The COVID-19 pandemic caught many industries off guard, and forced those in the creative sector to do things differently. For months live events and social gatherings were halted, which meant no income for artists who rely on live performances as their main stream of income. Most of them slowly moved their craft to digital platforms.

Small and developing companies depending on events, social gatherings and concerts were hit hard. Gatherings of large groups of people were prohibited for entertainment purposes forcing some in the creative sector to shift to digital platforms. However, CEO of Tencent Africa Brett Loubser says the move to digital has been growing steadily.

“In the last few years, we have seen an incredibly rapid growth in digitally delivered entertainment on the internet. And many platforms already provide technologies for artists to perform live, publish their work and collaborate with other artists online. This COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact on live performances, as you have mentioned and we want to use these technologies to support artists during these difficult months. Recently we streamed the one world music concert to our audience live on Joox. And this had performances from all around the world literally performing from their homes.”

Tebogo Sithathu from the South African Music Industry Council (SAMIC) advised musicians and artists to adapt to the challenging times and embrace the change. However, he did raise concern over data costs for internet-based services, saying many couldn’t afford to watch performances online.

“We really need to join the fight for lowering data costs in this country. I believe that due to this pandemic the way we do things, has changed forever. We have to teach ourselves and our communities to go digital, to be on virtual spaces in order to be sustainable.”

Through the tough times, songbird and composer, Nothende, has maintained her creativity. Although work had been put on hold, including an international production she was a working on prior to the lockdown, she says there were events in her life that slowly prepared her for this challenge.

“Pre corona, I was personally going through things that prepared me for this year for this moment. I have been navigating unknown territory in the past few years. I have learnt over the past few years to make do with what you have, learn to be grateful and just take life as it comes.  There is very little that we have control over. I have personally been able to tap into other talents that I have.”

Nothende says the lockdown has enabled her to hone her other skills and find ways to integrate different talents into her craft.

As the country moved to lockdown Level 4, Sports, Arts and Culture Minsiter Nathi Mthethwa announced that those in the creative sector, including film and content production, could resume work – just under different circumstances.

“Any such production, undertaken during this period, must comply strictly with appropriate health and safety protocols. The production, dissemination or broadcasting of information to the public through live streaming. Sub sector, performing arts institutions or playhouses that have relevant infrastructure or facilities used for the creation of local content. These facilities can produce content for streaming and live streaming without audiences. Monologues, minima cast and technical support are required. Film and television production using local cast, living legends and crew,” he said.

The Market Theatre quickly made the transition to the digital space as theatre director James Ngcobo explains: “We are at it as we speak at the market. We have commissioned six new works that we are producing. The director in the first week will be directing the play through Skype and zoom. And then we will get permits to work four days in the theatre bringing camera people to shoot the show and then live stream. There is even a production we are doing with Vincent Mantsoe who is rehearsing in Paris.”

Although the theatre doors are now open,  live streaming is still an option for those wanting to view shows from the comfort of their homes. As the curtain goes down on 2020, this option seems more likely to gain prominence as the country heads into the new year amid a fierce battle to contain the spread of COVID-19.