Barbarism, Burnings and Beckett 2

Barbarism, Burnings and Beckett 2


Our social media and public discourse has become increasingly polarised and polarising; there is little room for nuance, for reflection rather than point-scoring between “us” and “them”. This is the second in a series of three articles to be published on three consecutive days, in an attempt to negotiate this minefield. They are stand-alone articles, but they need to be read in their totality.

The “rainbow nation” is a myth. It is not dead. It has never existed. The sooner we get over it and drop the term from our discourse, the less disappointed we will be about the increasing evidence to the contrary, and perhaps we’ll get on with building a truly inclusive nation.

If ever we needed a metaphor to expose the myth of the “rainbow nation”, the recent Varsity Cup rugby match between the University of Free State (UFS) and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) painfully obliged.

Imagine for a moment that rugby represents contemporary South African society or our economy. Once a playground reserved for a white minority, rugby – through the Varsity Cup – now seeks to be inclusive, representative of the “rainbow nation” created in the image of the Mandela, Tutu and De Klerk trinity.

The players on both sides in Bloemfontein were probably all younger than the twenty-seven years spent in jail by our country’s first “post-apartheid” President. All “born free”, but not all born equal.

According to the official Varsity Cup website, the UFS team has a squad of 35, with 29 white players and 6 black players, while the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s squad attempts to pay homage to its name-giver by including 17 white and 10 black players. Even within the relatively privileged tertiary education sector, there are sharp differences with formerly white universities being significantly more resourced than others.

Even though all the players may have been born after 1989, and while everyone now has access to rugby, it is young white players with the benefits of better schools, better training and coaching facilities, greater rugby networks and a longer rugby history and culture that are best able to participate and excel in the “rugby economy”.

There are indeed black players, some of whom have made it on merit because of sheer talent (the individual examples of exceptionalism which often mask the structural restraints that limit broader participation and achievement), or by virtue of having had access to the country’s better rugby schools, or both. Other black players participate because of affirmative action regulations that require each match-day squad of 23 to include 7 players “of colour”, with at least 3 of these in the starting line-up (20% of fifteen).

It is not surprising then that the (historically white) University of Free State “thumped” Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (a “merged” institution) 46-19 in “their most convincing win of the year” as one reporter put it. (Picture the irony…a mostly white squad of players “thumping” a more non-racial – rainbow – squad nicknamed Madibaz!)

Let’s further indulge the rugby metaphor. As we now all know, the UFS win came after a 50-minute break during which the match was interrupted by protestors who sang and danced their way onto the field in support of outsourced workers, who are at the university, but not of it. Their student supporters draw the links between their own struggles on campus (feeling marginalised in a system and a culture that are alien to their life experiences) and those of the outsourced workers who are not full participants in, or beneficiaries of university employment, and are poorly paid to boot.

These outsiders wanted to let the “rainbow nation” – the privileged insiders, the mainly white and some black participants in the rugby eco-system – know that they wanted to be “inside” too.

The response of the insiders was to unleash violence on the outsiders. Hordes of white students (and parents and lecturers, apparently) descended onto the pitch, not content only with chasing away the protestors, but assaulting them physically, with verbal abuse further violating the dignity of the protestors.

In his post-match interview, the Shimlas coach – Hendro Scholtz – opined “The main thing should stay the main thing and that is playing rugby and enjoying”. This goes to the very heart of the “rainbow nation” myth. For a few with the means to do so, the “main thing” is about “playing rugby and enjoying”. For most others in the country though, as represented by the protesting outsourced workers, the “main thing” is about daily survival, about making ends meet, with their children unlikely to attend a decent school, so that their chances of a university education – let alone a place in the rugby team – are virtually nil.

This rugby metaphor speaks to the realities of our broader society, with the Marikana massacre being the ultimate expression of how the “rainbow nation” – at best, a “multi-racial” elite – deals with disruption to the status quo.

There is a general middle-class abhorrence of violence, with many believing that the Marikana miners got what they deserved for carrying traditional weapons, and for – somehow – collectively being responsible for the deaths of two policemen and other miners in the days before the massacre. Yet, what of the violence done to the miners – human beings – who lived in conditions that even Cyril Ramaphosa described to the Farlam Commission as “appalling and inhumane”?

From behind electric fences, beams and armed response fortresses, we pontificate about communities who take the law into their own hands and mete out their version of justice to criminals preying on locals. Yet, a reporter at the rugby match stated “With a lack of adequate security at the game, spectators took matters into their own hands and violence broke out”. What makes these – white – spectators any less “barbaric”, any more “civilised” than vigilantes acting against criminals?

Still, some argue that the protestors forced their way into the stadium, and, in the process, physically assaulted people – including women – so that they got what they deserved. By this argument, our country should have been in flames long ago, and should constantly be in flames for the daily violence done against the majority of people through institutions, systems and structures on the one hand, and personal interactions on the other that treat them as less than human.

While there is horror and outrage at T-shirts and graffiti that shout “fuck whites” or “kill all whites”, the physical attacks on black protestors by white youths, their parents and lecturers and the reported subsequent arming of white men on the UFS campus, shows not just intent, but actual capacity for doing harm to black people.

It is telling that black workers and students at the University of Free State were arrested with various charges laid against them; yet, at the time of writing, no white person who assaulted workers and students at the rugby match has been arrested. How is that possible? Marikana miners too were arrested after the massacre by the police, and were charged with the deaths of their colleagues (the charges have since been dropped), while no-one has been found criminally responsible for the shooting of 34 miners!! And then we would still like to believe that we have a rainbow nation, a constitutional democracy that works for all?

When 20% of our population earns in excess of 65% of the national income, with more than 30% of our economically active people being unemployed, when 11 million plus people keep their heads above the poverty line only because of government grants, we do not stand a chance of being an inclusive, socially cohesive “rainbow nation”. Even the top 20%, those who have the best chance of “living the rainbow”, how many of us actually have sustained social interaction, genuine friendships that cross apartheid’s old divides within the middle-class, let alone across class boundaries? We have no right to bemoan the decline of our “rainbow nation” dream if we make so little effort to live it on a daily basis.

Until we acknowledge and begin to address the fundamental inequities in our society, and the manifold ways in which the majority of our fellow citizens have been, and continue to be dehumanised and have their dignity violated in physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual and other forms, we will always be wondering about the increasing radicalisation of the language and protests of discontent, and we damn ourselves and our country by judging and responding to symptoms, rather than causes.


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Barbarism, Burnings and Beckett 1

On art, statues, language and other burning issues

Our social media and public discourse has become increasingly polarised and polarising; there is little room for nuance, for reflection rather than point-scoring between “us” and “them”. This is the first in a series of three articles to be published on three consecutive days, in an attempt to negotiate this minefield. They are stand-alone articles, but they need to be read in their totality.

“Send these barbarians to jail”, was one impassioned plea that probably represented many a middle-class viewpoint in response to the burning of art works, photographs and portraits at UCT recently. Implicitly, those deemed responsible for this lack of “art appreciation”, were deemed to be “uncivilised”, not worthy of being at a university.

Yet, the Rhodes Must Fall student activists – generally regarded as having been engaged in this “bonfire of colonial vanities” – clearly do have an appreciation of symbols and metaphor; they had built a shack to highlight the lack of accommodation for black students.

One of the leading RMF activists is a doctoral student employed by Iziko Museum, and serves on the National Arts Council. RMF will itself host an exhibition in March to mark its year-old anniversary.

So it is not that RMF activists are “uncivilised barbarians” unschooled in, or unappreciative of the value and meaning of art; on the contrary, it might be that precisely because they are conscious of how art, images and monuments can exert soft power, that “colonial symbols” on the walls of various UCT buildings were the target of their activism.

There were others who deemed the burnings in the same light as the destruction of heritage sites and antiquities by the world’s favourite “barbarians”, ISIL. I would bet that not many of these voices were raised in opposition to the tearing down of statues of Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein. I still remember the television images of American troops helping Iraqis to topple a huge statue of the latter dictator; I do not remember any arguments in favour of keeping those statues in order that future generations would learn from history. Is it that that one’s ideological or political position informs one’s sense of the value of history, culture and symbols?

Then there were still others who pulled out the hoary favourite – the Nazis and their burning of books – to imply the fascist tendencies of the student activists. Just last week though, “civilised” German people set fire to a building that was being converted into a hostel to house Syrian refugees fleeing the devastation of their war-ravaged country. People cheered as the building burned; some even tried to prevent the firefighters from doing their jobs.

A few stated that they supported the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, but that the burning of art had gone too far. So, they were happy for the Rhodes statue to be removed (but not destroyed?), but not for the portraits of other white men (and women) to be removed (and destroyed). Or was it the burning of artworks produced by a black artist that was particularly incendiary?

Generally, much like throwing excrement at statues, the middle-classes do not take too kindly to burning things (other than at braais, perhaps). And yet, not only has the statue of Rhodes been removed, but its symbolic falling has highlighted legitimate grievances about the university curriculum, staffing and governance at UCT, and inspired unprecedented national student protests around access to tertiary education.

When the Tunisian street vendor, Tarek Bouazizi, set himself alight in protest against his mistreatment by municipal authorities, it is unlikely that many middle-class westerners would have applauded his action. And yet, it led to large scale protests, fondly known as the Arab Spring, and resulted in the downfall of at least three long-serving dictators. Bouazizi was eventually named as “Person of 2011” by The Times in the United Kingdom!

Over the long weekend or the period connecting Freedom Day to Workers Day, thousands of mainly white folk make their way to the Tankwa Karoo for Afrikaburn, where the most spectacular sculptures are built. And then, they are burned. Is that what the “civilised”, the culturally-evolved do? Purpose-build creativity for the purpose of destroying it?

This is not to assign “rightness” and “wrongness” to burning art, or destroying symbols or images; this is about interrogating the values and the perspectives that inform our respective responses to such destruction. Is burning art wrong, because there is something intrinsically valuable in art that needs to be protected? Is the destruction of statues and sites that have historical value, always unacceptable because of the implicit loss to our collective history, or does this depend on our political or ideological dispositions in relation to those statues and sites? Are black people who burn buildings more “barbaric” than white Germans who burn buildings?

Perhaps it is that violence is being done, that we are witnessing acts of physical destruction, which we abhor? We are often blind though to the violence that is done to human beings psychologically, emotionally, intellectually and in other ways in which we may be complicit by omission (failing to do something about it) or as beneficiaries (benefiting from systems and structures that violate other people’s dignity and humanity).

In a society, power and influence are not only wielded through coercive means such as legislation, the judicial system, imprisonment, the police and the army; it is also exerted through “soft” means such as the education system, religious institutions, cultural practices, economic structures, the arts and media. “Soft power” inculcates values, nurtures ways of seeing or interpreting the world, introduces and consolidates belief systems. The UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions promotes trade in creative goods such as films, television series, literature, etc not only because such trade potentially contributes to economic growth, but also to encourage greater equity in the global distribution of ideas, worldviews and values. Should we only consume films and television series, or news from international networks based in a few economically dominant countries, we generally imbibe – whether consciously or unconsciously – the values, ideas and worldviews embedded within these. In this way, hearts and minds are won (it is no coincidence that there is more funding for the arts in the US military, than there is through the National Endowment for the Arts, the US equivalent of our National Arts Council).

Artworks are not only political in that they have values, ideas, cultural perspectives, aesthetic tastes, embedded within, or expressed by them, but they also have a political dimension through their associations: who selected the works? For what purpose? What stories do they tell? Whose stories do they tell? For whom? Who had the means to create and distribute the work? Who has the means to access such work? What do these works say to, or mean for, people who may not share the historical, cultural, economic or educational backgrounds of the artists? The arts communicate ideas, tastes, perspectives; they are a form of language. Whose language is being spoken? For many students whose language may not be English or Afrikaans – the only languages of instruction at tertiary level – what additional meanings are being conveyed to them through portraits, statues, the names of buildings, art works, monuments and photographs that adorn such institutions?

Let’s face it. We do not erect monuments and statues in order to learn from history, or to honour those who made some significant contribution to our collective well-being; we do so to celebrate political victories and to assert political hegemony in public spaces. Why else would we have so many statues and monuments to Nelson Mandela, and yet we now have a political leadership so far removed from the self-sacrificing and service-oriented values he espoused; a venal, corrupt set of politicians that “honour” Mandela with a bust in the parliamentary precinct, but only metres away engage in the collective rape of the public purse? The reported neglect of the monument to the Cradock Four – built to honour the teachers Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlauli as well as unionist Sparrow Mkonto who were assassinated by the apartheid government – is itself a metaphor for a teacher union that is now more in the news for its corrupt allocation of jobs, than for its contribution to the education of learners.

If public art, symbols and monuments are to play a role in building “social cohesion”, we will need to adopt different approaches. In the case of UCT which has an extensive art collection, perhaps it might be an idea for the art, portraits and other symbols in its public spaces to be re-curated every four to five years (with a curatorial committee comprising staff, students and others), so that these works reflect, and help to make meaning of the times in which they are displayed, for the university community.

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Concerning Franschhoek Violence

South Africa’s reputation as a violent country reached new heights at the recent Franschhoek Literary Festival where Democratic Alliance members – thinly disguised as festival audiences – assaulted mostly young black writers with their collective white gaze.

Front-page Sunday Crimes’ photographs of a Pinelands bookclub member, Mrs Emily Parkinson, violently shaking her head during a panel discussion on “The TRC and the Mismanagement of Black Anger”, have gone viral. Raised eyebrows, raised voices and raised temperatures provided the ideal backdrop for the announcement of this year’s Sunday Crimes’ Friction Awards, with How White is This Valley heading the list, followed by Zim comes to Joburg.

One young writer, Ntomba Zana, spoke of her tremendous pain after being hit by a volley of compliments about how well she spoke English. “Phew! I now know what Saartjie Baartman must have felt like”, she said, vowing never to return to the festival as a performing monkey, unless it was “to teach these people to say ‘Nkandla’ properly.”

A black writer who asked not to be named in order to keep his options open (both with his fellow black writers and with the festival organisers) said that he was less disturbed by white audiences disagreeing with him, than when they agreed with him. “As a writer who speaks truth to power, it’s really difficult to accept praise from our former oppressors when I’m critiquing our former liberators. But these are the people who buy my books. My own family doesn’t read my books. Even when I give it to them as presents.”

Cure Pedi, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle and now a multiple, post-1994 award-winning writer, compared the “violence of exclusion” of his youth – arrests, detention without trial, torture and having his works banned – with the “violence of inclusion” of today’s younger writers. “Fortunately for us, our generation was not subjected to the traumas of the white gaze. They never looked at us, just at our passbooks”, he said in between scones at the Green Room. “But I’ve paid my dues. I’m done with decolonizing,” continued Pedi, who has acquired shares in M-Net, Shoprite, MTN and the Spur as – in his words – his contribution to creating jobs in African countries that once hosted him as a guerilla.

Approached for comment, Awurama Kwame, a writer from Ghana who attended the Festival for the first time, said that she had not noticed the white gaze. On the contrary, she had been relieved to look at the festival’s website before coming, and to learn that Franschhoek was not a township. She had been in two minds about accepting the invitation to attend, but was somewhat assured by the Festival’s predominantly white audience and by its English lingua franca, as she feared that if the main language was Zulu, she would not have known when to start running.

