Esteemed guests, especially the country’s creative community, both those present and those watching this live stream, I am extremely excited by this moment in our country’s history, and by what our arts, culture and heritage community can offer us in changing the course of our current trajectory.
I am aware that there are many who were disappointed that I had not mentioned the arts in my speech during the opening of parliament, but I wanted a more appropriate forum to make this speech rather than include a paragraph about the creative sector as a box-ticking exercise (which, to my regret, is what we did in the National Development Plan).
As you know, just last week at the 33rd Assembly of the African Union, I and eleven other Heads of State, accepted the invitation of His Excellency Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, President of the Republic of Mali and AU leader for Arts, Culture and Heritage, to act as co-champions of this important sector.
The Council of Peers – as it has been named – includes the heads of state of Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali and Namibia.
We have adopted a draft resolution to declare 2021 as the year of culture.
This year, 2020, I pledge that South Africa will build on what we have in our creative and cultural sector, so that 2021 will serve as a platform for even greater achievements by our artists, our social cultural entrepreneurs and our creative enterprises in the years to come.
I’d like to begin by celebrating our creative workers who are excelling on the world’s stages. In recent times we have lost icons such as Bra Hugh Masekela, Johnny Clegg and Joseph Shabalala, but music performers as diverse as Sho Madjozi, the Nldovu Youth Choir, Black Coffee, Wouter Kellerman, Die Antwoord, Pretty Yende and Pumeza Matshikiza continue to excel abroad.
Gavin Hood received rave reviews for his recent film, Official Secrets. Influence, a documentary by Richard Poplak and Diane Neille, was screened at the prestigious Sundance International Film Festival just a few weeks ago. Christian Olwagen’s Kanarie has been celebrated on the international film festival circuit, as have the movies made by Big World Cinema, a company that works across the African continent. Catching Feelings and Vaya are just two of many examples of South African movies on Netflix, and Knuckle City represented our country at the recent Oscars.
Literary icons like Zakes Mda and Deon Meyer continue to sell more books globally than at home while younger writers like Koleka Putuma, Niq Mhlongo and Sisonke Msimang have burgeoning reputations abroad. South African artists like William Kentridge, photographer Zanele Muholi, Tracey Rose, Mohau Modisakeng and Kemang Wa Lehulere are among many from our country who feature constantly in the international arts market.
South African dancers like Mthuthuzeli November, Alice Godfrey and Mlindi Kulashe are plying their trade in some of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies while Gregory Maqoma and his Vuyani Dance Company have blown away audiences across the globe. Works by choreographers like Dada Masilo, Luyanda Sidiya, Mamela Nyamza, PJ Sabbagha, Fana Tshabalala, Nelisiwe Xaba and Vincent Mantsoe are sought after in European theatres and festivals.
The creations of the Handspring Puppet Theatre Company and the works of Athol Fugard continue to be in evidence across the world’s stages. The Market Theatre, as it did during the apartheid era, continues to tour excellent South African productions abroad. Last weekend, the Baxter Theatre hosted the Rolex Arts Weekend with major arts icons from around the globe – Wole Soyinka, Mira Nair and Robert Wilson, along with tennis great, Roger Federer – affirming the international stature of this theatre, and its director, Lara Foot. Amy Jephta, Lesedi Job, Napo Masheane and Neil Coppen are among those well on their way to making an international impact. A South African, Yvette Hardie, is in her third three-year term as the president of ASSITEJ, the international children’s and youth theatre network.
These are just some of the numerous South African creatives and creative organisations that are active on the world stage because of their excellence.
We acknowledge that many of these achievements have been made without us as government, rather than because of us. This is both an affirmation of the resilience, the talent and the hard work of our creatives, and a challenge to us as government to do more to create the conditions in which the arts, their creators, our cultures and heritage can flourish.
