New Action in the Arts SA 2015

IMG_2562The new year has started with a bang with several conferences and initiatives gathering momentum all set to possibly breath new energy into the Arts & Culture sector in South Africa.

The first of these was the recent Dance & Theatre Conference at Kopaneng Conference Centre in Gauteng at the end of January beginning of Feb 2015. The conference was organised at very short notice and many of the well-known arts practitioners and activists were unable to attend. Some like, Mike Van Graan, were invited to present and listed on the early programme and then were removed. It was a conference that displayed all the traits of previous conferences which many of us have been attending since the late 1980s and early 90s, so much anger and frustration was vented especially by the under-served provinces of SA. Some of the invective was also the usual posturing one sees from so called ‘lions’ on the ground; and the lack of disciplined time-keeping frustrated many with my colleague from PANSA, Kurt Egelhof, refusing to do his presentation in protest. It was tempestuous and trying and left one feeling synical about the possibility of progress ( I kept reminding myself that democracy is hard and sometimes tedious work.) Despite it all, quite a few achievements can be highlighted: a new task team to advise the Minister and the DAC was elected for the first time, I repeat, elected and not appointed – this was a first! The plenary which was made up of 10 or so representatives from each province in South Africa agreed that the Ministerial Task team be made up of two representatives from each Province. This also is a departure from what we have been used to seeing over the last 21 years. Will it work? This remains to be seen. I am one of the elected members of the Task Team representing KZN and I will certainly give it my best shot.

In the following week the Dept of Arts & Culture of the Province of KZN held a Social Cohesion conference at what was the Winston Churchill Theatre. I say ‘what was’ the Winston Churchill theatre as in the recent very expensive re-furbishment a fully functional theatre has been converted into an auditorium with all the theatre functionality ruined, The flying gallery is sealed, the lighting positions have been destroyed, the wings have been sealed, all curtaining has been removed. When one considers the crying need for functional theatres, the maneagement team and their consultants who did the re-furbishment should face criminal charges. Hey, maybe we require a Cruelty to the Arts and Artists tribunal! To make matters worse the so called Social Cohesion Conference organised by our own DAC had no Arts & Culture representaive appearing in the programme. Has no one told them about the power of the Arts in achieving the goals of SC?

On the horizon are three more conferences, the 3rd ACT/UJ conference presented in partnership with the British Council ZA Connect takes place from the 8 – 10 March entitled Creatives Make It Happen. The two and a half day conference aims to provide a forum for developing and inspiring the creative community. Engaging with entrepreneurs, manufacturers, policy makers and implementers; in addition to the advertising, film, design and broader arts industries; it will showcase new ways of cultivating creative business ideas in a contemporary South Africa. This affirms that ACT is not just a funding body but a thought leader and educational organisation as well. This conference is an open conference and tickets can be obtained online. Subsidised tickets are available – for more info visit the ACT website.

This will be followed by a conference on the 21st of March to launch and establish the so-called Actors Council something that most in the industry knew nothing about until it was announced by Mr Kid Sithole at the Minister’s  Dance & Theatre Conference. (Mr Kid Sithole leads the ineffectual Cultural Workers Union of SA – CWUSA) Who will be invited? Who will go? Whilst a strong united actor’s union is needed and even desired by most in the industry, it is questionable that the mooted Actor’s Council as is being  currently set up by CWUSA and friends will be the answer. We hold our breath….or not.

On the 23 & 24th March the much vaunted national conference to establish the Creative and Cultural Federation of South Africa is taking place. Whilst most industry stakeholders support the idea of a federation that might be a unified voice and possible regulator in the industry, it will never work unless it is established correctly with enough consultation and participation of all the stakeholders in the industry including the neworks that are already in existence.

All in all, interesting times, that should shed some light on the way forward, or not, depending on ESKOM!

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