By Mustapha Jallow
The National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) in collaboration with 50 Gambian artistic associations has launched an advocating campaign to encourage citizens to take the covid-19 vaccines.
The campaign is done in the form of sending text messages through a GSM company, writing poems, singing songs, dance performances, drama (theatres) and acting films related to covid-19 vaccine.
The campaign was supported by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the sum of ten thousand US dollars ($10,000), equal to D511,800 (five hundred and eleven thousand eight hundred dalasis), which is estimated as half a million.
One of their text messages reads: “How do we survive this? We’ve been battling with a global monster and serial killer but you are better safe than sorry so take the vaccine.’’
Hassoum Ceesay, the Director General for NCAC and author cum historian, said in an interview they received $10,000 from a UNESCO-ECOWAS funded project.
“The idea was to put the artists in the lead to ensure they contribute in their role to encourage people to take the vaccine and other preventive measures against the coronavirus,’’ Mr Ceesay said at NCAC head office in Banjul on 26th August 2021.
The renowned historian explained that the engagement they had in the past four months with the Gambian artists, music union, writers, dance associations and music and film producers was to work with them and produce messages that will support the ongoing campaign of advocacy against the pandemic. He said the next phase of their campaign would be focused on having more partnership to ensure the messages that were produced by the artists are disseminated, saying the GSM companies are also part of the campaign and new songs were released both in English and local languages.
“Th text messages that people have been receiving are extracts from poems that were produced by the writers. Billboards containing the messages (covid-19 campaign) will be soon produced by a GSM company,’’ he said.
Asked whether during their campaign they will force people who do not believe in the covid-19 vaccine to take the vaccination, Ceesay responded in the negative.
“We want the artists to take lead in the campaign for people to take the vaccine. We are not forcing anyone,’’ he said.
Ceesay further said the bulk of the money was meant to be given to artists for their efforts in spreading the messages, saying the art sector is seriously affected and that during the lockdown, most of the artists could not hold their shows or travel abroad to attend festivals and so on.
According to him, some covid-19 guidelines were sent to them by the health ministry on how to communicate about the disease, which was given to the writers so that anything they write relates to or is informed by the guideline.
Ceesay added that the NCAC also has a big role to play in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, saying when they are dealing with a youthful population, issues like music, theatre, film and drama can be very powerful tools to use to be able to communicate with them.
“This collaboration with artists will also help strengthen relations between the NCAC, associations and our Gambian artists because for a long time, the associations have been asking what have we been doing for artists? But through this project, we have come to see that whenever the need is there, NCAC will engage the artists directly through their associations so that they will be able to have the opportunities to contribute to national development,’’ he said.