Africa’s share of the global creative economy is less than 1%; while South Africa makes a significant contribution to that figure, it is not only for economic reasons that we will invest further in our creative sector. Embedded within creative products are values, aesthetic traditions and ways of seeing the world so that Africans generally, and South Africa in particular, need to more actively participate in projecting our perspectives into the global market of ideas. Culture is the terrain of soft power; the more we support our creatives in producing and distributing their work on the global stage, the better for “Brand South Africa”, but more importantly, the better our chance of influence in the battle of ideas that shape history.
We no longer want our continent’s rich creative wealth – the raw and unique talents across all disciplines – to be exported in much the same way as our rich mineral wealth is, to be beneficiated elsewhere. We acknowledge that we have lost many of our creatives – opera singers, choreographers, theatre-makers, musicians, visual artists, filmmakers – to other countries for failing to create the conditions in which they could excel sustainably. We recognise the need to invest in human resources, in infrastructure, in access to capital at all levels of the value chain: in education, creation, production, distribution and consumption in order to grow our share of the global creative economy, but also to impact on global thinking.
However, we must also recognise the local conditions in which we are doing this: high levels of unemployment and poverty, and extreme levels of inequality. In promoting our creative sector, we cannot simply emphasise the market-oriented creative industries as the products of these will be available primarily to those with disposable income. In this scenario, those who were excluded under apartheid by ‘race’, by geography, by programming and by cost, will continue to be excluded on the basis of class; thus, our approach has to be cognisant of the range of realities that exist within our fractured society.
Against this background, the following principles will underpin the policies, strategies and funding mechanisms that we implement in the next five years in particular:
- Human beings are not only physical entities whose physical needs such as housing, food, clothing and medical care need to be catered for; we also have psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual dimensions that need to nurtured and fulfilled in order for us to realise our full human potential. Participation in and access to music, theatre, literature, film, dance, visual arts and the like are important means of cultivating these human dimensions so that our education system and society more broadly need to provide exposure and opportunities for all our citizens, irrespective of their economic status or geographical location, to engage with the arts. This resonates with the Freedom Charter which declares that “the doors of learning and culture shall be open”. Apartheid dehumanised us and black people in particular, by regarding them simply as units of labour. We cannot continue to do this by promoting an education system and social practice that regard our citizens mainly as cogs in an economic machine rather than as holistic human beings, active and rounded citizens, capable of informed action in a democratic dispensation.
- We are building a society premised on fundamental human rights. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “everyone shall have the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community (and) to enjoy the arts…”. Access to the arts is not a luxury; it is a fundamental human right along with the rights to shelter, education, food, freedom of thought, and the like.
- Human rights are for everyone; given our history and the contemporary inequalities in our society, we must ensure that everyone has the means to enjoy and practice their constitutional rights and freedoms, not only those who have resources, networks and access to infrastructure based on historical privilege. Our nascent democratic project requires a myriad voices and practices; our citizens – particularly those in less-resourced parts of our country and those in our urban centres with less access to capital – need to have the means to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of creative expression.
- We have not paid sufficient attention to culture – value systems, traditions, languages, religious beliefs, ways of seeing the world – that inform how individuals and communities relate to and practice human rights and fundamental freedoms. We believe in gender equity and in equal rights for our LGBTI citizens, but we do little to interrogate, understand and mitigate the cultural factors that impact adversely on these rights. Historically, cultural policies have focused narrowly on the arts and heritage; in future, we will recognise the transversal nature of culture (values, traditions, beliefs, etc) and its potentially negative and destructive impacts on various aspect of our lives.
- The nature of our country’s key challenges – inequality, poverty and unemployment – has caused us in recent times to start with these and examine how all sectors of our society can address these. In doing so with the creative sector, we have pigeonholed and severely limited its potential by demanding that it serves these political imperatives. Our future approach will be: how can we best nurture, promote and unleash our creative sector, and in doing so, we will grow our global and continental influence, provide our citizens with a better quality of life and more organically address the country’s three major challenges.
We welcome the coming into being of the I’m4theArts group and its more than 11500 members, and acknowledge the issues raised by the creative sector. As a government sensitive to its constituency, we have noted these and rather than repeat them, we hope that through the following proposals, many of these concerns will be addressed. Most of these proposals are not new, and they represent a synthesis of recommendations that have been in the public domain for a while.