China Amanda Aditchie, the celebrated Nigerian writer whose elderly father had recently been kidnapped, thrown into the boot of a car, and held for ransom on her account, said she was shocked to learn that a white couple had actually walked out of one of the sessions being addressed by black writers at the Festival. Speaking from the safety of America, she said “South Africa is clearly heading for a genocide”.

While students are occupying buildings as part of their strategy to decolonize their universities, an ad hoc group of writers has called upon all black writers to decolonize the Festival by refusing to occupy future festival panels to share their views, insights and experiences. “It is not our role to educate whites. Let them educate themselves. We refuse to tell them our stories. (Which doesn’t mean that Brett Bailey should do it for us!). We decline to be anyone’s object of anthropological interest,” said a spokesperson for the collective, before she boarded a plane for a literary festival in Britain, where she was to appear on a panel of African writers.

We interviewed three white women audience members – Liz*, Jane* and Lara* (*their real names) – for this article. “I take great exception to being dismissed as a white supremacist”, said an indignant Liz. “I have a photograph with Mandela,” continued the former executive member of NUSAS, and current university professor. Jane, a lawyer who was once active in the UDF, suggested that “It’s our role to listen. That’s all we can do. And meditate on our whiteness.” “Bullshit!” countered Lara, a township tour operator who has employed five Xhosa-speaking tour guides, “If I want to make a contribution to this country, I’ll be damned if some kid born after Madiba’s release is going to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do!”

“I buy their books, and I’m both excited and intrigued by their ideas. That’s why I came here to listen to what these young writers have to say,” lamented Jane. “So what’s with this literary bantustans idea? Whites in their corner, blacks in their corner…what happened to the rainbow nation?” the livid Liz was nearly shouting in the restaurant with its white patrons and black waitrons. Lara said that it was at times like this that she really missed Madiba. “We don’t havek any black friends since Themba left our friend Margie for a black woman because it made better business sense for him. So I want to know what black people think about our country. Not in a performing monkeys sense; if I want that, I tune in to the parliamentary channel”. “We must listen. We have to learn to listen”, said Jane. “And then?” asked Lara. “We drink!” said Jane to much laughter.

In response to the post-Mandela suggestion that whites should refrain from doing charity in the townships, Ben Evans Smith of Tamboerskloof said that he’s been doing Charity in the suburbs for years. “It all started when my hetero-normative, capitalist, mono-textual parents decided to take Charity – our maid’s daughter – out of the township, place her in a Model C school, and then support her through varsity. It did not even enter my supremacist parents’ heads that they were depriving isiXhosa of a potential reader,” said an ambivalently-distressed Evans Smith.

Suzette de la Rey – a first time visitor to the Festival in search of an autograph by her favourite crime writer – supported the call for the Festival to be decolonized, and to give greater prominence to local languages. “That’s exactly what we need. Another Afrikaans festival,” she said.

We tracked down festival director, Anna MacDonald, who was hiding deep inside a bottle of white wine. “We too are concerned about the image of the Festival” she said. “In fact, we offered a 51% stake in the Festival to a local chef of colour, Reuben Refill, but he wanted a rarer portion. Now we’re hoping that Tokyo doesn’t lose his Franschhoek farm in his divorce settlement so that we can have him either as our BEE partner and/or to bus in workers from his farm”.

MacDonald, who doesn’t own a farm in Franschhoek but colonizes the leadership of the Festival from her plot in Muizenburg East, indicated that they are brainstorming other innovative ideas to attract a larger black audience. “We’re thinking of having jazz at the start of some sessions, or finding a sponsor for giveaway weaves and inviting a KFC pop-up outlet – just for the weekend,” she enthused.

For the purpose of this article, we undertook research at Exclusive Books in the V&A Waterfront to determine whether an absence of the black literary market is peculiar to Franschhoek. Within five minutes, our researchers encountered two black millennials in the bookshop, one of whom was wearing a “Rhodes must Mall” T-shirt, and the other was looking for a biography of her role model, Rihanna.

In a qualitative research interview, the manager of the bookshop said that despite the name of the bookshop, everyone was welcome although they knew exactly the number of black visitors to the bookshop. This varied between 13% and 27% depending on whether a Biko definition or a post-apartheid definition of ‘black’ was applied. “The reason for our use of security cameras is because of the numerous titles that are regularly shoplifted,” she said. She did not believe that it was racist to assume that it was black people redistributing their books. “Since the rise of the EFF, one of our most stolen books is the biography of Thomas Sankara. So it’s not as if there isn’t a black market for books, it’s just that they don’t want to pay the prices we’re asking”.

Which is a bit like Nollywood. There is great local demand for Nigerian movies and stories, but at the lowest possible prices, hence the proliferation of piracy, we suggested.

“Ja, but even in Nigeria, someone makes money,” said the manager, “even if it is the pirates!”

In response to our query about the allegations of rising book theft, the EFF issued a statement declaring that after the mines, SARS and Jack Daniels, bookshops may be nationalized. As an aside, the EFF indicated that they were less concerned about the rise of the white gaze than the dark daze on the other side of the parliamentary floor, and of the white shirts that protected it.

With tourism as Franschhoek’s leading industry, the literary festival makes no small contribution to the town’s trickle down economy, comparing favourably in this regard with the decolonized National Arts Festival (well, no-one’s calling for the fall of the 1820 Settlers monument), and which, after 40 years, struggles to dent Grahamstown’s 70% unemployment rate.

In a country wracked by deep inequality, it was inevitable that the arts generally, and literature in particular, would again become both sites and weapons of struggle. While ISIS has shown that the sword is in fact mightier than the pen, it remains to be seen whose pens will cut to core of local issues that really matter.

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Towards a policy and strategies for the growth of South African theatre


The initiative to produce a document outlining a vision for the contemporary South African theatre sector arises from Kuns Onbeperk, the holding company for – amongst others – the ABSA Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) in Oudsthoorn, and its desire to employ its networks, access to expertise and resources beyond its traditional base, and in the service of the larger arts (and in this particular case, theatre) community.

In association with the South African chapter of Arterial Network, ASSITEJ, PANSA and strategic theatre individuals, Kuns Onbeperk hosted two theatre indabas in 2013, one in Cape Town and another in Johannesburg, each with a limited number of participants in order to interrogate the state of the theatre industry as rigorously as possible.

A range of recommendations emerged from these indabas based on SWOT analyses undertaken at both, and this document builds on those recommendations as well as other recommendations that have been made in the past, particularly on the 2005 study and recommendations undertaken by the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA), Towards an Understanding of the South African Theatre Industry.

The aim of this document is to serve as a basis for extensive consultation among the widest possible range of stakeholders in the theatre community, in order to generate sufficient consensus to move forward in the interests of South African theatre, its practitioners and all those who make (at least some of) their livelihoods from the sector.

While it is recognized that government at all levels – national, provincial and local – are responsible for devising and implementing policies affecting the arts, Civil Society is also a key driver and implementer of strategies that serve its interests. Whatever mechanism emerges out of this process to drive the agree proposals, will need to engage with government, the private sector and other macro players such as the National Arts Council and Lottery, but it is intended that such a mechanism will also engage with and mobilise the theatre community itself to take ownership of and to engage in collaborative partnerships to secure the best outcomes, with or without the participation of the state.


1. White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage

The policy governing the performing arts – and theatre in particular – is contained in the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage adopted by Cabinet in August 1996.

Some of the principal ideas were:
• the performing arts companies attached to the former performing arts councils were to become independent over a three year period and diversify their funding sources
• the performing arts infrastructure would be freed up to become “receiving houses” available for rent
• national government would reduce expenditure on the performing arts infrastructure with provincial and local government picking up the major costs
• the funding cut from the performing arts councils would be channelled to independent theatre-makers and other art forms via the National Arts Council

The White Paper is a product of its time, a time of limited funding for the Department of Arts and Culture. In 1996, when the White Paper was adopted, the budget for the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology was R535m, shared between the two legs, with Arts and Culture being allocated less than 50% (or a maximum R270 million). Today, 16 years later, the budget for the stand-alone Department of Arts and Culture is about ten times that amount – R2, 68 billion.

Even in 2005/6, the total allocation to the six subsidised theatres was R97,7 million while just seven years later, for the financial year 2012/13, it has just about doubled to R190,6 million.

In 1996, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund had not been established and it has become the single most important source of new funding for the arts. In the last financial year (ending 31 March 2012), R495 million was available for distribution to arts, culture and heritage projects.

The key conclusion is that there is significantly more funding available for arts and culture activities in contemporary South Africa than was the case 18 years ago, which provides a different context for policy formulation with regard to the arts generally, and theatre in particular.

2. Mzansi Golden Economy

The Department of Arts and Culture held consultative forums with the arts community in 2012 around its vision of the Mzansi Golden Economy, essentially a programme through which the arts and culture sector would contribute to government’s New Growth Path goal of creating 5 million jobs over 10 years. This programme emphasizes a creative industries approach linked to tourism, identified as a priority economic activity that would create more jobs.

We generally employ the British definition of the creative industries as
“those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.”

However, theatre is hardly mentioned in the Mzansi Golden Economy document with craft, music, publishing, film and even clothing and mineral beneficiation receiving greater emphasis. This is similar to the shift in government policy in the 1990s from the human rights-based approach of the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage which emphasized the principles of “access to all” to a creative industries approach – the 1997 Cultural Industries Growth Strategy – that favoured craft, music, publishing and film.

Ironically, given that the aims of the Mzansi Golden Economy are essentially around job-creation, the theatre sector is labour-intensive, providing jobs for actors, directors, designers, stage managers, etc, but unlike books, CDs, DVDs and pieces of craft, plays cannot be easily exported around the country or internationally. They require greater funding than what a market-driven approach – which is what the creative industries are about – can deliver.

While there are some proposals in the Mzansi Golden Economy programme that can be of use to the theatre sector e.g. artist-in-residency programmes at schools, companies that promote local and international tours, events that celebrate creativity, the creative industries model is one that prejudices theatre.

The starting point of this policy approach is “job creation” rather than the best interests of the arts and culture sector generally or of theatre in particular. The challenge for theatre practitioners then is either to articulate their interests in terms of this approach, or to engage in a separate initiative to advance their sector.

The one-size-fits-all creative industries approach does not recognize differences between sectors e.g. the differences between contemporary music and theatre, and deal with them accordingly. Neither does it recognize differences within particular disciplines e.g. orchestral music that requires a large orchestra and so creates jobs, but is dependent on subsidy versus pop music sustained in the market place. Similarly, in the theatre, musicals and stand-up comedy are commercially viable practices while drama is less so.


Rather than a job creation imperative, it is proposed that a starting point for the development of and support for the theatre sector be “who are we making theatre for?”

South Africa has a population of more than 50 million. It is a country increasingly divided according to economic well-being with 20% of the population earning 70% of the national income and the poorest 20% earning 7% of the national income. More than 25% of economically active people are unemployed. Of those who have jobs, 60% earn R2500 or less per month. Nearly 50% of the country’s population live on less than the poverty measure of $2 per day.

Theatre does not take place in a vacuum but rather within a society that, in our case, reflects a diverse reality of a relatively small world that is sophisticated, resourced, educated and with disposable income to form a market for creative industries and on the other hand a much larger world characterized by poverty, poor education, lack of access to infrastructure and no disposable income beyond that which is needed simply to survive.

A creative industries approach to theatre would exclude the overwhelming majority of the country’s population from access to theatre, in the same way that they were excluded during the apartheid era. A human rights approach – the premise of the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage – would seek to make theatre accessible to all people in the country, irrespective of whether they had the means to purchase tickets or not. The latter approach would require greater government and other public agency e.g. the lottery, support, while the creative industries approach would rely primarily on the market and on private sector companies intent on reaching, or consolidating their brands within, particular markets.

The theatre sector – as with many other arts sectors – has three broad areas of practice:
a. theatre for its own sake, generally created less out of an understanding of “what the market wants” and more because of what the creator – the writer/director wants to explore, or say. Such theatre is generally supported by an agency such as the National Arts Council or a festival or theatre.
b. theatre instrumentalised for a socially-good end e.g. theatre to educate communities about health issues. Such theatre is generally supported by government departments responsible for social welfare, health, etc, international aid agencies or the CSI budgets of private sector companies and
c. theatre for economic profit i.e. where government subsidies are not pursued or where theatre is not presented in a “not-for-profit” paradigm, but rather one of the key intentions is to generate profit for the producers e.g. stand-up comedy, large scale musicals. These forms are generally supported by the marketing budgets of private sector companies and/or by the markets they generate, with initial investment made by the producers themselves.

In South Africa, with its large population and great inequities, all three of these areas of practice are valid. Policy – and resultant strategies and funding – needs to take cognizance of this and be multi-layered, nuanced and complex in order to ensure that all enjoy the fundamental human right to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts. There is sufficient funding available in contemporary South Africa to make this right more of a reality than it currently is.


In seeking to make specific recommendations for future strategies to grow the theatre sector, it is necessary to undertake an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats pertaining to the sector currently (The following SWOT analysis combines the efforts of participants in the theatre indabas in Cape Town and Johannesburg).


Cape Town Indaba

Diversity/Depth of creativity/talent store: Diversity in our country allows for a wide range of ‘stories to tell’. This is supported by an existing talent base in directors and actors with a potential talent store in other areas.

Arts Entrepreneurship/Free market: The Free Market system that is currently in place allows for opportunities to create, low barriers to entry, innovation and incentives for those who work hard, ability to bypass bureaucracy in some areas and an elevation of those who display an entrepreneurial spirit

Flexibility: The industry has learned to adapt and react quickly to changes and obstacles and there is a flexible approach to extending runs of successful productions

Quality: Pockets of quality work occur, although these appear to be cyclical and not consistent

Professional structure: The sector already has significant structure around the profession of the performing arts. This includes the organically development freelance-agency system as well as those specified below and leads to reasonable productivity in the creative arts sector

Festivals: The festivals and festival circuits allow for the development of new work. To a lesser extent creative competitions add to this. They also provide a space for industry and social cohesion as well as a space for good management teams to be built

Theatres: These provide a space for the producing of professional work albeit sometimes determined by ‘gate keepers’ (CT). They provide a space for good management teams to be built and can successfully be used for developing new audiences

Networks: Current networks are effective is distributing information and encouraging collaboration. Also a strong driver of skills development and coordination of development of the sector

Links to other Media: Other media (TV, Film) and current cross-pollination allow wider employment opportunities for creative practitioners.

