Mara Louw breaks down as she begs parliament to protect artists' rights
'I am here to represent thousands of artists in the country who are struggling to put food on the table. You read about us in the media; our cars and houses being repossessed, having depression and, finally, dying poor,' Mara Louw told MPs.
Iconic singer and actress Mara Louw broke down in tears as she begged MPs to urgently pass laws that would ensure artists received royalties for their work.
Louw detailed the daily struggles of artists who she said had since the advent of Covid-19 become recipients of food parcels as other people made money out of their work.
“It's a crying shame,” she said.
She was appearing before the National Assembly's portfolio committee on trade, industry and competition to make a submission on the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performers' Protection Amendment Bill.
In an impassioned speech, Louw said that despite being in the creative industry for 50 years and having starred in productions that were being repeated on TV across the continent, she did not earn royalties for any of her work.
As an example, the 69-year-old Louw told MPs that while she played a leading role in the 1991 movie Taxi to Soweto, which has been repeated many times on TV, and while she even bought herself a copy of its DVD from a reputable DVD shop, she has never received royalties from the film.
She said this was the case for many other artists, including those who died without fully benefiting from their work.
“I am here to represent thousands of artists in the country who are struggling to put food on the table. You read about us in the media; our cars and houses being repossessed, having depression and, finally, dying poor.
“We become the joke of the nation. People say we are irresponsible. I am not irresponsible,” she said.
She said the only recognition artists received was being honoured by the government with an expensive casket and beautiful décor at their funerals.
“Yet our work is still enjoyed by many viewers, including yourselves, honourable members,” she said.
Louw broke down in tears as she told MPs of her disappointment in the democratic government, which she suggested was treating artist the same way as the apartheid regime did.
“The apartheid regime was cruel to us and I don't expect the current democratic government to treat me the same way. Today I'm disappointed that in the democratic government of the people, by the people, the art sector is not even on the radar of your priorities,” she said.
“It has taken so long for you to just make a final decision with regards to this amendment bill and for us actors and performers to get our due royalties.”
Louw said she hasn't earned a salary since 2017 and depended on family and friends for financial help as her savings had run out.
“But if I was getting my royalties for all the work shown on television, I wouldn't be here talking to you, pleading with you,” she said.
Louw asked MPs to make sure that artists got fair royalties and fair compensation for work done. This should include royalties on work done in the past, from which others were still making money.
Reacting to Louw's submission, EFF MP Ringo Madlingozi said it hit him in the heart to see Louw crying for the government to do the right thing.
ANC MP Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe said Louw's submission had triggered a sense of urgency in processing the proposed law.
The public hearings continue.
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