With flights across the world grounded and non-essential businesses shut amid COVID-19, Zimbabwe’s art industry which is highly dependent on tourists spending has been devastated.
The COVID-19 pandemic stopped all tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe since the end of March when the Southern African country imposed a ban on nearly all incoming passenger flights.
In the capital Harare, the once bustling Newlands Arts and Craft Market sits nearly empty as the pandemic keeps tourists who used to frequent the market confined to their home countries.
Now sculptures and other artworks on display are gathering dust as most of those who had placed orders before the pandemic have not been able to come forward to take delivery for their pieces due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
With virus cases spiking locally and abroad, artists and traders at the market have been left with little hope of finding customers.
Gift Rusere, a 35-year-old sculptor who has been in the industry for 20 years, said the arts and craft sector has been severely rocked by the COVID-19 shutdown.
“This has greatly affected my work considering the fact that I am an exporter. I ship some of my work to countries such as Australia, America, Germany and also England,” he said.
Rusere and other artists at the Newlands market have now found themselves without commercial outlets for their work, as many galleries, art fairs and festivals locally and abroad have shut down.
“For the better part of this year I haven’t exported anything to those countries. Business is shut down there because the galleries are not open, so there isn’t any business because there are no tourists that have been coming into the country.
“During the normal times we normally have some festivals and art fairs, but all of those have been cancelled for the better part of this year, so there is nothing that is going to be taking place this year because of this pandemic and we are actually struggling to make ends meet,” said Rusere.
“We used to get many Chinese that came in large numbers for different purposes, and they would visit us here, they would buy from us,” he said.
Another artist, Adam Moore, said the pandemic has been a disaster for the arts industry.
“You can see from the movement of people, there is no business to talk about,” he said.
Foreign consumers also account for the bulk of Moore’s clientele but travel restrictions around the world are curtailing the normal flow of tourists who usually buy his pieces.