Commercial Mainstream: Commercial theatre (musicals, comedy) meets with relative economic success

Job creation: The industry allows for significant ad-hoc job creation (livelihood), esp. through festivals and corporate work

Funding and government policy: Relationships with current public funders and government are generally improving and new sources of funding (and varieties of income streams) are becoming available. There are a small number of very supportive funders/sponsors. Mzanzi Golden Economy recognizes basic education and audience development as an important strategic area for growth

Sponsorship: Arts sponsorship is relatively cheap money (Return on Investment) and sponsors receive good value for their sponsorship

Community involvement: Some communities are very supportive of local work and audiences are hungry for work of quality or that is relevant

Affordability: It is still relatively affordable to go to the theatre

Curriculum and Arts Education: The current curriculum encourages theatre going with Arts retained in curriculum (grades R-9) and annual compulsory exposure to live performance. The subject is also growing at FET level

Excellence in Higher and tertiary education: Magnet schools, higher education and tertiary institutions display an excellence in certain areas of training (particularly performance-related)

Informal structures: Strong informal institutions with history of successful delivery and with experts with many years of experience (“assets”) exist as well as students placed informally in professional productions provide growth and connection between education and professional industry

Pool of teachers: Big pool of experience in teaching, development across sectors – formal/informal, festivals, institutions, companies, organisations, Sibikwa, Market Lab, Magnet etc. – allows for a source of possible best practice models and ability to implement educational strategies

Existing unit standards: These exist and can be used to develop arts education training outcomes

Arts as a tool: Arts and arts education is successfully used for developing personal efficacy, capacity and social cohesion

Theatre Criticism: Platforms and critics do exist and are relatively supportive and understand their responsibility towards building the industry. This is particularly true in the Afrikaans sector where critics are informed and all forms of media are used to promote the sector. There is a strong tradition of good, and well regarded, journalists. Festival criticism and media are significantly strong

Archiving and Academics: There is a strong history of archiving in SA (NELM, National Museums, etc) and academics still write articles on theatre. The University of Stellenbosch has recently launched an online theatre archive and a current Theatre Journal exists

Awards: There are current awards in place which are generally respected. They provide acknowledgement, marketing leverage (encourage new audiences to see the award winners) resource opportunities (cash prizes) to the performing arts practitioners.

Competitions: The competitions that exist allow for growth, quality control and recognition of the industry

Johannesburg Indaba

1. There is a number of theatres in the country i.e. we have physical infrastructure with resources and personnel to stage productions, many of them encouraging the development of new South African work.
2. There are numerous festivals that invest in the creation of new theatre work and that provide opportunities for theatre makers to earn income by staging their works at these festivals.
3. There are resources – funds – available for theatre production and touring from a variety of sources including the National Arts Council, the Lottery, Arts and Culture Trust, festivals, theatres, provincial arts and culture councils, the private sector, the international community, etc.
4. There is significant theatre-making and production expertise and experience within the South African theatre industry that allows local productions to compare favourably with international benchmarks.
5. We have excellent training institutions that produce actors and theatre-makers with great potential.
6. There are audiences for theatre as confirmed by festival theatre attendance, as well as by the experience of various theatres.
7. There are nine provincial departments responsible for arts and culture and one national department with the same responsibility, so that, theoretically, there is more funding available for the arts and through encouraging provincial competition, it should be possible to stimulate theatre nationally.
8. Despite the difficulties of working within the sector, there are many actors who continue to be active within the theatre industry.
9. Actors – and those in the theatre industry generally – are generally well-educated.
10. There is provincial and national funding infrastructure in place.
11. Challenges within the industry have obliged theatre makers to acquire a variety of skills e.g. theatre making, fundraising, marketing, etc so that many practitioners are versatile.
12. Much of the theatre work is self-generated reflecting both the creativity available as well as the potential for entrepreneurship.
13. There is a variety of theatre forms that caters for different audiences, but also provide a range of ways in which practitioners can use their skills to earn income e.g. industrial theatre, mainstream theatre, educational theatre, musicals, etc.
14. There is also variety in theatre reflecting different cultural strands and influences, different languages and which attracts different “cultural groups”.
15. Organisations exist that represent different interests within the theatre industry, and which are able to organize in the interests of their respective constituencies.
16. There is increasing experimentation with form as theatre makers team up with visual artists and the film industry to create contemporary theatre.
17. Even post-1994, there is still interest in South African theatre from international producers.
18. There are casting agencies to look after the interests of actors.
19. There are theatre awards at least in the three major centres to incentivise and reward theatre workers for excellent work.


Cape Town Indaba

Limited Development Spaces and Funding: Limited opportunities and established venues focused on the creation of new work (excl Festivals) or post tertiary ‘incubators’ with opportunities and resources to explore.

Limited production funding: Unlike other industries, ‘Start-up capital’ for theatre is generally unavailable, except in limited amounts from the National Arts Council which requires practitioners to operate in a non-profit manner.

No Testing process: Limited opportunities and circuits for testing and growing work are available (e.g. UK Regional to Westend model). The established circuit that exists is too small and there is inadequate funding for touring.

Inconsistent production: Production of work is not consistent leading to maintenance of quality in the industry rather than growth. Quality thus also becomes cyclical or episodic as limits the development of a ‘career path’. ‘Festivalization’ also leads to a lack of technical support time for quality work as well as a segmentation of the life cycles of theatre works between multiple short runs

Limited catering for young audiences: Programming for young audiences at theatres is generally of a poor standard and lacks variety

Few Arts Administrators and administration skills: Lack of current pool and development of quality arts administrators, managers and entrepreneurs. Current practitioners have limited skills to manage themselves as businesses. There is a lack of education in arts marketing

Lack of Access and Transparency: There is a lack of access to established venues (CT) and transparency of requirements for access leads to perception of ‘gate-keepers’ and structural inequality. Opportunities not equally accessible to all, and it is difficult to break into the system without a track record. Even Festivals, which do allow spaces for development of new work don’t encourage new participants. Still a perception of dominant White Director theatre environment (WC) with mainstream structure attitudes not alleviating this.

Poor spatial distribution of infrastructure: Lack of well dispersed and maintained infrastructure catering for theatre needs

Weak information dissemination: Weak information distribution to all and sharing of databases for the greater good as well as a lack of coordinated information sharing leading to uncoordinated distribution of work. (This could be a result of too much unfocussed information, rather than no, or too little, information)

In-effective funding flow and cycles: Lack of current effective finance flow into production (through all of the income generation models – audience, donors, sponsorship) does not allow for continuity. Funding cycles are short term and don’t allow for adequate planning or longer lifespan of productions.

Sponsor ship demands: Sponsors increasingly want ‘national reach’ limiting sponsorship for local product

Poor structural policy frameworks: Current policy and structural environment does not lead to vibrant growth development (Cultural institution/receiving houses). There is a fear of bureaucracy and an attitude of ‘application not worthwhile’ (this includes funding bureaucracy)

Little Industry Knowledge transfer and internships: There is a lack of knowledge filtering systems and coordinated internships for young theatre makers (through both weak information distribution as well as a lack of mentorship and apathy of skilled practitioners in coming forward).

Skills gap in creative disciplines: There is a lack of skills in creative disciplines of writing, lighting and sound and few writing course for playwrights.

Dramaturge support: Limited dramaturgical support for development of quality work

Poor Funder knowledge of industry: Some Funders understanding of the freelance system and knowledge of the industry is limited or non-existent and there remains little collaboration between funders to improve this. Additionally there is a lack of buy-in or understanding of strategy to coordinate the growth of the sector

Few industry standards: Industry standards and recommendation are not widely available making it difficult to budget and work equitably and effectively.

Industry Fragmentation: Fragmentation exists within the sector at multiple levels (e.g. between national theatre traditions, but down to the distinction between ‘mainstream’ and ‘community’ venues within metros, etc).

Regional and organizational competition and fragmentation: Poor partnerships between existing platforms (e.g. PANSA/CAWUSA/SAGA) have led to limited national coordination. There is a lack of formal overarching structure (who is speaking to Government on behalf of the Industry).

Lack of Community involvement: Some communities are not supportive of local work and dis-connected from the arts

Diversity: Diversity, as much as this is a potential asset in strengths it also leads to a fragmented market and audience ‘split’

Poor artist support
Once a career is established, there is limited support for basic functions needed to maintain this – from continued education to medical aid, etc

Poor external arts valuation: Arts is not valued highly as a product in itself or for the value it can add to education of social cohesion, either historically or currently

Transport infrastructure: Poor public transport infrastructure does not allow for the development of new audiences, or in fact access by current potential audiences

Lack and cost of media support: General media support for the arts is poor, with limited platforms available across the spectrum of media for exposure (esp. radio/television and English language media). Theatre critics are not rigorous enough and poorly trained (particularly English critics not informed on the canon of theatre) and there is reliance by industry on expensive traditional forms and portals for marketing. National Arts Festival has poor Fringe criticism and plays are critiqued at one festival and are then not covered again as a matter of some newspapers’ policy

Weak international networks and distribution support: International touring structures and supporting networks are limited and underdeveloped

Archiving and Academics: There is no culture of archiving and resources to do so properly are limited. In particular academic writing is relatively absent. Many plays are not written and therefore we do not have records. We do not build heroes from the past.

Awards: There is no national awards system. No standardized criteria leading to subjective decision making process. There are limited opportunities for awards in indigenous African languages (playwrights and performers) and current awards systems only cater for ‘professional’ industry and ‘community’ theatre is not recognized.

Lack of research and synthesis of data: No objective evaluation of industry as a whole/ marketing and in particular integration of research and reports for young audiences non-existent. No synthesis of resources – e.g. funding reports, monitoring and evaluation, best practices, etc

Industry independence: There is a collapse of all creative industries into one sector by external stakeholders resulting in performing arts not being able to differentiate itself

Arts education and Qualifications: There is a general poor management level of utilization of resources in this area. Funding for Arts bursaries as well as arts educational product is limited. There is a lack of qualified assessors and access to them for accreditation and there is a lack of understanding from both CATH SETA and the Department of education to the environment and deep skills required for arts education. There is a poor implementation of curriculum due to lack of training of teachers (in-service not working, pre-service insufficient). Lack of compatibility exists between qualifications with gaps in terms of early childhood development and aspects of higher education (e.g. writing, arts management, theatre for young audiences, arts criticism, dramaturgy etc.)

“Community” development: Continued perspective of “black”/community/development theatre practitioners always being seen to be in need of development

Johannesburg Indaba

1. While there are funds and funding infrastructure for the arts and theatre, generally, the funding agencies suffer from an acute lack of understanding of the theatre sector, an absence of vision and therefore an absence of policy and strategic coherence with regard to developing and sustaining the sector, and a lack of skilled and experienced capacity to implement effective administrative mechanisms.
2. Media coverage of theatre is shrinking with almost no coverage of theatre on television, little regular coverage of and publicity for theatre on radio, and decreasing space for theatre in the print media, except, perhaps for the Afrikaans media.
3. Government and its agencies have become increasingly alienated from its arts constituency, and there is little consultation between government, funding agencies and the theatre community about new policies or amendments to existing policies with further alienation occurring as a result of unilateral implementation of policy.
4. Funding is generally made available on a project-by-project basis, or, at best, on an annual basis in the case of theatres so that the industry is beset by uncertainty, insecurity and an inability to make medium-to-long term plans (the Lottery is an exception in that it allocates significant funding to selected projects on a three-year basis).
5. There is poor vision, management and strategic and administrative capacity within government at national, provincial and local levels so that policy – where it exists – is poorly implemented and/or managed.
6. The quality of arts journalism is generally poor with few training opportunities for emerging arts journalists, and an absence of respected, informed black voices within the mainstream media.
7. There is an absence of forums for national debate around theatre aesthetics and developments (except on Litnet perhaps) and there is no national journal to document developments, distribute information about these developments, make reviews of shows in one part of the country accessible nationally, etc.
8. Provinces vary in capacity and infrastructure so that most theatre productions tend to travel to one or two festivals, and then to Johannesburg and/or Cape Town, depriving audiences in other parts of the country from access to these productions.
9. Theatres, theatre companies and theatre-makers generally lack expertise and training in marketing so that contemporary theatre – drama in particular – suffers from poor audiences.
10. Training institutions are excellent in providing training in all the technical aspects to do with theatre-making, but generally do not provide graduates with sufficient training in areas such as administration, marketing, touring, fundraising, etc all areas that have become fundamental to the success of making and distributing theatre.
11. There are no minimum rates for actors and the industry is unregulated so that workers within the industry are vulnerable to exploitation.
12. There is no effective, widely respected union within the industry to advance and protect the rights of actors.
13. There are no social benefits directly related to the industry such as pension schemes, medical aid and Unemployment Insurance, particularly to the creative sector of the theatre industry.
14. The absence of coherent planning and funding means that there are few sustainable theatre companies in which actors can experiment, create new works and ply their trade.
15. Government has eliminated the production budgets from subsidized theatres which has drastically reduced their capacity to commission, buy or co-produce theatre works.
16. Opportunities for trained and practicing actors to develop their skills further through master classes and international exposure are severely limited.
17. Unlike in the United Kingdom, there are few structured courses for writers to learn and develop their craft, and to work with mentors to ensure that the work is up to scratch, so that often, early drafts are staged with little development.
18. There is no structured mentoring programmes to ensure the development of new directors, new writers, new administrators, new festival managers, new arts journalists, new theatre educators, etc.
19. There are few barriers to entry into the industry and little regulation so that there are no consistent or commonly understood notions of “standards” within the industry.
20. There is little control over international theatre workers working in South Africa and competing with local actors for work.
21. Within the sector, there is a lack of dialogue and an absence of regular opportunities for those within the sector to discuss the challenges and find ways of dealing with these.
22. There are clusters of power and access to resources, stages, international travel and different individuals and institutions appear to attract and support a set number of individuals within the industry as writers, actors, directors, etc.
23. There are few substantial incentives for writers, actors and directors to do really well, to excel and to be innovative beyond their own desires.
24. There is no national theatre archive or museum to record and document every production in the country
25. The organizations that exist to represent the theatre community are relatively weak, struggle with developing new tiers of leadership and in obtaining sufficient funds to manage nationally representative structures.


Cape Town Indaba

Censorship and Artistic Freedom: Political correctness and perceived/ real blockages to artistic freedom as well as lack of understanding of the arts leading to intolerance and political censorship/interference

Apathy and fatigue: Industry and Funders commitment to change for improvement and understanding and fatigue of those writing and receiving proposals

Bureaucracy, government and corporate politics: Slow bureaucratic turnover and dysfunction between government departments will cause delays in funding, strategic growth and partnership development. Political appointees making decisions about the sector. Changes in corporate personnel often leading to a change in corporate marketing strategy.

Continued short term funding cycles and lack of budgets: Will exacerbate the lack of ability to plan and establish longer term programme life cycles and circuits.

Mismanagement of funds: Excessive amounts being spent on once off productions and not being aligned with current artistic and educational needs

Increasing costs and competition: Rising Festival costs and general economic downturn will put pressure on creation. Additionally limited disposable income and increasing choice of competing products will put pressure on sales.

Brand marketing: Businesses supporting brand marketing rather than creative development and where a particular corporate brand is too closely associated with an event, a new corporate sponsor may be reluctant to take it over or be associated once the original sponsorship ends

Sponsorship of success: Sponsors support successful projects, providing little opportunity for start-up or struggling projects

Poor quality of work or project delivery: Will drive downturn in interest and an increase in ‘theatre as a boring space’ as well as alienate current and future sponsors

Imported culture: Will put pressure on the desire for audiences to consume our own stories as well as lowers the media space given to criticism on our local work.

Continued maintenance trajectory: Continued episodic engagement with learning and working will lead to maintenance rather than growth of the skills and quality

Risk: Statutory non-compliance increases risk especially amongst the independent producers

Industry and social divisiveness: Culture of division in South Africa could exacerbate the current weaknesses.