All primary school learners will have access to education in music, drama, visual arts and dance. They will also be exposed to the arts and heritage through – at least – quarterly visits to museums, plays, music performances, galleries, etc
All high school learners will have a foundational course in cultural studies. All high school learners will be required to learn, and matriculate in at least one indigenous African language.
All high school learners will have the option of taking at least one subject in drama, music, film, visual arts and design and dance as a matric subject.
Specialist teachers will provide the education and training in these subjects and will be supplemented by artists-in-residence who will provide practical training and support in their respective disciplines.
Each province will have at least one tertiary institution that offers certificate, diploma, degree and post-graduate courses in each of the art disciplines, in cultural studies, arts and heritage management (including cultural policy) and cultural entrepreneurship.
Life-long learning opportunities will be made available through multifunctional arts centres that will be distributed throughout the country.
Each province will have nationally-subsidised infrastructure that will form part of a national circuit of venues for the distribution of theatre, dance, music, film and other art forms. Those regions that do not currently have a nationally-subsidised theatre, will have state-of-the art, nationally-subsidised multi-functional arts centres (with theatre/dance as well as gallery, museum, studio and rehearsal spaces) established in their provincial capitals.
In co-operation with provincial and local municipalities, we will roll out ten multifunctional arts centres per year for the next five years to ensure that as many of our people as possible have access to the arts and to opportunities to engage in the arts. National government will take responsibility for building the infrastructure while provinces and local government will be responsible for operational and programmatic costs. We will identify at least three tertiary institutions to train the leadership and management necessary to run these arts centres effectively and sustainably. There will be no cadre deployment with the best and most qualified people being appointed to serve our people through these institutions.
While it is government’s responsibility to make available infrastructure close to where people live in order for them to enjoy the cultural rights outlined above, we will create a fund to support initiatives by citizens to develop cultural infrastructure, particularly in less-resourced communities, and to underpin sustainable township and rural cultural eco-systems.
We spend more than one-billion rand on cultural infrastructure, mainly in urban centres, each year; I am not convinced that we are getting optimal return on this investment. We will rigorously examine this expenditure and downgrade and even shut down some of this infrastructure where it is not delivering, to free up resources to support cultural infrastructure initiatives elsewhere.
Our funding for the arts, culture and heritage sector has – at best – been confused. We talk of creative industries that by definition are driven by markets and profit-making entrepreneurship, but we make available public funding primarily for non-profits, thereby creating and perpetuating a loss-making consciousness within our creative community. The creative sector is best served by a mixed economy, ranging from activities that require major public subsidy e.g. museums, theatre, dance and opera companies, orchestras, etc to activities that are able to survive in the local and international markets e.g. stand up comedy, fashion, visual arts and design, with other activities sustaining themselves through a combination of public sector funding, private sector sponsorship and box office income.
Accordingly, we will now make public funding available in recognition of three broad practices of the arts through different funding mechanisms:
a. Funding to support the arts in their own right, to support freedom of creative expression, to support creative practice for human development (through structures such as the NAC, NFVF, etc)
b. Funding to support cultural social entrepreneurs i.e. those who use the arts for socially good ends, to change behaviour, without there necessarily being paying markets for such work (art for social development) and
c. Funding – start up grants, low interest loans, etc – to support profit-making micro and small creative enterprises (art for economic development), including support services such as marketing, event management, etc
We will bring together the various funding agencies – NAC, NFVF, BASA, SAHC, NLC, MGE, etc – to unite behind a common vision for the sector, with each playing their particular, but complementary roles, rather than competing against each other.
We will institute one application form for all funding agencies.
Funding agencies will be required – at risk to their most senior staff – to make their first grant instalments to successful applicants no later than four months after the deadline for funding applications; follow up grants will be made within six weeks of reports being received.
Public funding agencies will be required to assist creatives in completing application forms and in submitting their reporting requirements.
Corporates may allocate – tax free – up to 0,5% of their taxable income and individuals may allocate up to 5% of their taxable income to arts projects, companies and artists of their choice.
