, Cina Soul, EL, SDK etc) who took part in the #OccupyJulorbiHouse demonstration and those who showed solidarity by posting on various social media platforms. Of course, they have real concerns.
I understand that they are fighting for basic things to be done for the citizenry. But have you imagined if they channeled the same energy into the immediate creative arts issues affecting them? Unfortunately, when it comes to those issues, you only see a few of them tweet or post about them. It is almost always the media doing all the work for them in such situations.
Imagine these celebs picket for more and state-of-the-art performance centres, or the passage of the Legislative Instrument to the Creative Industry Act (Act 1048) which will fully institutionalise the creative arts agency, or musicians demonstrating for better royalties. How about a demonstration to get the Creative Arts Fund expedited? Just imagine a protest against the ban on celebrities advertising for alcoholic beverages and betting companies. The central air-condition system of the National Theatre is faulty and needs to be fixed; the theatre doesn’t even have a standby generator to provide electricity in case there is ‘dumsor.’ There are so many issues plaquing the arts industry. Just imagine if our celebrities had come together to drum home some of these concerns through protests like #OccupyJulorbiHouse.
In July, 2023, the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) joined the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in calling for better pay and job security. They went on strike to draw attention to disparities in the film and television industry that have grown wider in the streaming boom. It is the first time in over 60 years that both writers and actors have gone on strike at the same time. This shows strength in unity. There are times we need to move beyond tweeting. For most of our leaders, the only language they understand is industrial action or demonstration.
There is nothing wrong with protesting on national issues because we all live in the country and we are affected in various ways.
However, just as I indicated on the SAY IT LOUD segment on Showbiz A-Z on Saturday, September 23, 2023, people in the creative industry should think about staging protests for things that directly affect the creative arts industry, too. Charity, indeed, begins at home!
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