Crime: Crime will push audiences further away from attendance

Transport infrastructure: Poor current and implemented future transport systems will lower the ability to attract new audiences

Lack of common social spaces: And a desire to occupy common spaces

The market needs: ‘Arts for art’s sake’ and a limited understanding of the market and what it wants will alienate current and new audiences. Also feeding audience’s only commercial product will slow down innovation and creativity.

Dysfunctional Arts education: Continued dysfunction of arts education (in crisis and transition) as well as focus on numeracy, literacy and sciences will force arts and culture out of the system and prevent new audience development as well as value of the arts in social growth.

Fear of sharing information and resources: The assumption that this is a zero sum gain and the real and perceived positions that the industry is ‘fighting over the same pool of money’ leading to a lack of cooperation between stakeholders – ‘scarcity thinking’. Also industry competitiveness will not allow sharing of resources and knowledge (mentoring).

Development funding: Threat of ‘development’ funding falling between identified funding strategies

Critics: Theatre critics are increasingly becoming diverted, they have to multi-task thus not enough focus. There are few good training institutions or opportunities and a continued ‘juniorisation’ of staff who write – lack of experience, skill, knowledge

Media space: Less and less space in media, particularly in English print media

Archiving lack of appeal: Museums and theatre archives are not always seen as politically sexy or touristy enough, and ‘academic approach’ will alienate

Award controversy: Award ceremonies could be very controversial and alienate sponsors. Additionally awards events are expensive and deliver lower ‘return on investment’

Balanced development: Political challenge of “black”/community/development theatre practitioners always being seen to be in need of development on the one hand and on the other hand, the need to develop work and practitioners, irrespective of colour

Johannesburg Indaba

1. Apathy within the theatre community poses one of the largest threats to the future of the industry as the majority of practitioners appear to care little for participating in processes and organizations that could shift the sector in their interests.
2. The lack of sustainable work and income within the sector and the uncertainty around funding leads and could lead to a further flight of skills from the theatre industry.
3. High-paying creative industries such as film, television and commercials that provide work and high income for actors impacts adversely on the theatre industry that has to similarly pay high prices for actors with television and film options, even though the industry may not be able to afford these fees.
4. The high costs of touring and using the same actors around the country, particularly with different fees generally been paid in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape, poses a threat to the distribution of local theatre works nationally.
5. Audiences have many more options that are more attractive and multi-faceted than theatre at which to spend their disposable income e.g. shopping malls, casinos, etc.
6. There is a lack of courage within the sector in terms of writing about contemporary issues or in challenging the politicians and government officials of the day, which could lead to the further decline of the sector for lack of civil society voices.
7. Theatre workers often disempower themselves by accepting the way they are treated, the lack of respect they are accorded both within and outside the industry, so that they allow themselves to be intimidated by politicians, officials, funding agencies, theatre managements, etc.
8. The need for survival – to pay the monthly rent, etc – means that theatre makers lack the time, energy and commitment to engage with the macro-conditions that contribute to their need to struggle for survival.
9. The absence of a coherent research agenda means that the industry will develop in a fairly ad hoc manner, rather than in terms of well-informed visions and strategies.
10. Turf and ideological battles between individuals, institutions and organizations within the sector could limit unity and the implementation of collective strategies to advance the industry as a whole.
11. Resistance to change among those who lead or have significant influence within the sector could lead to further decline within and of the theatre industry.
12. The racial and language divides within the sector could lead to further polarization of skills, experience and resources rather than their collective use in the development and sustainability of the industry.
13. Audiences are becoming increasingly less able to sit for long periods, with shorter attention spans and are more entertainment-oriented, thereby posing a threat to serious theatre.
14. Some practices of transformation pose a threat to theatre in that often people who are the “correct demographic” are appointed to senior positions in government and institutions responsible for the sector, but who lack the vision, skill, experience to manage their responsibilities and so impact negatively on the sector.
15. A lack of transformation in the distribution of skills, resources and infrastructure within the country as a whole poses a threat to the accessibility of theatre nationally, and to its sustainability through the creation of new markets across the country.
16. A lack of perceived transformation with regard to demographics will lead to greater pressure exerted by politicians and government officials and the appointment of people who will not be appropriate for the job so that it is imperative that the sector itself takes responsibility for this.
17. The need to build new audiences and the popular strategies to do this e.g. bussing in school children, giving away large numbers of complimentary tickets, etc militate against the development of sustainable audiences as people come to expect free or cheap tickets.
18. High theatre prices are a threat to developing new audiences.
19. International musicals and other shows that have ticket prices set at R150 or more, pose a threat to local productions as they cannot compete with these.
20. Corruption, nepotism and a lack of transparency – as displayed in the previous NAC Board and other performing arts institutions – represent a huge threat to the democratic and efficient use of public resources to promote theatre.
21. Nine different provinces with vastly different historical resource bases and with different stages of political, economic and social development represent a threat to the national agenda of developing the theatre industry.
22. The middle-class position of most theatre practitioners and their access to resources and support from families, friends, etc militate against their taking more militant action in support of their interests.
23. The emphasis on the market as the arbiter of value and what is possible within the arts and theatre, poses a threat to theatre that relies on subsidy and/or which seeks to address human rights issues of access, equity, etc that the market fails to address.


Cape Town Indaba

Cooperation: Era of cooperation, particularly among Festivals and Managements – sharing of research, knowledge and experience

Continued flexibility: Can-do attitude and creative flexibility

New partners: Potential funding/partnerships that hasn’t been explored, particularly in non-Arts related funders, as well as opportunities for different sectors to engage with each other

Corporate need: Corporates need to find new strategies to getting their brands out.

Touring: Both on a local and international level

New Audiences: Segmenting, identifying and retaining new target audiences. In particular new ideas on arts distribution and new models for audience engagement (particularly lower-income audiences)

Recruit champions: From inside and outside the arts industry

Professionalisation of the industry: Build a structure from community/grass roots level to regional, national and international level including identified outputs such as a national theatre conference, national education in the arts conference and national theatre festival (best of the best).

Pool of expertise: There is a pool of hungry graduates entering the industry annually as well as well as a pool of experienced practitioners available for mentoring should the right mechanism be identified.

Curriculum: The curriculum is there and theatre makers should be empowered to understand it as well unit standards developed to train artists to deliver curriculum and to be artists-in-residence

Cross-pollination cross-cultural: Can create vibrant and exciting new ways of delivering arts education

New Media: As expose and marketing platforms

Personality driven criticism: Weekly reviews, in particular on television and radio, presented by personalities will stimulate debate and discourse on theatre criticism in general.

Community media platforms: Community radios and television could be much more being involved

Johannesburg Indaba

1. There are more ad hoc training opportunities to be explored, especially in the discipline of theatre criticism, with for example workshops in universities being presented to not only to the students but other role players
2. UNESCO’s recently-adopted convention promoting cultural diversity globally represents opportunities for creative industries in the developing world – like our theatre industry – to have greater access to developed world markets, skills and resources.
3. The appointment of a new Board to the National Arts Council represents an opportunity to influence this body to understand and begin to serve the interests of the theatre community.
4. Recent emphasis placed on the creative industries by the Department of Trade and Industry and various provincial (e.g. Western Cape) and local governments (e.g. Johannesburg) opens possibilities for theatre to be developed further as an industry, particularly if the sector looks to co-operate more with departments responsible for trade, investment and economic development rather than the traditional focus on departments of arts and culture.
5. The ongoing international success of South African artists – particularly in film, visual arts and literature – keeps open international interest in South African art generally, and theatre in particular.
6. Government has signed numerous “Cultural Co-operation Treaties” with various countries that could be leveraged to tour local productions abroad.
7. The educational system – through the new curriculum – includes arts and culture as an integral part of the curriculum for everyone, thereby opening opportunities for theatre workers to work in schools, and to help to develop new audiences at school-going levels.
8. Increased international tourism means increased interest in the art of South Africa, so that – with better planning and liaison with relevant tourism stakeholders – local theatre could find increasing interest from tourist groups.
9. The successful tours of international musicals such as Cats and Phantom of the Opera points to international markets for South African companies to tour international and local English theatre classics to other developing world countries and to English enclaves in countries that might have a dominant other language, as local casts will be more affordable than their British, Australian or America counterparts.
10. South African expatriates live in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, all of which have rich theatre traditions and sound theatre markets so that there is the very real possibility of creating an international circuit for South African works that tour – at least – these countries.
11. Sponsorship clutter in the sports scene means that the private sector might be interested in new ways to reach their markets, to set them apart from their competitors and to build their image, so that, if the theatre industry is able to convince the private sector of how it could serve these interests, more resources could be unleashed.
12. CREATE SA and its successor, funded by the skills levy, provides opportunities for skilling and mentoring individuals within the theatre community.
13. For our educational institutions, Africa and other developing world countries offer huge potential pools of students.


It is recommended that the following policies to promote a vibrant and sustainable theatre industry be pursued by national government in association with provincial government and relevant funding agencies:

1. Professional theatre companies

1.1 Types of companies

There are at least three kinds of companies:
1. Companies with full-time, professional practitioners employed on at least year-long contracts
2. Companies with 1 to 3 employees (administrators/artists) who employ artists on an ad hoc, project-by-project basis as funding becomes available.
3. Companies that exist in name, with the members of such companies employed in other contexts, and who organise projects, employ practitioners or come together for regular seasons on an ad hoc basis as funding becomes available.

It is recommended that, by 2015, there be fifteen (15) professional, mainstream theatre companies, with an average of 8 members (including an administrator/producer), for a total of 120 professionals on at least year-long contracts.

1.2 Mandates of companies

Companies are – as far as possible – to integrate
a. youth and experience
b. different languages
c. genders

Companies will be required to deliver a minimum of three productions per year, plus one children’s production or one production aimed at a youth market (16-25).

In addition, they will also be required to undertake productions that speak to the social conditions of people in the area, with an emphasis on both content and aesthetics.

1.3 Distribution of companies

Each province will have at least one company. If there are not sufficient members to comprise a company in a province, a company located in another province may be relocated to that province to help build capacity. Such a company will be provided with guaranteed medium-term funding e.g. three years, in order to have sufficient time to achieve a permanent, skilled, professional company based in that province.

1.4 Categories of company funding

There will be three-tier funding for companies of national significance, and they will be selected according to a set of publicly-transparent criteria.

Tier One: Companies will be awarded a core subsidy of R2,5m for a 3-year period.
Tier Two: Companies will be awarded a core subsidy of R1,75m for a 2-year period.
Tier Three: Companies will be awarded a core subsidy of R1m for one year.

Other companies will receive project-by-project funding to help them to build a track record.

The object is to encourage the pursuit and maintenance of excellence, with those companies that have excellent track records being awarded sound funding, while other companies will have their potential recognized so that they too may eventually be awarded funding on another tier.

1.5 Criteria for selection

It is recommended that the following criteria with their respective weightings i.e. some criteria are more important than others, be used to select companies for subsidy, and to determine the status of such companies where different amounts of subsidy are available per genre.

Artistic merit 20 points
Track record/sustainability/longevity 15 points
Impact on the local industry/discipline 15 points
Redressing of historical imbalances 15 points
Organisational structures and management 15 points
Repertoire and productivity 10 points
Remuneration and working conditions of artists 10 points

Total 100 points

In the initial phases, the above criteria are to apply less to the company (that might not have a track record yet) and more to the individuals who comprise the company.

1.6 Phased implementation

1. That all theatre companies that received “company funding” from the NAC receives be invited to apply.
2. That other companies be invited to apply for such funding, and that an additional list of companies – not exceeding 10 – be given company funding from 2014.
3. That all companies be invited by 30 September 2013 to apply for subsidy in accordance with the above categories.
4. That the NAC – together with representatives from the theatre community – evaluates each company, both on paper and in terms of their work, and decides on funding for 15 companies by 31 December 2013.
5. That legal agreements be negotiated between the NAC and companies from 1 Jan-31 March 2014.
6. That these companies will receive their core subsidies from 1 April 2014.

1.7 Housing of companies

It is recommended that these subsidised companies of be housed in infrastructure which forms part of an official, national circuit of venues.

1.8 Career paths for actors

With these professional companies as the pinnacles of employment for performing artists, it is necessary to map a possible career path for a theatre practitioner.

The following generic career path is recommended:
a. training at an accredited institution
b. membership of a student company (1-2 years) attached to training institutions (such companies would practice for the “real” world, but within safe, supportive conditions)
c. after student companies, practitioners would audition for, and participate in youth companies in the various disciplines, for 18-30 year-olds
d. they could then progress to any one of a range of professional companies operating in their discipline, or form part of a new company which would vie with existing companies for recognition

Individual creative practitioners such as composers, writers, choreographers, directors, etc, could follow similar career paths, by being attached to, or integrated into such companies.

They could also be given residencies with a company, educational institution, theatre or festival for periods of time in which they could create and/or help others to create.

1.9 Student companies

These would generally be attached to institutions. As many training institutions as possible should have post-graduate student companies. Alternatively, various institutions in a province should combine resources to support one student company that draws on graduates from their respective institutions. These would also be the training ground for young arts managers and administrators.

1.10 Youth companies

Ideally, each of the larger provinces should have a youth theatre company.

1.11 Individual, national assets

There are individuals who have achieved great distinction as directors, writers, designers, etc, but who – with the decline in funding at theatres, and with few companies in place – are generally out of work, and struggle to make a decent living in the field they know best i.e. theatre.

These individuals should be considered “national assets”. It is recommended that a database be compiled of individual theatre-makers who have achieved such distinction (with very competitive criteria and rigorous selection processes), and that they are supported with monthly stipends for one to three year periods. They would then be available to work with the various professional companies and other entities including schools and community groups to share their expertise and knowledge.

1.13 Performing arts infrastructure

It is recommended
a. that a national circuit of theatre venues be created – at least one per province – over a five-year period. This national circuit would largely comprise existing theatres or multi-functional arts spaces that could host professional theatre productions
b. that, first, the capacity be identified and/or developed to manage this infrastructure effectively and efficiently, and that the leadership of each venue with less than five years experience, be linked with an experienced mentor to guide, advise and even hold him/her accountable
c. that national government – in the same way that it subsidises six theatres currently – subsidises the core infrastructure and staffing of at least one theatre in every province where a nationally-subsidised theatre does not currently exist
d. that the four subsidized, former performing arts councils be given the following mandate:
i) to stage excellent local and international work through a combination of rentals and buying or commissioning or producing work
ii) to use a smaller theatre exclusively for the development of local theatre work and to provide new entrants into the industry with a subsidized space to test their works
iii) to house a theatre company of national significance
iv) to serve as the coordinating and developmental point for a local circuit of venues in the metropolitan area in which they are located and to play a supportive role to these venues and
v) to provide support, training and assistance with programming in the “national circuit” venues in two provinces linked to that subsidised infrastructure e.g. State Theatre linked to North West and Limpopo, ARTSCAPE linked to Eastern Cape, PACOFS linked to Northern Cape, Playhouse linked to Mpumalanga
e. that each venue on the national circuit be given an adequate production budget annually to commission, purchase, co-produce or produce work, particularly theatre productions
f. that each venue on the national circuit have adequate marketing and publicity capacity and strategies, monitored centrally, to ensure the development and sustenance of markets

There are many existing venues that may be eligible for “national circuit” status. Such venues will be invited to apply and motivate for such status, and concomitant resources.