By their labour-intensive nature, some genres within the performing arts are less able to survive purely in the marketplace than practitioners within other disciplines, who operate more as individuals. Accordingly, government – national and provincial – will subsidise one contemporary dance and one theatre company per province, each with 10-12 members (at least 50% to be women, and inclusive of technical staff), with the option of being based at the nationally-subsidised provincial theatres/arts infrastructure.
National government will subsidise one touring African dance ensemble, one touring opera company, one African music orchestra and one classical music orchestra (to be based in the same city as the opera company). Existing companies as well as new entities will be invited to apply to be granted these subsidies, with government’s intention to have these companies spread between the north and south of the country.
Nationally-subsidised infrastructure and companies will be provided with resources to contract resident choreographers, directors, playwrights, designers etc on short-to-medium-term (up to 3 years) contracts. No nationally subsidised infrastructure may employ an artistic director for longer than 5 years to allow for fresh blood to enter and older blood to be circulated through the industry.
We will work with artists’ unions and professional associations to set minimum remuneration scales, which shall apply across the board (public and private institutions).
Funding agencies will be provided with ringfenced funding aimed specifically at providing new entrants into the industry with capital to create and distribute their work.
We have instructed SARS to interrogate the nature of the arts industry and the intermittent sources of income which characterise the sector, and to devise and implement appropriate tax scales and a tax system that recognises the unique circumstances of the industry.
As per UNESCO’s Recommendation Concerning the status of the Artist, government will pass legislation to provided unemployment insurance for the creative sector (including artists, technicians, etc), and underwrite a provident fund and medical insurance scheme specifically designed for this sector.
A retirement village for the creative sector will be established in the north and the south of the country.
A mechanism will be created to support creatives and technical personnel who have mental health concerns as well as those who wish to recover from substance abuse.
We will work with three tertiary institutions, each responsible for three different provinces, to undertake ongoing research into the cultural practices, traditions, belief systems and values of communities in those provinces to help us to understand the impact of culture on our development strategies and vice versa so that we may formulate appropriate strategies to mitigate adverse relationships where necessary.
These cultural research institutes will also inform the development of cultural studies courses at schools and tertiary institutions, as well as the aesthetic development of the country’s artistic and creative practices.
As culture is a transversal phenomenon impacting on all aspects of society, it cannot be managed in a ministry acting as a silo. Accordingly, we will establish a cultural unit in each national department to interrogate, monitor and manage the relationship between the goals and mandate of that department and the culture of the citizens who are to be its beneficiaries. These units will be coordinated by the department responsible for arts, culture and heritage.
The arts, culture and heritage sector is not immune to the challenges of gender-based violence, corruption, poor governance and victimisation that plague our society generally. In consultation with the sector, we will develop a Code of Conduct that will govern behaviour and interpersonal relationships within the sector, and which all will be required to abide by, particularly those who receive/benefit from public funds
An independent Ombudsman will be appointed to serve the creative sector in particular, and it will be sufficiently resourced to deal with allegations of corruption, contraventions of the Code of Conduct, labour relations issues, incompetence within government and publicly-funded agencies. All allegations will be registered on a website, and progress in resolving each item may be monitored on the website. The Ombudsman will be empowered to grant the fullest protection to whistle-blowers; whistle-blowers will be able to submit allegations and information to the Ombudsman anonymously if they choose.
We will do all the groundwork necessary in order to ensure that all the proposals outlined here will be implemented from 1 January 2021, if not before. Accordingly, we will need fresh energy and expertise to drive this programme.
I would like to take this opportunity then to thank Mr Nathi Mthethwa for his work in the department over the last few years, and I trust that he will enjoy his new appointment as the country’s ambassador to Honduras.
I would also like to welcome Ms Sibongile Mngoma as the new Minister responsible for arts, culture and heritage, as someone who is connected to, understands and enjoys the respect of the sector.
I look forward to working with her in realising our country’s tremendous potential for its arts, culture and heritage and the broader political, social, economic and human impacts they will make through the talented, passionate and committed individuals who are active in the sector.