ACT/UJ conference improves

The ACT/UJ conference entitled “Creative Currencies” took place in Johannesburg from the 6-8 Aug and as a Trustee of ACT and Exco member of PANSA I was invited to attend and also to be a panelist in one of the breakaway discussions. As a trustee and attendee I can say that this years conference was a definite improvement on the last year on a variety of levels.

The speakers chosen were an exciting mix of operators in the industry from around the world and from SA, the technical back-up was vastly improved, although as the conference progressed – it became slightly sloppier (Did the techies get bored??) . The registration arrangements, etc.. were all slick and the catering and suchlike was well arranged. Well done team!

I was particularly impressed with the participants and presenters from the African continent. It was amazing to get insights into the way things are now being done in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. It was humbling to hear how far ahead Kenya is on the IT front. Every mini-bus taxi already has free wi-fi capability!! It was inspiring to hear how ‘Nollywood’ came about and how Nigerian film makers just got on with it instead of waiting for Government. It was sad that we had to agree with our Nigerian compatriots that ” Africa does not love itself!” It was encouraging to hear of the leaps being made in Ghana.

There was much excitement also generated by the presenters from the various big festivals in SA. It was great to hear about 3 of the country’s established festivals in the form of Ravi Pillay telling us about the Design Indaba in CT and its success, Brett Pyper telling us about the ABSA KKNK festival in Oudtshoorn and Tony Lankester speaking on behalf of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. It was fascinating to hear about the opportunites and successes. For me, what was lacking in both the KKNK and NAF would be the ‘trade fair’ aspects whereby investors, producers and the like could be specially invited to the event to help make connections with the performing artists looking to tour etc. Somehow this aspect is less prevalent compared with the Design Indaba.

It was sad to hear that we have a real trade deficit with most of our creative currency being imported rather than exported. It also showed clearly what a huge opportunity this could be, especially into the rest of Africa.

As a Durbanite I was most impressed by the proposed Arts & Culture policy being mooted by the Ethekwini Municipality suggesting that Arts & Culture should benefit from 1% of all Capital projects embarked on by the Metropole and that Arts & Culture should be on equal consideration with all other priorities like Housing, Health, etc. As my dear friend Tevye would say…”From your lips to God’s ears!” The Maboneng District case study was fascinating, so too the potential of Newtown precinct. PE and CT also presented their developments.

There was much discussion about the new ‘white paper’ being proposed by the National Department of Arts & Culture, with many deficiencies being pointed out to new DDG, Monica Newton, who told the conference that all the objections would be considered before the ‘white paper’ is finally tabled before parliament. More consultative meetings will take place before the final document is ready.

The last part of day 2 and the whole of day 3 were dedicated to the opportunities for the Arts in the IT sector which is clearly becoming incredibly influential. We saw amazing achievements and initiatives that were started online. For me the stand out initiatives were the Mmuzi Photo Club, the Township Home Galleries, the Emthonjeni Residency progamme in Hamburg, the quirky work of Dean Hutton. All of this showed us the amazing potential that is available and is currently working for, music, the visual arts and film.  It left me feeling despondent about the Performing Arts. It became more and more obvious to me that it has never been more difficult in the history of humankind to get people away from the comfort of their homes with their TV’s, Flatscreens, Laptops and Smartphones to experience the magic of a ‘live’ performance. Apart from a real marketing impact, there does not seem to be a commercial benefit for the PA on the internet. Or is there? I look forward to meeting the young bright spark who can find a way to make the internet really work for the Performing Arts.

 

 

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