Criteria to be used when selecting national circuit venues would include the following:
a. the capacity of the venue to stage professional theatre productions
b. the capacity of the venue to host a company of national significance on its premises i.e. rehearsal, office and performance spaces and administrative infrastructure
c. the track record of the venue in hosting productions
d. the capacity, demographics, skills and experience of the management and staff
e. the track record of the venue in securing funds from provincial, local government, private sector and other sources
f. the ability of the venue to provide effective and cost-effective marketing and technical services
g. the state of the equipment (sound, stage, lifts, etc) in the venue
h. the cost-effectiveness of maintaining the venue
i. the proximity and accessibility of the venue to local audiences
j. the willingness and/or capacity of the venue in providing services and development assistance beyond its immediate confines
k. issues of safety: both structural and equipment and with regard to crime
l. the proximity or availability of comfortable but inexpensive accommodation for touring groups

Not all venues on the national circuit will be the same. Some will be large, multi-venue infrastructure with technical, stage services and design departments. Others will be single, conventional theatre spaces while still others will be multi-functional arts centres. There will be three grades of infrastructure, and their roles will determine their level of national subsidy:

Grade A: Large-scale performing arts venues (primarily former pacs)
Grade B: Venues which are part of the national circuit and which host companies of national significance.
Grade C: Venues that are recognized within the industry to be important theatres because of their contributions to the industry, whether they are part of the national circuit or not

It is strongly recommended that national circuit venues meet every six months to plan and coordinate activities.

2. Funding

There is funding for arts and culture. The major problems are
a. to access it timeously
b. for approved funding to be transferred in time for the project
c. for funding to be made available in medium-term cycles as opposed to project-by-project funding

It is recommended that
a. there be one form for all funding agencies in the country, with agencies requiring specific questions having such a section on the form
b. all agencies be required to make decisions about applications within three months of the closing date for applications
c. approved funding is transferred to projects within a maximum of 21 days after such funding is approved, and that tranche funding is transferred within a maximum of 21 days of tranche-releasing reports being received
d. major funding agencies align their deadline and approval dates so that applicants may learn of funding decisions as early as possible
e. once a the industry agrees on a theatre plan, that the industry meets with major funders collectively to discuss who will fund what for the next five years
f. a mechanism be established for theatre makers to lodge complaints about funding agencies, and that this mechanism urges/takes corrective action

3. Festivals

Festivals have become important sources of funding for theatre, and are probably the most important catalysts for new work. The also provide income for artists and develop markets for them. Festivals can be even more effective in achieving the above, and the broader vision outlined in this document, if
a. there was greater co-ordination among them
b. there was more co-operation between them and theatres in ensuring that theatre works have a life beyond the festivals
c. some of these festivals were better managed
d. the timing of the festivals was better arranged so that a festival circuit could provide ongoing/continuous work for local and international groups
e. there were mechanisms to select and reward the best festival works with tours and/or seasons at venues on the national circuit afterwards
f. there were incentives for international travel for the best works e.g. if some of these festivals had exchange links with international festivals

It is recommended that
1. existing festivals be encouraged to form a National Festival Coordination Committee to share ideas, to help to train managers of festivals in less resourced provinces, and to coordinate a national festival circuit which would liaise with, and relate to the national venue circuit
2. new annual festivals be encouraged and located in provinces where such festivals do not exist e.g. a Children’s Theatre Festival in KwaZulu Natal, a Southern African Theatre Festival in Limpopo, a Youth Theatre Festival in Kimberley, a community theatre festival in North West, etc.
3. a national theatre festival that rotates every year to a different province, and where the best works of all the festivals and theatres are staged, along with master classes and discussions for theatre practitioners, and a parallel performing arts market

5. Human resource development and capacity building

Even more important than the need for funding, is the need for effective, visionary and highly skilled arts managers. We urgently require a combination of short-term courses to provide basic admin skills as in-service training for arts practitioners, longer term courses to produce at least theoretically-trained arts managers, opportunities for individuals to be mentored, and an influx of skills to manage existing institutions, NGOs and the implementation of policy.

The following are recommendations in this regard:
1. that, to begin with, a major tertiary institution in each of Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape, offers part-time courses in arts administration, arts marketing, etc
2. that such institutions work towards developing undergraduate and post-graduate courses in arts administration with some specialising in marketing, touring and policy, so that eventually there is at least one tertiary institution in each province that offers arts administration certificates, diplomas, degrees and post-graduate degrees
3. that in the immediate future, the NAC makes available 5-10 bursaries annually for individuals around the country to acquire MBAs, with an agreement that they would work in an arts management position for at least three years after acquiring such an education
4. that twenty to thirty of the country’s top arts administrators, theatre and festival managers be identified, and be paid to mentor individuals (who are also paid) over the course of at least 1-3 years, with funding for this purpose being made available by the relevant
5. that 25-30 of the country’s top directors and writers be paid to mentor new writers so that over a period of five years, we develop 50-75 new South African writers.

6. Administration, management and marketing of professional companies, individuals and productions

Performing artists and companies want to spend as little time as possible dealing with fundraising, report-writing, administration, organising tours, doing publicity and marketing, etc. The current conditions however, demand a high level of administration from individuals and companies who would rather be creating, rehearsing, performing and touring.

It is strongly recommended that
a. entrepreneurial companies be created/encouraged that provide administration, financial services, marketing, management and touring services to professional companies and individuals to oversee their affairs.
Initially, it is recommended that such companies – a critical mass in each province – receive declining subsidies over three years to establish themselves, develop a client base, to become self-sustaining in the long term.
b. independent publicity, marketing, financial services, arts admin, etc companies and individuals form consortiums to take on such work, while maintaining an independent client base at the same time.
c. the notion of “clustering” be encouraged with pilot projects in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, with companies and individual artists working collectively with administrators, marketers and producers to do all that is necessary to give life to new works, and to give such works legs
d. annually, theatre publicists, marketers and marketing departments of theatres meet for three days to share expertise, document successful case studies, reflect on new challenges, learn from international experience, and chart collective strategies to improve theatre marketing
e. similarly, a cadre of theatre producers be developed and that they meet annually to share expertise, document successful case studies, reflect on challenges, etc in the course of fulfilling the following mandate: to tour local, excellent works nationally and abroad on a regular basis in order to earn foreign income for our practitioners, since the world, rather than South Africa, should be regarded as our market. In this regard, it is recommended that
i) South African artists produce some of the classics in English e.g. Chekov, Beckett, etc, and tour these to English-speaking communities in other emerging economies i.e. with our exchange rate, it would be more financially attractive to such countries to have excellent productions from South Africa than from Britain
ii) we develop an international touring circuit for South African works to major festivals and venues around the world e.g. SA has a stand every year at the Cannes Film Festival; why can we not have a theatre venue at Edinburgh, Brisbane, etc every year too?
iii) develop an expatriate circuit that includes Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand for contemporary South African performing arts works

7. Remuneration and working conditions for theatre makers

The current situation in which funding is in decline and work generally scarce for artists, makes performing arts practitioners very vulnerable to exploitation. On the other hand, theatre managements are hard pressed to maintain financially viable institutions.

It is recommended
a. that clear, reasonable guidelines for the remuneration of performing arts practitioners be created, and that they be reviewed annually between representative artist bodies and unions, theatre managements and major funding bodies (the latter having the responsibility of funding companies that conform to agreed industry remuneration guidelines)
b. that as a matter of urgency, a medical aid scheme be researched and developed for performing arts practitioners, taking cognisance of the nature of the current conditions, the desired conditions and the itinerant nature of current work
c. that as a matter of urgency, a performing arts provident fund or pension scheme be researched and developed, taking cognisance of the nature of the current conditions, the desired conditions and the itinerant nature of current work
d. that labour desks be established in each of the nine provinces, but in the three major provinces to begin with, to which all contracts are to be referred by artists and/or managers to ensure that these comply with South African labour legislation
e. that workshops be held for managers and practitioners around the country, to brief them regularly on current labour legislation, the rights of artists, and any changes to these and
f. that in the interim, and as a matter of urgency, a “labour ombudsman” be appointed to investigate, arbitrate and generally monitor the contracting, remuneration and working conditions of performing artists
g. that a relationship be established with UNESCO’s Observatory on the Status of the Artist in order to work towards maximum compliance with its Recommendation on the Rights and Status of the Artist
h. that the practice of paying half-fees for rehearsals be abolished at all publicly-funded theatres, in companies and projects funded by national, public funding agencies and that promoters and producers using publicly-funded facilities, be required to pay full fees for rehearsals
i. that a union be encouraged, but that it be held accountable by its members for delivery

8. Research, information and documentation

It is recommended that
a. there be regional, monthly “knock and drops” – or inserts in existing “knock and drops” providing publicity on forthcoming productions
b. a monthly theatre journal be produced to encourage documentation and critical discourse within the industry
c. a national, comprehensive theatre website be created and maintained with all information and statistics relevant to the industry
d. an annual Theatre Directory be published with details of theatres, producers, marketing companies, funding agencies, etc
e. the theatre industry, with the NAC, decides on particular areas requiring research each year, and that the NAC makes available bursaries for post-graduate students or academics to pursue this research
f. an annual conference on theatre be held, either nationally, or along similar themes in each province
g. a South African theatre museum and archive be established, which, among other things, will house material on every production produced each year

9. Incentives

We do not have a national system of incentives for our artists to encourage them to continue to work in the industry, and to strive to ever-greater levels of creative and technical excellence. It is recommended that such incentives be devised and implemented on an annual basis. These could include:
a. the best companies e.g. selected at national festivals, winning funds to undertake a national tour of the major theatres
b. the best companies and/or productions winning opportunities to travel to international festivals
c. top practitioners being awarded opportunities for international exchange programmes
d. top practitioners winning opportunities to work in residence in the country’s major theatres or institutions
e. annually, a three-week tour being undertaken with the country’s brightest new directing and writing talents to other parts of the world to be exposed to their work
f. working with the current awards systems to make them more meaningful, more prestigious, and more enhancing of the winners’ careers, and creating new awards where warranted
g. an annual anthology of the country’s ten best scripts, with selection for this anthology – published by the NAC – guaranteeing a writer R30 000 towards writing her/his next play

10. Coordination and governance

There are different organizations representing different constituencies within the theatre industry, but there is no overarching body that can represent the sector as a whole to government, business, etc.

Accordingly, it is recommended that a theatre industry representative organization – the South African Theatre Industry Association (SATIA) or the South African Chapter of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) – be established.

The role and functions of SATIA/ITI will include the following:
a. formulating regulations to govern different aspects of the industry
b. establishing dispute-resolution mechanisms
c. monitoring the development and growth of the industry to ensure that all structures – theatre companies, theatres, festivals, producers, etc – are functioning optimally
d. providing advice and information
e. facilitating international exchanges
f. setting and driving an agenda to achieve substantive transformation within the industry
g. commissioning research, gathering and disseminating data, building databases, etc
h. coordinating the production of relevant publications
i. representing the interests of the industry in policy and related matters
j. developing and updating a national register of theatre industry professionals

The structure of SATIA may include various subcommittees e.g. festivals, national theatre circuit, transformation, status and rights of artists, education and training, etc to ensure that all the primary areas of the industry are being dealt with and monitored.

Key stakeholders i.e. national organizations representing different sectors, within the industry will elect representatives to the governing board of SATIA who will serve for a period of three years. Where some sectors are not organized into a national association, SATIA will facilitate a meeting of representatives from this sector to elect representatives to the Board.


1. Companies

20 professional, subsidized, mainstream, integrated theatre companies nationally, with at least one in each of Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape, two in the Free State, three in KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape and four in the Western Cape and Gauteng, employing 150-200 theatre makers on a full-time basis, with at least 50% of the total theatre-makers and company managers being black African.

2. National circuit of venues

At least one professionally-managed venue per province, each with a production budget to produce work, with tours by companies to each venue, and with some companies being housed in these venues as their base.

A national co-ordinating mechanism will facilitate planning and sharing between members of this circuit.

3. National circuit of festivals

Each month, there would be a major festival that includes theatre in a different part of the country, so that companies and independent theatre makers may travel the country with a work from festival to festival.

An annual theatre festival in a different province each year, celebrating the best works of the previous year.

Annual school play festivals in each province with the best works participating in a national school play festival, with professional actors paid to work with schools in producing such plays.

4. Human resources and capacity

All national circuit venues will be functioning optimally, with at least 50% of them under the leadership of black African managers, and all of them producing unqualified financial statements.

At least 30 independent (not attached to theatres) producers nationally, with two in each of Mpumulanga, North West, Northern Cape and Limpopo, four in Free State, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal and five in Western Cape and Gauteng with at least 50% of these being black African producers.

At least twenty independent marketing and publicity companies nationally, one in each of Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and Limpopo, two in Free State, three in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal, and four in each of Gauteng and Western Cape, again, with at least 50% of them being owned by black Africans.

At least 120 plays entered into a national playwrighting competition, with at least 50% of them being from black African writers, and half of these being women.

At least three institutions with arts administration graduate and post-graduate courses and at least one with a “cultural entrepreneurs” course.

5. Incentives

A South African venue at a major festival in Europe, Australia and Canada/US each year to host the best South African works at these festivals.

The best works at theatres and festivals, are subsidized to tour the national circuit of venues and the national circuit of festivals.

6. Rights and status of artists

Agreed minimum wages for different categories of theatre-makers nationally.

A national medical aid scheme and provident fund scheme for all registered theatre-makers.

Free legal advice and representation for theatre-makers in contractual disputes.

A home for retired actors/theatre makers.

7. Audiences/markets

Contemporary theatre playing to a national average of 65%.

8. Information and publicity

National “what’s on” type publication produced weekly as an insert in a national newspaper e.g. Mail and Guardian/Sunday Times.

National Theatre Journal produced monthly promoting critical discourse.

