Deputy Minister Andries Nel: 30th Anniversary of Sibikwa Community Arts Centre

25 Aug 2018

Speech by Mr Andries Nel, MP, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs at the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Sibikwa Community Arts Centre  in Ekurhuleni 

Programme Director,
MMC Dora Mlambo Member of the Mayoral Committeee for Arts and Culture Ekurhuleni
Bra Small Ndaba and Ms Phyllis Klotz
Comrades and friends of the Sibikwa Community Arts Centre

Thank you very much for the joy of sharing this special day with you.

Over the last three decades, the Sibikwa Art Centre has been the home for artists of all ages. You have brought different communities together, and you have advanced transformation and social cohesion. We admire and thank you for your achievements and for the lives that you have changed. 

But as we celebrate we should also reflect and remember Ma Zondeni Sobukwe, Aretha Franklin, Winston Ntshona.

I would like to being by recalling the words of the late Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile in his keynote address to the Culture and Resistance Symposium held from 5-9 July 1982, in Gaborone, Botswana:

“A few years ago a fellow South African writer asked me to explain to him how people like la Guma and I could be in the Movement but still manage to write novels and poems. 

And I replied, with a bit of acid on my tongue, that I had always wondered how a South African writer could be outside the Movement but hope to write anything of value or significance.

Others might even wonder as to what most of what I have said so far has to do with culture and the arts. And I will say, Everything, because what happens in life and social consciousness finds expression in artistic creativity.

Everything in society results from human activity, interaction and interests. This applies as much to the creation of literary art as it does to mobilizing workers to go on strike or to pick up arms against their oppressors and exploiters. 

In clarifying the relationship between literature and life, Alex la Guma, himself a cultural activist and a leading cadre of the Movement, says: When I write in a book that somewhere in South Africa poor people who have no water must buy it by the bucketful from some local exploiter, then I also entertain the secret hope that when somebody reads it he will be moved to do something about those robbers who have turned my country into a material and cultural wasteland for the majority of the inhabitants.

In other words, literature is a site of struggle; it must serve the interests of the people in their fight against a culture which insists that they should be robbed.

Mayibuye, Amandla! are examples of cultural collectives. The task facing these artists is formidable. There are a number of charlatans, pimps and prostitutes running around the world masquerading as artists; talking about how sensitive they are; how they cannot be involved in social issues; how art is for its own sake and a lot of other nonsense. The artist is both a participant and imaginative explorer in life. Their hideous masks must be yanked off by the artists with a sense of duty and a clear social vision. Creative energy is not locked up in any tower, ivory or black, inside a typewriter, a musical instrument or a can of paint.

There is no such creature as a revolutionary soloist. We are all involved. The artist is both a participant and imaginative explorer in life. Outside of social life there is no culture, there is no art; and that is one of the major differences between man and beast.”

In A Velha Casa de Madeira e Zinco (The Old House of Wood and Zinc) Luis Bernando Honwana, author and activist in Mozambique’s struggle for independence, laments the fact that:

“Typically, our rallies start with “culture”, that is, with the performance of groups of song and dance. When the people are sufficiently animated the commissar takes the microphone, dismisses the musicians and dancers, gives the appropriate “vivas” and “abaixos” and announces to the leader that the “povo” is ready to “receive the directives.” 

Honwana says that sending the artists offstage is like sending children out to play while adults discuss serious matters. At yet the process of nation building is a pre-eminently cultural process.

On 22 August 2018 Cabinet approved the Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage.

I would like to highlight  some aspects of the White Paper that relate most directly to community art centres and work of the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Firstly, the White Paper recognises that the persistence of Apartheid spatial patterns and rapid urbanisation in South Africa and how these impact on nation building and social cohesion. In this regard it links to the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).

It makes the point that the White Paper of 1996 was silent on the role of cities in promoting arts, culture and heritage and, as a result, much of the progress in how cities engage with these sectors has been uneven and dependent on respective city officials and local government strategies.

However, it is clear that cultural and creative industries have a tendency for spatial concentration and agglomeration, particularly in the larger urban centres and South Africa is no exception. 

City governments can play a direct role through infrastructure investments such as for film production studios or major civic complexes supporting opportunities for the arts, or indirectly through their support to education and training institutions that focus on art and design or the business functions of the cultural and creative industries, or the provision of advanced business services (banking, consulting, R&D) and senior management functions relevant to media, design and marketing services.

