OPINION | Mzansi celebs are dying broke...but whose fault is it?

Dear celebs, kanti whose job is it to look after your legacy?

31 August 2018 - 10:20
Soon after gospel star Lundi Tyamara died reports emerged that he was down and out but his family dismissed the claims.
Soon after gospel star Lundi Tyamara died reports emerged that he was down and out but his family dismissed the claims.
Image: Via Lundi Tyamara Instagram

There’s a scary pattern that exists in the South African entertainment industry particularly when black artists/celebrities die. Shortly after the death, it emerges that that the artist was broke or in huge debt and did not own their life's work.

Apart from that families are left with a heavy burden and question the so-called legacy their loved one left behind. 

When Tsekeleke or Tiki Nxumalo or Mahlathini or Lundi Tyamara died... the “Celebrity X died broke” headlines soon emerged.

Some families dismissed them, some ignored them then after a week or so a fancy coffin was bought and an expensive venue was filled with flowers, people and cameras and the funeral happened.

Then… silence.

Here’s the thing and one of the biggest problems. No one goes back to ask how the family got on financially after the “ flashy funeral” has passed or how all the family has to show for their child's work are old magazine covers.

But where is their money or the physical manifestations of their legacies?

It can’t be a thing that an artist works their whole life and ends up with nothing to show for that… so maybe we need to talk about it.

However, here at home after a celebrity is announced dead all we want to do as his family, friends, colleagues and fans is give them a dignified funeral, because that is our way. Our ubuntu way. We basically try our best out of “respect” to steer away from anything that would stain the deceased person’s memory.

This in my opinion is a huge mistake because after the funeral, the thieves (who are usually at the funeral for image purposes) disappear into thin air.

The agents. Management. The PR companies deducting a percentage of money. Record labels. Record labels (yes, twice for emphasis). The people who own the masters, who know where the money is. Who applied for the royalties. Who co-signed for the endorsement deals. The people who have their son or daughter’s wealth, they become magicians.

This is almost always the case.

Their escape is often made easier by the fact that families seldom know where to go in the first place because while alive your faves are too busy trying to appear to lead perfect, luxurious lives that they conveniently forget that they will one day die. So they don't tell anybody anything. *sigh*

So let’s leave the dead and talk to the living.

What kind of contract are you signing as an artist? Have you thought about how your music or your films will outlive you and could be a steady income for your family? Are you reading the fine print in the contract? Are you saving? Investing?

Okay… and since I’ve already started taking shots, I’ll also just drop this here. Y’all need to stop living to impress us (media, social media, real and fake friends, fake haters etc); we ain’t your friends… or family. Okay. 

But maybe the problem is bigger than that. So let’s talk to institutions put in place to protect artists or let’s talk to government or the powers that be. 

Why do y’all insist on being on the programs at celebrity funerals anyway? Do you like them better when they are dead?

I have to ask because your fave ruling party will show up at each funeral on some, “we will help you bury your son or daughter”. This is almost always in exchange for 5 minutes to campaign at the funeral of course.

But why are they so stagnant or so slow to help fix this blood sucking industry? Why are the laws set in place to protect artists not adapting to the dynamic industry? Things change every second in this industry, yet actors and singers still abide by standards created for the 80s black and white television. Isn’t it time to move with the times?

It’s 2018. The conversation has to take place now.

I mean with all due respect to the dead, what is the use of a great legacy (discography or show reel) if your family is left scraping for leftovers after you are gone?

If anybody answers YOLO… then that’s fine but if something in this long opinion piece struck a nerve then you as ARTISTS have to do something.

Take matters into your own hands and start your own #Bring BackTheMasters or #PayBackThe Royalties or #ChangeTheArtsIndustry. Anything really…

 Just do something because it’s your task to carry and your responsibility to protect your legacy.