The overall recommendation was to form a small working group to take the momentum of the current indaba forward. That this should be made up (for the moment) of the current Indaba Steering Committee (or nominated/volunteer a group of industry thinkers by them) towards a “Theatre Action Group” (TAG) considering:
1. issues around non-duplication
2. leveraging current existing networks and links.
3. appropriate structure
4. appropriate personnel to be involved

That TAG then to consider the following broad outlines below stemming from the SWOTs and Recommendations above:
1. Vision and broader picture (Strategy)
2. Information dissemination and access
3. Capacity building
4. Advocacy tools
5. Opportunities for people to connect

Further Key Issues highlighted
1. Overcoming fragmentation
2. Marketing the industry
3. Time frame – 1 year ahead
4. Receptive to further input
5. CT/JHB centres of coordination but national representation
6. Broadening Festival network
7. To include national and international footprint organisations
8. Community networks
9. Methods of staying in contact (TAG facebook page)

Further specific recommendations in both regions are given below

• Build trusted flexible solution (structured) to coordination – ‘head that leads’
• Vision (Think Big)
• Systems to encourage (awards, positive mentorship, recognition)
• Facilitate dialogue within industry to provide transparency and ease of access/breaking down the stigma of ‘community=development’
• Establish structure on consistent communication and collaboration
• Sharing not only production but methodologies, skills, best practice, etc
• Economic Impact Research
• Audience research
• Provide spaces to develop creative output (incubators) as well as nurture meeting spaces at the platforms that exist.
• Focus skill development on Arts Administration
• Streamline funding and proposal applications to ease administrative burden
• Super National Arts Festival – rotating ‘best of’ model
• Find methodologies and technologies to help translate work for audiences
• Facilitate a lifecycle of work development crossing regional space – (UK model of regional to West End) by creating a touring circuit platform to ensure that commissioned work has a viable life span, travelling between festivals and the national theatres
• Work as a collective to gather evidence re value of arts (collect best practice models, reports from funders, and synthesise into audit with local examples; gather local knowledge, original or vernacular practices and share through engagement with ESAT and theatre archive at Stellenbosch)
• Use new CAPS curriculum as motivation for exposing learners to high quality arts and accessing funding from range of sources
• Tweak current unit standards to fill gaps, adapt and use network organisations to collate information on what is available, who is offering it, and who can assess it – make this information generally accessible.
• Use festival network to create training, mentorship circuit; interning positions – create stepping stones for people
• Work with civil society movements that are focusing on schooling (schools at centre of community, equal education etc) to emphasise importance of the role of the arts
• Use current advances around “teaching artists” internationally to inform Artists in residence programmes as they are designed for use in SA
• Demand that NGOs with track records of in-service training are used in training of teachers in new CAPS
• Encourage artists to engage with audiences (particularly youth audiences) more actively in the making, development and honing of their work
• Upload all reviews onto a website e.g. Fleur du Cap to get broad impression of critical responses
• Have Theatre Scene do tweet seats at plays
• Recruit academics (theatre) to write reviews for blogs/websites
• Provide on-going in-service training/workshops/mentorships for arts writers
• Re-visit current structure of awards and find missing gaps and fill
• Host an annual award to encourage/reward best academic writing about theatre and analysis of the sector
• Theatre Journal (existing or new) to be more user-friendly, regular, accessible
• Companies at training institutions to provide semi-professional experience under controlled conditions
• Festivals to attract writing in all languages (and then all to be translated into English for consideration for English version?)
• Best Practice Toolkits to be created in/for the theatre sector: management, fundraising, touring, running a theatre company, etc.
• Database of new entrants who finished their studies for internships, assistant positions etc
• National website for all theatre happenings in the country.
• A thorough theatre studies / books on South African theatre industry and techniques.
• Bursaries for post-graduates to focus on relevant theatre studies
• Drive small community involvement – work on local level
• We need a national South African archive
• Develop a system of national standards, criteria to be debated, which we can use to achieve national goals and objectives in national industry
• Best productions of the different awards ceremony could tour nationally and even overseas
• Recording our history through archiving projects, seen as documentaries rather than buildings
• Education in the arts conference
• A fabulous national theatre conference, where action plans is devised for the strategy compiled by the Action Group
• Recruit champions for the strategy from inside and outside of the Arts Industry

Both from a human rights perspective and a creative industries perspective, the a new vision would include the following or elements of it:
1. a national circuit of theatre venues, at least one subsidised theatre in each province with the infrastructure, expertise and resources to stage professional work, and with the budget to commission new work, buy existing work and provide platforms for touring theatre companies
2. full-time theatre companies of 7-12 actors representative, as far as possible of gender, languages, etc with each province having one such resident company attached to the theatre that is part of the national theatre circuit; the mandate of these companies would be to produce a certain number of theatre productions per year, including children’s and youth theatre productions, to participate in festivals, to tour and also to engage in theatre-for-development work within their respective province
3. different tiers of funding for theatres and companies so that those on the top rung – and there would be criteria and independent mechanisms to select these – receiving 3-4 year funding, the next tier getting two year funding, the third one-year fund and others, project by project with all being encouraged to compete and produce excellent work in order to merit elevation to the next tier
4. student companies attached to educational institutions comprising post-graduate students to enable them to acquire experience and to provide a training ground under controlled conditions for young arts managers and marketers.
5. that there be a system of “national assets”, individuals who have achieved distinction as directors, writers, designers, etc and that they too be tiered, receiving stipends for particular periods of 1-3 years, during which they produce new work, lecture/run workshops at training institutions and work with companies that are part of a national circuit
6. that festivals be encouraged to form a national festival association to ensure an effective touring circuit, to co-produce work, share expertise and liaise with the national theatre circuit to ensure greater longevity for theatre work, and that they share technology to ensure that the best works are brought to their respective festivals using means to translate work into the language of the audience
7. that there be an annual Children’s Theatre Festival, a Youth Theatre Festival and schools theatre festivals in all regions to encourage new practitioners and audiences for theatre
8. that a curated national theatre festival rotates every year to a different province where the best works from all the festivals during the preceding year are presented, in whatever language, and that this festival is complemented by master classes and other forms of theoretical and social engagement by theatre practitioners
9. that there be partnerships with key international festivals and theatre venues (Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe, Australia, North America, etc) so that the best works – again, irrespective of language – are incentivised to travel to these festivals/theatre venues
10. that there be one form to complete for all funding agencies, that deadlines be aligned and that all decisions are made within 3 months and funds granted within another 3 months
11. that development budgets/funding be made available to all festivals and theatres that are part of a national circuit/tier 1 to provide residencies, practical training and mentorships for technical staff, designers, etc
12. that specialist administrative and marketing companies be catalysed to administer and market a range of theatre entities effectively
13. that a dedicated theatre museum be established with changing exhibitions but that documents and archives the theatre sector
14. that a monthly magazine devoted to theatre reviews, theatre news, theatre opportunities be created at least online
15. that there be annual trips by the leading young directors and writers to international festivals to be exposed to a variety of work


There is no doubt that we have incredible expertise, resources, infrastructure, networks, experience within the country’s theatre sector, that if combined, would make a major contribution to meeting some of the country’s challenges, but also to the sustainability and growth of the theatre sector itself. Some things can be done with the help of government, but there is much that can be done as civil society if we have the vision, the courage and the desire to cross old boundaries and to work collectively, giving and taking, at times, being comfortable with grey rather than black and white. The way I see it, we can – in the light of what is happening in our country – choose to sit in our respective corners, fight for, enjoy and protect what little space we have, or we can seek to make a broader contribution, that, ultimately, will be better for that which we hold most dear. Right now, our country needs visionaries, it needs leadership, it needs new ways of doing things, it needs its artists, it needs its theatre makers. Here’s hoping we’ll rise to that call.

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This is a Discussion Document and the recommendations are not binding nor cast in stone. Its purpose is to provoke discussion in order to arrive at “sufficient consensus” on the core issues and processes. As with the Working Document on the proposed Code of Conduct for the Theatre Industry, this Discussion Document is provided in good faith by the African Arts Institute (AFAI) having hosted a debate that resolved to produce such documents. However, this is not for AFAI to drive or provide leadership in; it is now up to institutions in the theatre sector to take these matters further. These documents have been forwarded to the Market Theatre, State Theatre, Artscape, PE Opera House and Soweto Theatre among others, for their consideration and collective action. They are posted here in public for anyone with an interest to provide feedback, to propose amendments or to refute in its entirety. Any feedback will be forwarded to those who take the initiative in driving these matters further.


The purpose of this Discussion Document is to initiate a process that will eventually arrive at a generally- agreed process (since it is unlikely that there will be complete consensus) on how, if at all, those active within the theatre industry and who are found guilty of – or who are suspected of – committing serious offences, should be re-integrated into the theatre sector. On the one hand, are the legal and constitutional rights of the person to work, to exercise freedom of creative expression, to freedom of movement and to freedom of association. On the other hand, are the rights of, and potential adverse impact on, those with whom the offender could work.

While other industries have registration processes, ombudsmen, internal disciplinary processes so that, for example, a doctor may be tried and found guilty of contravening ethical standards within the industry and is then given a sentence commensurate with the seriousness of the offence e.g. a fine, or suspension from practice for a particular period or having her/his practice in the industry permanently terminated, the same does not prevail within the theatre industry.

Some theatre institutions have employment manuals and contracts of engagement that cover minor to serious offences, with concomitant disciplinary processes and punishments. But this does not apply across the industry so that, for example, someone found guilty of defrauding one theatre institution and being fired consequently, may still be employed by another theatre institution, whether they know the defrauder’s history or not.

This Discussion Document should be read in conjunction with the proposed “Code of Conduct for the Theatre Industry”.


A number of cases currently in our consciousness raises the questions that need to be grappled with.

Tsepo wa Mamatu

The recent debates around the withdrawal of Tsepo wa Mamatu’s play – By My Grave – from the Cape Town Fringe by the organisers after they were petitioned to do so by some theatre-makers in Cape Town because of Wa Mamatu having been found guilty of sexual harassment by Wits University, has raised a number of issues.

Those who pressured the Festival organisers to take this stand included some who considered it inappropriate that Wa Mamatu be given a platform to perform his play about the sexual harassment episode, while his victims were not provided with a similar platform.

Among these, were those of the view that if Wa Mamatu’s play had been about a different subject matter, then it would have mattered less i.e. the issue for them was that it was a play about a theme where he would have his say and his victims would not have a similar voice.

The same argument was used when Wa Mamatu was to participate in a debate about the withdrawal of his play by the Cape Town Fringe: the topic of the debate was about whether this – the withdrawal of his play – constituted just action given what he had been found guilty of, or whether it constituted “ongoing persecution” after he had already been punished for his offences by being fired from Wits University.

Some argued that he should not be given a platform to air his opinion while his victims were not provided with the same platform. This argument was made despite the clarification that the purpose of the debate was not to determine whether Wa Mamatu was guilty of the offences for which he had been fired (and so his guilt was not in question), but rather, having been found guilty and having been punished, at what point would he be allowed to work within the industry again without other institutions – other festivals, theatres, independent companies, etc – being threatened with a boycott, or being pressurized not to work with him? Having already expressed himself in the media about why he considered his treatment by the Cape Town Fringe to be unfair, the debate was to be an opportunity for him to engage with peers in the sector – and in Cape Town to which had relocated – about why he considered it unfair. At the same time, his peers would be able to offer alternative arguments, and through the debate, a way forward could manifest itself.

The questions that arise from this episode include the following:

1. If someone is found guilty of serious offences within the theatre sector, and has been punished for it e.g. being fired from her/his place of employment, what should that person do before s/he is able to work or be employed within the theatre industry again? Does s/he have to do anything, or is it simply up to an institution as to whether it will employ/contract that person again?

2. Might the seriousness of the offence mean that the person could forever be excluded from working within the industry or would that person be allowed to work within the industry but only under certain conditions e.g. if an actor was found guilty of molesting young children, would/should that actor be allowed to work in the industry again, but only if s/he did not work with children?

3. While institutions, independent companies and festivals will always have the right to choose whether to employ someone who has been found guilty of serious offences or to allow them to hire their theatre, or be part of their festival, on what basis can – if at all – theatre institutions, companies and festivals legitimately – legally or otherwise – exclude individuals found guilty of serious offences, either committed within the industry, or as industry workers in other areas of their lives?

4. Is it in the disparate nature of the industry that individuals found guilty of serious offences will always be subject to ad hoc pressures so that depending on the existence or strength of the lobby against that person, his or her work within the industry will always be subject to such pressures?

5. Is there a way in which the theatre industry can regulate itself with regard to these matters, or, given the nature of the industry, are these matters always to be treated on a case-by-case basis?

Mbongeni Ngema

On 9 September 2014, Mbongeni Ngema issued a media release in which he refuted claims by singer Tu Nokwe that she had not been given the necessary credit for her role in the creation of the hit musical, Sarafina.

At the end of the statement, it also states:

With regards to allegations made by Nokwe of physical assault by Ngema on her, Ngema denies any such occurrences taking place.

There have, over a number of years, been public allegations of Mbongeni Ngema, a celebrated theatre luminary, assaulting women partners as well as cast members. These have never been proven in a court of law or in any other forum, and Ngema has continued to work within the industry without any sanction or conditions.

This episode raises, among others, the following questions:

1. When there are allegations of serious offences having been committed by a member of the theatre industry, how are these to be investigated and dealt with?

2. When the alleged perpetrator is a powerful figure within the industry, how are alleged victims empowered to lodge complaints without fear of alienating others in the theatre industry, or of being intimidated or shamed in the process?

3. While there may be no legal obligation, what – if any – is the moral responsibility of theatre institutions (theatres, festivals, independent companies, unions, guilds, etc) in such instances? Do they take a hands-off approach and continue working with the alleged perpetrator until s/he is charged and/or found guilty in a court of law?

4. Do institutions have Codes of Conduct and the requisite processes and mechanisms in place to deal with serious offences by their employees or those they contract to work with on an ad hoc basis, or by people who hire their theatres and may commit serious offences on their property, or by people who have been found guilty of serious offences and who now seek to work in or hire their facilities?

5. How do institutions work with those who may have allegations pending against them, but who have not been found guilty of such offences? Are institutions morally complicit in the offences with which the alleged perpetrators are charged (not necessarily legally) if they continue to work with them?

Zwelethu Mthethwa

An internationally-acclaimed South African artist, Zwelethu Mthethwa, is currently on trial for allegedly beating and kicking to death a woman, Nokuphila Khumalo. While he is on trial and out on bail, and with these serious charges against him, he continues to make art. His gallery continues to sell his work and he is not prevented from making work about any subject he desires, or from producing art, or from making an income from his art. Even if he is found guilty and jailed, his ability to produce work may be circumscribed by prison conditions, but he will continue to have his work sold locally and internationally.

Some of the questions that arise from this case are the following:

1. Does the way in which “serious offenders” are dealt with vary from sector to sector within the creative industries depending on the nature of the industry, rather than because of moral, ethical or legal factors? Are individuals within the theatre – or opera, dance, film – community to be treated differently because of the collective nature of their work, while artists within the literary, visual arts, design and craft sector are given more slack because of the individualist nature of their creation and production?

2. When individuals are charged with serious offences – either within a court of law or by a company or institution – how are they to be treated? As innocent till proven guilty? To be suspended while the relevant investigation and disciplinary processes take place?

3. If the alleged offences of the person do not happen within the sector but within the person’s personal life for example, does “the industry” have any moral or legal right to impose further sanctions on the person?

Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide after shooting dead his partner, Reeva Steenkamp. Notwithstanding this, and the fact that he still has to be sentenced, the International Paralympic Committee indicated immediately after his guilty verdict that in their view, Pistorius “is an inspiration to millions” and that “if he wishes to resume his athletics career, then we wouldn’t step in his way – we would allow him to compete again in the future.”

This raises the following questions:

1. Should serious offenders be treated differently depending on their celebrity, influence or ability to inspire so that those who are less charismatic, charming, high profile or inspirational should be judged more harshly?

2. Is sport different to the arts sector?

3. Even if the International Paralympic Committee has this view at this stage, might they bow to pressure from lobby groups in the future protesting Pistorius’ involvement in a sports event? What are the moral issues or the issues of principle versus the strategic issues, a similar question that may be posed to the Cape Town Fringe organisers? And to the theatre/arts industry more generally?

Glynn Day and Keith Anderson

The above examples all have a common theme of violence against women.

Yet, within the theatre/arts industry, there are similar cases of violence with adults preying on children and older men sexually abusing younger men in the theatre. Actor Glynn Day was found guilty of abusing young children while working as a director and actor in children’s theatre, while after his death, Keith Anderson – a well-known designer, puppeteer and circus trainer – was alleged to have been part of a child sex ring.