This policy focuses on the design of cities as a key strategic factor determining comparative advantage in the cultural and creative industries. They offer the following:

  1. They provide significant markets for cultural production, exhibition and performance.
  2. They are powerful magnets for talent.
  3. They provide the creative inputs and lifestyle attractions that artists and creatives need in order to thrive.
  4. They facilitate important links in the value chains and are sites for the management and coordination of functions.
  5. They are the sites of concentration for Government and corporate investment.

The presence of cultural and creative industries, cultural infrastructure, clusters of creative activities, events, fairs and markets are in turn attractive to inward flows of investment as well as people, the latter ranging from visitors, tourists, business people, skilled migrants to international students.

Local governments can stimulate the vitality of urban spaces by facilitating the provision of spaces for independent cultural businesses, small-scale arts venues, cheap and flexible workspaces, accessible cheap rented accommodation, small cafes and bars for live music. 

These creative assets often come up against the increasing value of urban real estate markets that results in the exit of artists and cultural businesses from these spaces. DAC needs to support local governments in mitigating these trends.

The values of the arts, culture and heritage in cities are replicated in smaller urban concentrations of small towns. 

DAC public consultation process revealed a deep disconnect and discontent in smaller towns around the country relating not only to economic inclusion and governance, but also to cultural equity in terms of funding and cultural infrastructure provision. 

Supporting the cultural offerings in these smaller urban agglomerations is important for social inclusion and the diversity of cultural expressions as well as for the intrinsic benefits in improving quality of life.

Communities in and around large urban concentrations are also able to articulate their independent sense of place and internal organisation where unique cultural facilities and creative talent are located. 

The cost of inner city real estate can give rise to smaller cultural and creative industry agglomerations in suburbs and townships attached to the metros. 

Local art galleries and museums, community arts and craft centres, adult education and community colleges, amateur theatre and music societies, language classes, bands, church choirs and dance troupes equally require attention from DAC and the local government authorities to nurture and strengthen these more local cultural expressions.

The White Paper devotes extensive attention to community arts centres.

It points out that DAC funded audits support the idea that community arts and culture centres and programmes are, in general terms, better managed by independent, usually non-profit, entities which have a vested interest in bringing together the interests of national, provincial and local government, the local community, art practitioners and local business. 

Indeed, the 2013 audit found that government employed centre managers advocated for more active community participation in the governance of centres, and which would provide centres with the ability to attract and effectively manage new sources of external or self-generated revenue or funding in support of both their operations and programming.

It identifies as a core challenge the need for arts, culture and heritage to be a funded mandate at the local government level.

In recognition of the importance of community arts for all our communities across South Africa, the White Paper proposes the adoption of a Conditional Grant for community arts centres in a similar vein to that of community libraries. 

The conditional grant will be allocated to provincial departments of arts and culture in support of local government and national initiatives with respect to community arts. 

The goal of this Conditional Grant will be enable South African society, whether they are located (primarily targeting previously disadvantaged communities), access to the cultural life of their community and to participate in arts, culture and heritage activities of their community.

All three spheres of government to cooperate in providing facilities and resources for the development of arts, culture and heritage at community level with a recognition that each tier of government has different competencies in relation to community arts; namely:

The national sphere is responsible for policy-driven implementation and interdepartmental coordination, intergovernmental coordination, financial and strategic support to other spheres of government in realising their mandates; and for monitoring, evaluation, impact assessment and research.

The provincial sphere is centrally responsible for the coordination and resourcing of programming at a provincial level so that community arts centres produce programming (artistic and educational) in response to community needs.

The local sphere is responsible for coordination and financing of infrastructure maintenance and development at a local level.

It has a critical role to play in ensuring that community arts and culture centres and programmes are integrated into an overall plan of service delivery at the local level and in the planning processes that shape this delivery.

This calls for the clarification of mandates and resources accompanying mandates coupled to second, legislated funding at a local government level.

The following interventions are proposed:

This policy must identify different cultural levers at the local government level, such as:

  1. The promotion of tangible or intangible heritage;
  2. The systematic inclusion of culture in the overall development strategies;
  3. The design of new types of cooperation and teaching to facilitate innovation and job creation;
  4. The use of digital technologies to enhance, promote and facilitate access to tangible and intangible heritage, products of arts and cultural activities and industry;
  5. The promotion of arts, culture and heritage events and festivals;
  6. Strategic engagement of the arts sector in the local economic landscape; and;
  7. A clear policy for commissioning arts organisations to achieve economic outcomes.

All local governments are encouraged, based on this revised White Paper, to develop city and town-level policies on arts, culture and heritage, including the cultural and creative industries, in conjunction with local stakeholders in their sector, to define their desired outcomes and strategic intent at local level.