Questions that arise from these episodes:

1. Does the theatre industry need a Code of Conduct to spell out acceptable and unacceptable behavior?

2. Does there need to be separate Codes for the abuse of women on the one hand and for the abuse of children and men on the other, as well as additional Codes for other serious offences such as physical violence, corruption and theft?

3. Is there a hierarchy of “serious offences”, with some being more serious than others, and thus necessarily being treated differently, with more harsh punishments and more stringent conditions for the reintegration of the offending party?

4. Are there particular issues that are peculiar to, and thus need to be handled on the basis of gender-sensitivity? If so, what might this mean in practice?

5. Are there particular issues that are peculiar to, and thus need to be handled on the basis of cultural-sensitivity? Are there different ways in which different cultures would handle violations or offences? If so, what are these, and what might this mean in practice?


These are complex and challenging moral, legal, ethical and strategic questions. Precisely because of their complexity perhaps, they have been avoided. Furthermore, the absence of a legitimate, coordinating professional structure within the industry contributes to the lack of processes and mechanisms to deal with these questions. As a result, the sector is often hamstrung in how to move forward when confronted with a related challenge, and then it generally becomes a case of who has the influence, voice, resources and networks most to influence the response at that point.


1. While there is no unifying theatre industry structure, there are institutions engaged in theatre. It is recommended that as many theatre institutions as possible be encouraged:
1.1 to agree to a general Code of Conduct
1.2 to agree to including this Code of Conduct in their employment manuals, contracts with ad hoc employees and independent contractors and outside hirers
1.3 agree to a mechanism to deal with contraventions of the Code of Conduct
2. That institutions invited to agree to such a Code of Conduct include:
2.1 public, private and pop-up theatres
2.2 festivals in which theatre is presented
2.3 training institutions where theatre is taught
2.4 independent theatre companies
2.5 theatre unions and networks
2.6 individual theatre practitioners

Code of Conduct

Such a Code (the draft for which exists and needs to be debated, amended and adopted by major institutions in the theatre industry) would serve at least two purposes:
1. to educate professionals, students and volunteers in the theatre industry about what constitutes acceptable conduct and
2. to serve as a means to empower complainants and to establish processes and means by which to deal with alleged contraventions of the Code, as well as with parties found guilty of having contravened the Code

Managing allegations of Contraventions of the Code

1. When allegations of contraventions of the Code are lodged either with the Institution where they are alleged to have occurred, that institution is to investigate and take action as per their internal processes, and as per the Labour Relations Act and related regulations.
2. Where a party has been found guilty of a particularly serious offence (to be articulated in the Code of Conduct e.g. rape, physical violence, etc), that institution is to inform other signatories to the Code in the country of the offence, of the offender and of the outcome of the investigation and disciplinary process.
3. As part of the disciplinary process and outcome, the institution is to make recommendations on how, if at all, the offending party is to be re-integrated into the theatre industry e.g. under certain conditions, after suspension for a period, after rehabilitation, etc.
4. It will then be up to institutions – with this information – to decide how to engage with the offending party, if at all, in the future.
5. Where the alleged offence may affect more than one institution, a mechanism to investigate and make recommendations should be established that comprises representation from different institutions in the sector.
6. Where disciplinary action and recommendations have been made by an ad hoc body representative of the sector, others within the sector and the offending party may appeal these findings and recommendations to another entity comprising institutions not engaged in the original findings. The findings of this appeal structure will be deemed final.


In making the recommendations listed in 3 above, the relevant institution or investigative/disciplinary mechanism may consider the following questions:

1. The nature and seriousness of the offence in terms of the Code of Conduct
2. The impact of the offence on the victims of the offence
3. Whether the offending party concedes or denies guilt, and shows remorse
4. Whether criminal charges are warranted or not
5. Whether reparations are required e.g. paying back stolen funds
6. Whether the punishment meted for the offence is sufficient, and that the offending party should then be allowed to work as s/he chooses
7. Whether, having been found guilty and having been punished, there are additional measures/conditions to be asserted and with which the offending party needs to comply, given the nature of the offence on which s/he has been found guilty.

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This is a Working Document and the recommendations are not binding nor cast in stone. Its purpose is to provoke discussion in order to arrive at “sufficient consensus” on the core issues and processes. As with the Discussion Document on the Reintegration of “serious offenders” into the Theatre Industry, this Discussion Document is provided in good faith by the African Arts Institute (AFAI) having hosted a debate that resolved to produce such documents. However, this is not for AFAI to drive or provide leadership in; it is now up to institutions in the theatre sector to take these matters further. These documents have been forwarded to the Market Theatre, State Theatre, Artscape, PE Opera House and Soweto Theatre among others, for their consideration and collective action. They are posted here in public for anyone with an interest to provide feedback, to propose amendments or to refute in its entirety. Any feedback will be forwarded to those who take the initiative in driving these matters further.


The primary objective of this Code of Conduct is to ensure that the working environment is a positive experience for all those involved in the South African theatre industry: actors, directors, designers, stage managers, technicians, theatre students, lecturers, stage hands, administrators, managers, producers and others.

This Code is not intended to replace any existing Code of Conduct that theatre institutions and companies may already have in place; it is to ensure that such Codes of Conduct include the key elements in this Code related to violence and sexual harassment, and that in the absence of Codes of Conduct, this Code – or its equivalent – will prevail.

This proposed Code of Conduct is to encourage all theatre institutions including independent companies, educational institutions, theatres, festivals, etc to ensure that they have such a Code in place, as well as the relevant systems and procedures to implement it. It is highly recommended that this Code – or its equivalent – is included as an integral component of any contract of engagement within the theatre industry.

1. Purpose

This Code is intended to promote a harmonious and respectful working environment for all theatre employees, independent contractors, students, lecturers and volunteers in the South African theatre industry, and to ensure that theatre institutions and all those engaged in work within the theatre industry comply with various regulations – insofar as they exist – relating to violence and harassment e.g. Notice 1367 of 1998 of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), Labour Relations Act 1995, Notice of Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases. The Code aims to minimize discord and to promote the resolution of conflicts among or between those engaged in the theatre work, volunteers and others interfacing with the theatre industry. An additional purpose is to educate theatre workers (whether employees, independent contractors or volunteers) about acceptable behavior, and to ensure that aggrieved parties have systems of integrity in which to lodge and deal with their grievances.

2. Application

The Code applies at all times to individuals (local and international) who are actively engaged in, or who seek to be engaged in theatre work in South Africa, as well as to South Africans engaged in theatre work touring or working abroad.

The “theatre industry” is understood to comprise institutions such as formal, semi-formal and pop-up theatres, one-off and regular festivals featuring theatre, training institutions, permanent and ad hoc companies, networks, guilds and unions, publicity agencies, etc so that this Code has relevance to all of these.

3. General Expectations

Individuals working or volunteering within the theatre industry are expected at all times to:
3.1 treat one another and the public with dignity and respect
3.2 act with honesty, integrity and professionalism
3.3 avoid conflicts of interest
3.4 conduct themselves in a manner that reflects positively on the theatre industry generally, and particularly, in a manner that does not bring into disrepute the institutions at which they are engaged either permanently or for an ad hoc assignment.

4. Unacceptable Conduct

Conduct considered unacceptable or inappropriate includes violence and harassment of anyone on the basis of colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, disability, culture, language, ethnicity, age or any other prohibited ground of discrimination recognized in South African law.

4.1 For the purpose of this Code, “violence” is defined as:
a. the exercise of physical force by a person against another person, that causes or could cause physical injury – or even death – to the person
b. an attempt to exercise physical force against another person that could cause physical injury or death to the person
c. a statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a person to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the person and that could cause physical injury – and even death – to the person

4.2 For the purpose of this Code “harassment” is defined as engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a person that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Harassment is characterized by having something said or done to a person that causes distress or discomfort.

Harassment can include, but is not limited to swearing, teasing, threats, verbal or physical abuse, derogatory comments or jokes, and the display or distribution of derogatory pictures or material.

4.3 Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. The unwanted nature of sexual harassment is what distinguishes it from behavior that is welcome and mutual.

Sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to, comments or jokes of a sexual nature, the display or distribution of pornographic material, inappropriate or uninvited touch or contact, sexual advances, requests or pressure for sexual favours whether in return for benefits or not, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, or sexual assault, including rape.

Sexual attention becomes sexual harassment if the behavior is persisted in (although a single incident of harassment can constitute sexual harassment) and/or the recipient has made it clear that the behaviour is considered offensive and/or the perpetrator should have known that the behaviour is regarded as unacceptable.

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when someone undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increment or other benefit in exchange for sexual favours.

Sexual favouritism exists where a person who is in a position of authority rewards those who respond to his/her sexual advances, whilst others who do not submit themselves to sexual advances are denied opportunities, promotions, salary increases or generally, are treated unfairly.
Sexual harassment may be manifested in male-female, male-male and female-female interactions as well as in adult interactions with children.

4.4 Theft, corruption and fraud

Theft and engaging in corrupt and fraudulent activities within the theatre sector or by theatre workers are acts of gross misconduct.

4.5 Abuse of alcohol and consumption of prohibited drugs

The abuse of alcohol and the consumption of prohibited drugs particularly at the place of work, during rehearsals or performances are unacceptable.

4.6 Conflicts of Interest

A conflict of interest occurs when, in the course of a contractual relationship, someone engaged in the theatre industry is called upon to deal with a matter in which s/he has a direct or indirect personal and/or financial interest.

A direct interest can occur when an individual may derive, or be seen to derive, some financial or personal benefit or avoid financial or personal loss. An indirect interest may arise when the potential benefit or loss would be experienced by another person having a relationship with the contracted party. These benefits, losses, interests and relationships are generally financial in nature but may be of some other personal nature. In other words, a conflict arises when a someone contracted in the theatre industry participates in activities which could advance a personal interest at the expense of the interests of the theatre company or institution at which s/he is engaged. Any behaviour that is, or could be perceived as a conflict is prohibited.

Conflicts of interest may also arise when those contracted in the theatre industry are engaged in business or employment activities outside their primary engagement. Subject to their contracts, such contracted parties may engage in these activities if they do not interfere with the performance of their duties constituting their primary contract of engagement.

Those who believe they are in, or are about to enter into a conflict of interest, whether actual or perceived, are to report the matter in writing to their immediate supervisor, who shall ensure that the matter is adequately dealt with.

5. Procedures for lodging complaints and reports about Unacceptable Conduct

5.1 Any person who believes that s/he has been subjected to unacceptable conduct or any person who has witnessed unacceptable conduct, has the right to report the matter to a suitably designated authority without any fear of persecution, victimization or prejudice

5.2 All theatre institutions should have in place a designated person or mechanism (e.g. a disciplinary committee) to which complaints and reports may be lodged anonymously or otherwise for investigation,

5.3 In the absence of such mechanisms or designated persons, the highest authority in the institution e.g. the CEO of the theatre, the elected Chairperson of the Union or Guild, the Head of the Theatre School, etc would be the person to which such complaints or reports are to be lodged.

5.4 Should the highest authority be the subject of – or somehow be implicated in – the complaint, the complainant shall have the right to lodge the complaint or report with an independent entity such as a union such as the Creative Workers Union of South Africa or the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) or the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA) who shall each appoint an Executive Member as its designated point for such complaints.

5.5 A complainant has the right to appoint a fellow person engaged in the theatre industry to represent her/him in lodging the complaint, and/or to provide support and representation during the investigation of the complaint, should the nature of the complaint – in the eyes of the complainant – warrant this

5.6 Theatre institutions should have established procedures as per the Labour Relations Act of 1995 for investigating and dealing with such complaints timeously (institutions should aim to resolve the matter within fourteen days of the complaint/report being lodged)

5.7 Depending on the seriousness of the offence, those against whom the complaint is lodged may be suspended while the investigation takes place, while those found guilty of Unacceptable Conduct may be given written warnings, be fined, suspended for a period of time, dismissed and/or have criminal charges laid against them.

6. Power relations

As in any industry, there are many in the theatre industry who by virtue of their positions, reputations, achievements, the nature of their work, etc exercise significant power and influence.
It is particularly incumbent upon such individuals to exercise their power with care, wisdom and respect for those over whom they have influence.

Heads of institutions, directors, lecturers, production managers, senior actors, etc are particularly responsible for creating and/or ensuring working conditions that are safe, respectful and conducive to realizing the best out of all those engaged in the theatre industry, included students, volunteers and professionals.

7. Confidentiality

Information contained in, or related to reports and complaints under this Code of Conduct shall be treated confidentially and may only be disclosed as necessary for dealing with the matter it concerns, and in accordance with the law.

8. Acceptance of the Code of Conduct

I have read and agree to abide by this Code of Conduct and should I have reason to lodge a complaint or a report in terms of this Code of Conduct, I confirm that I have the relevant person’s name, email address and telephone number:

Production: ____________________________________________________________

Name: ________________________________________________________________

Signature: _____________________________________________________________

Date: _________________________________________________________________

Name of Witness: _______________________________________________________

Signature of Witness: ____________________________________________________

Date: _________________________________________________________________


This Code of Conduct has been drafted using the Notice of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases, Notice 1367 of 1998, issued by NEDLAC in terms of the Labour Relations Act of 1995; the Code of Conduct of the Drill Hall Theatre Company in Australia, and the Ottawa Little Theatre Code of Conduct.

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The National Arts Festival: when size apparently does not – but does – matter

This article is to continue the debates/s and discussions around the National Arts Festival, particularly around both its “market” and “non-market” reasons for participation by artists on the Fringe. These discussions were sparked by an initial article in which I interrogated the size of the Festival (the Festival claimed attendance of 225 000 plus), and whether artists really left with more money in their pockets, as claimed by the Festival in its post-Festival 2014 media release.

This article also explores the related debate around the “economic impact” of the Festival as well as the debates about who benefits from the Festival, including criticism of the Festival as an event for, and of, “the rich”. If there is some overlap with my previous article and subsequent discussions, then it is to build on, or elaborate the key points in this article.

To begin with, the National Arts Festival states on its website that it “is an important event on the South African cultural calendar and the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent.”

In his opening address at the 2014 Festival, the Minister of Arts and Culture – Mr Nathi Mthethwa – stated: “This Festival has moved forward. It has become a magnet that draws people annually to this great “Happening”, the second largest festival of its kind in the world, after the Edinburgh Festival. It is to be celebrated that it attracts a huge number of international artists and audiences. More than 200,000 attendees are expected. This has become a much bigger and better festival. It is worth celebrating”.

It is unclear whether these statistics came from the research of his own speechwriter/s, or whether the statistics and appellation were fed to the speechwriter/s by the National Arts Festival (it is often the case that organisers of events provide material to speechwriters for inclusion in a ministerial speech at the event; this is not peculiar to the arts, nor to South Africa).

However, after my initial article, Tony Lankester, the CEO of the Festival made the following correction: “We are not the second largest Festival in the world and have never claimed to be. That is something that has crept into popular discourse and repeated so often it now gets trumpeted as fact by many, including on occasion, some employees of the Festival. But it is not an appellation that we want. Of course there are many ways of deciding “biggest” – ticket sales, number of performances, number of productions, or any one of those divided by number of days to get a daily figure. But by no measure would we rank second….at best, for most, we might climb into the Top 5. Apart from Edinburgh, there are Adelaide, Avignon, Brighton, Edmonton and I dare say a couple of others…In any event, it’s not really about the size because, as you say, Grahamstown can’t really take that many more people so is there any sense in trying to be/remain the biggest?”

Despite this correction, the Festival sends out confusing and contradictory signals both about the size of the Festival and about whether size really matters to it or not. While Lankester recognizes that there is little sense in “trying to be” or “remain the biggest” and says that being the second biggest festival in the world is “not an appellation we want”, the Festival nevertheless promotes itself as the “biggest annual celebration of the arts in Africa”. Does this matter? And if so, to whom and why? Lankester states that “it’s not really about the size” because, as pointed out in my article, Grahamstown simply does not have the infrastructure to accommodate a massive influx of people. To actually have 225 000 festinos descend on the city would triple the population of Grahamstown for eleven days; not only aren’t there sufficient beds to accommodate such an influx, the city’s water and electricity resources – already under strain during a normal, non-Festival period – would collapse under the demand.

When the Minister stated in his opening speech that “more than 200 000 attendees are expected”, it would appear that in his mind 200 000 different people would attend the Festival; he did not seem to know that by “attendance”, the Festival means one “festino” attending many events. Did the Festival subsequently advise him or his speechwriter/s about what “attendance” actually means? Grocott’s Mail, the local Grahamstown newspaper, reported on the speech thus “Mthethwa stunned the crowd when he revealed that 200 000 visitors were expected to attend this year’s festival”. The newspaper clearly got it wrong. Did the minister get it wrong too? Was the Festival happy for the Minister and the newspaper to continue with their mistakes, or did they make the necessary corrections as they did after my first article appeared?

Size matters when you’re marketing your festival to sponsors. The Department of Arts and Culture – as well as others who would have attended the opening speech – is a sponsor of the Festival. Sponsors sit up and take notice when one says that “attendance was up to 225 000 this year”. The Festival’s 2013 economic impact study reveals that the average festino spends 5,4 days at the Festival. If – conservatively – she sees 3 or 4 shows per day (including paid-for performances, free art exhibitions and other free events) that would account for 11 000-15 000 actual people who attend the Festival. This is fewer than what the two-day Cape Town International Jazz Festival attracts to its event, so the National Arts Festival would not be the “biggest annual celebration of the arts” with regard to the number of people who come to the Festival in South Africa, let alone in Africa where Moroccan festivals attract 500 000 people!

In pitching to sponsors though, an “attendance” figure of 225 000 is a lot more impressive than 11 000-15 000. While Lankester claims that “it’s not really about size”, why does the Festival stress its attendance figure – inflated by tens of thousands of freebies – rather than the actual number of attendees?

The – actual – size of the Festival (in terms of real numbers) DOES matter to artists. If the Festival is essentially a market for one’s work as an artist, then the size of the market is important, particularly if one is competing against 600 other events in that market. If an artist brings a work to a market on the understanding that there are 225 000 festinos, that is very different to a market that – in reality – is 20 times smaller!

The Festival believes that artists are under no illusions about what to expect when they participate on the Fringe. Until my initial article though, many artists did not know that festival “attendance” included thousands of free tickets or that attendance was calculated on the basis of one festino attending numerous events. I would suggest that Fringe artists would be under fewer illusions if they knew the actual number of tickets sold between the Main Festival and the Fringe, and if they had a further breakdown of Fringe ticket sales for different genres: dance, drama, comedy, physical theatre, children’s theatre, contemporary music, etc.

From the Rhodes University economic impact study, we know that only about one-third of producers actually made a profit on the Fringe in 2013.

If Fringe theatre producers had an idea of the average amounts made by Fringe theatre artists, they would be under even fewer illusions. What percentage of Fringe productions sell less than 100 tickets, 100-200, 201-300, 301-400, 401-500, 501-600, etc tickets? What percentage of Fringe productions make less than R5000, R5001-R10000, R10001-R15000, R15001-R20000, R20001-R30000, R30001-R40000, R40001-R50000 and R50001 plus? If these figures were then overlaid with the length of time that these producers were active on the Fringe, this would provide existing and new entry producers a far better idea of the financial risks regarding participation in the Fringe. They would be able to make better decisions about the amount of sponsorship they would need to raise to supplement their potential losses, or about whether it was possible to participate in the Festival at all.

If the number of productions on the Fringe grows while the actual number of people buying tickets for Festival events stagnates, declines or does not increase substantially, then the financial – as well as non-market – risks to Fringe producers increase as they are required to compete more among themselves for a non-growing market, or a market that is not growing at the same rate as the already-saturated Fringe.

Rather than the smoke and mirrors of “attendance figures”, the Festival should reveal to artists the real numbers of ticket buyers – is this increasing on a year-to-year basis? Is the Festival delivering – is it able to deliver – a market that would make it financially worthwhile for Fringe producers to take the risk to participate?

In my initial article, I argued for a smaller Fringe commensurate with the actual market of the Festival. In response, the Festival solicited an article from one of the authors of the Festival’s economic impact study which the Festival posted with an introduction by Tony Lankester saying “She (Jen Snowball – the author) has written a great, short paper which I won’t pre-empt or try and summarise” (other than to say it is “great”?).

That article is titled “The non-market benefits of Fringe production at the National Arts Festival”. Clearly, the ironies of this article are lost on both the author and the Festival as first, my initial article did not question the non-market benefits of Fringe participation and in fact, listed 9 such benefits, but more importantly, the authors of an economic impact study related to the Festival are telling artists about the non-economic benefits of participating in the Festival! In essence, the Festival is saying – to its sponsors – that it is having a positive economic impact, but to its artists (or at least not on two-thirds of them!) it is saying that they should be grateful for the non-economic benefits offered by the Festival.

Even if the primary motivation of Fringe producers may not be to make money, few can suffer major financial losses so that market-related concerns are by no means less important than non-market concerns as the Festival and its economic impact researchers have tried to imply. Why should – Fringe – artists carry the primary financial risks so that the Festival can claim to be “the biggest annual celebration of the arts in Africa?”

The economic impact of the Festival

Let’s reflect briefly then on the “economic impact” of the Festival as it has a direct bearing on who benefits – most – from the Festival. I need to state upfront that I have not read the full report; I requested a copy last Thursday from the Festival and at the time of this post today, had not received it yet. I am thus relying on media statements, newspaper reports and the Snowball article for my reflections.

Understandably, the Festival seeks to show its economic impact in the region and on the city of Grahamstown, not least because of its funding from the Eastern Cape government. The 2013 Economic Impact Study undertaken by Rhodes University’s Economics Department showed that the Festival contributed R349,9m to the Eastern Cape’s economy, R90m to the Gross Domestic Product of Grahamstown itself, and festinos were responsible for a further injection of R27,3m into the Eastern Cape before and after the Festival.

These are not unimpressive figures, and for what the Eastern Cape government grants as funding for the Festival, it receives – according to these figures – a significant “return on its investment”.

But, beyond these general figures, the more important question about this economic impact is: who benefits from this? This is a question that is particularly pertinent in the Eastern Cape, with its unemployment rate hovering at 30%, while unemployment among young people (under 25) is even higher at more than 50%. The unemployment rate in Grahamstown itself is even more dire at around 70%!

According to the study, the “major beneficiaries are the tourism and hospitality industries…”. Who then are the major beneficiaries? Which companies? Which restaurants? Which hotels and guest houses? Who owns them? How many are owned by black people who comprise 86% of the Eastern Cape’s population? Does the economic impact study reveal such detail? I would venture that it is companies that have been around for some time, or where owners have had access to capital, resources and networks for a while, who are the major tourism and hospitality beneficiaries of the Festival both in Grahamstown and in the broader Eastern Cape region.

At the launch of the economic impact study, Lankester is quoted as saying “In Grahamstown, one can conclude there is additional benefit to the education industry – the private schools and Rhodes University – who benefit from positive perceptions of the city and its uniqueness perpetuated by the Festival”. I wonder how the Eastern Cape government – the major funders of the Festival – and the local community feel about this i.e. that it is Rhodes University and private schools that benefit from the Festival? The Festival does not showcase what happens in the poorer parts of Grahamstown; it is the higher end of the city that benefits from “positive perceptions…perpetuated by the Festival” according to its CEO. These institutions benefit not only from such “perceptual marketing”, but more directly through actual income earned from their residences and venues used for the Festival. What, if any, are the real economic benefits to the residents and institutions of Makana municipality’s townships? How have these benefits grown since the last economic impact study?

The 2013 study also alludes to the contribution of the Festival to social cohesion, with nearly 70% of respondents agreeing with the statement “The Festival is an event where people from different cultures and backgrounds can meet and talk together”. Prof Jen Snowball, one of the authors of the study concluded that “this is an encouraging indicator that the Festival offers important opportunities for interaction and conversation across race, class and cultural backgrounds.”

This may very well be the case for people from all “race”, class and cultural groups coming to the Festival from the around the country, but what about festinos and the locals? What about social cohesion between the privileged communities of Grahamstown and the many who live in desperate poverty? Does the Festival contribute to social cohesion within the city itself (and if so, how, and is it sustainable) or is the Festival merely a privileged space for national conversations to take place despite the local inhabitants? Did this economic impact study test the views of local inhabitants and whether the Festival contributes to social cohesion or not, to the extent to which the Festival makes the local inhabitants – many unemployed and indigent – feel part of Grahamstown?

Now, of course, the Festival’s core business is to produce a festival. But the Festival takes place in city, regional and national contexts. The Festival obtains funding precisely because of its perceived contribution to improving the economy and – indirectly or directly – conditions of people living in the city. When the Festival sells itself as having more than an impact in and of itself, when public funds are used to support the Festival, then it is appropriate to question who ultimately benefits from the Festival, and whether this represents a fair range of beneficiaries.

Fringe Festival beneficiaries

While it is run by a private, non-profit company the National Arts Festival is essentially a state-subsidised market, paid for – largely – by taxpayer funds from the Department of Arts and Culture, the Eastern Cape government, the National Arts Council and with funds from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.

It would be appropriate therefore to determine who the primary beneficiaries of this state-subsidized market are.

In 2013, the top twenty Fringe shows in terms of ticket sales had eight returning shows and three sequels or franchises of previous shows. In other words, more than half of the top-selling shows were shows with festival brands. This percentage is even higher at 70% when applied to the top ten Fringe shows in terms of ticket sales. The same top ten ticket-sellers feature in the top ten income-generators, but not necessarily in the same order i.e. some sold more tickets at lower ticket prices than others who made more money from fewer people paying higher ticket prices.

Twelve of the top twenty ticket-sellers were comedies (Dr Stef’s Side Splitting Hypnosis, Big Boys II, Riaad Moosa Doctor’s Orders Tour, Raiders: The Whisky Trader, Rob van Vuuren – What What, Race Card, Jou Ma Se Comedy, Fully Committed, The Epicene Butcher and Other Consenting Stories for Adults, The Brothers Streep, Boet and Swaer and Ash and Van Exposed), six were dramas (The Three Little Pigs, Crazy in Love, Dirt, The Snow Goose, Brothers in Blood and Rainbow Scars), one was performance art (Unreal) and another was dance (Bitter Sweet).

The 39 Steps (Comedy), Face the Music (Music theatre) and Money Maker (Drama) replaced Fully Committed and my dramas produced by Artscape – Brothers in Blood and Rainbow Scars – in the list of top twenty income-generating shows, while all the other top twenty ticket-sellers also featured in the top money-making list.

As pointed out by Tony Lankester at the time: “There is a strong correlation between the lists of productions which do well in terms of actual tickets sold and in terms of the rand value of those tickets, which is logical. Where productions have done well in terms of numbers but not on rand value this can be attributed to relatively low ticket prices (Rainbow Scars and Brothers in Blood were priced at R50 and Fully Committed R55; while Face the Music and 39 Steps were at R75, Money Maker at R80)”

Another interesting observation by Lankester at the time was: “It is interesting to note that productions which win Standard Bank Ovation Awards can do well in the rankings – 6 of the top 20 by number won awards. However a total of 32 Ovation Awards were made, which means 26 productions won awards but found it difficult to make the list. One reason for this might be that audiences do gravitate to the known and familiar – witness the large number of returning productions and productions which are sequels or franchises which make the list. This could be as a result of good marketing; Ovation Awards won in previous years; productions building on successful runs in previous years”.

Five shows among the top-twenty ticket sellers and four of the top-twenty money-making Fringe shows were by ‘persons of colour’.

While the figures aren’t publicly available to see whether these percentages hold true for the rest of the Fringe productions, it would appear from the 2013 top-twenty lists that
a. returning productions and franchises based on past successful runs at the Festival are more likely to do well than “premieres”
b. for Festival producers then, it may be better to premiere a new production before the Festival so that it comes relatively settled and with some branding and momentum to the Festival; all such productions are eligible for the Standard Bank Ovation Awards which are made to productions that have not appeared at the Festival before, but which are not necessarily premiering at the Festival
c. as pointed out by Lankester, audiences are attracted to the “known and familiar”, so that it is difficult (though not impossible) for new productions and creative practitioners to “break into the market” at the Festival, and for most it will be 3-5 years before they develop their brands at the market
d. winning a Standard Bank Ovation award – a non-market reason for participating on the Fringe – does not necessarily translate into higher audience numbers or ticket sales at the Festival at which the award is made (sometimes the award is made too close to the end of the production’s run, or what the judges consider to be artistically meritorious or ground-breaking may not be consistent with word-of-mouth about the piece); winning such an award would be useful for marketing the work after the Festival or for getting the attention of international and local producers or for marketing the same production at the Festival in subsequent years
e. the Festival Fringe is kinder to practitioners and producers that have come to the Festival over a period of time (I would venture that more than half of the producers of the top twenty productions on both lists have been coming to the Festival with productions for ten years or more)
f. it is possible for some Fringe productions to charge relatively high prices (sometimes more than Main productions) and attract good audiences so that the experience – rather than the price – is the main attraction
g. the shows that have sold the most tickets and/or generated the most income are – generally – shows that have runs of 8-11 performances rather than the average 5 or 6 performances (it makes sense that the longer the run, the more time for word-of-mouth to build momentum)
h. shows or producers with well-known brands and/or who have been coming for a while, tend to get longer runs than newer or less well-known producers and shows
i. those who do well on the Festival Fringe in terms of ticket numbers and income are still overwhelmingly white
j. it is possible for persons of colour to do well on the Fringe (even for first-timers such as Riaad Moosa who topped the income list in 2013, while Siv Ngesi’s Race Card – a returning production – featured at 6 on the income list), so that although the Festival’s audience is still primarily white, this is not in itself a barrier for black Fringe producers and practitioners


The Festival may – in terms of the number of productions and events it offers – be the “biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent”. This is not the same as being the “biggest annual celebration of African arts on the continent” (that’s for another article!). While this appellation may appeal to sponsors and international partners, the reality of such a large festival with a stagnant or slow-increasing market, is a challenge for participating artists, particularly those on the Fringe who carry the most financial risk, while the Festival lays claim to its size.

The economic impact of the Festival – like its attendance figures – cannot simply be taken at face value; both need thorough interrogation – and less smoke and mirrors – if the Festival is to shift in order to serve its own artist stakeholders as well as its broader community more effectively.

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