Department of Arts and Culture contributes to a uniquely South African Design Sector

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Design is an integral part of arts and culture that takes expression in areas such as fashion, jewelry, lifestyle and decor, arts, graphic design and more. South African Designers have exhibited, displayed and won awards through their creativity and innovative expressions and realisations both at home and in the international arena. Their artistic expressions are rooted in ancient and authentic traditions or in futuristic works creating the design landscape of tomorrow. Wherever these creators of South Africa draw their inspiration, they all contribute to telling a story about our country to our own people and the world, for in design, each creation has a purpose and a story.

It is the role of the DAC to support these artists in the design sector through training, funding, exposing their works, and helping them to access platforms beyond our borders.

The Department accompanies our designers on their journey to greatness and to becoming household names. In turn, these designers contribute to building the image and reputation of a creative and innovative nation. The Department is committed to creating an enabling environment where South African designers are empowered to set up viable businesses in a sector that contributes to economic growth, as they move from just being “self-employed” to employing others. Examples of this are the textile industry used by fashion designers and the furniture and décor industry, which both lead to significant job creation.  Indeed, in the textile and fashion industry that suffered many job losses, South African designers have created new opportunities.

This journey to greatness begins with emerging designers and the Department’s actions to give them access to strategic market platforms to exhibit their creations. This is the purpose of the longstanding partnership of the DAC, with one of the grandest design initiatives in the world. A conference and exhibition that takes place on African soil, right here in South Africa, The Design Indaba. This international design platform welcomes over 3000 visitors annually. The strategic partnership is the Emerging Creatives Programme and it started 15 years ago. Over the years, it has proven to be the most successful development programme for growing potential young design entrepreneurs, enabling them to market their products and learn best business practices in the sector. The programme includes architects, fashion designers, illustrators, graphic designers, social entrepreneurs, jewelers, furniture designers and other creatives.

To date, the DAC has supported over 500 creatives through the Emerging Creatives programme. This year, after going through master class workshops on the principles of the design business, 40 young emerging creatives were given the opportunity to display their products at the Design Indaba and engage with captains of the industry.

Through the strategic partnership, the Department has launched the careers of many notable established South African Designers. Some success stories include those of local household name and internationally admired fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo, who creates modern Xhosa-inspired knitwear. His geometrically structured designs are inspired by popular Xhosa beadwork motifs such as the arrow, diamond, zig-zag and interpreted into knitwear collections. Markets from Europe to America have found his creations irresistible and original. Another creative design talent from the Eastern Cape, Andile Dyalvane of Imiso Ceramics, recognised for his exclusive once-off ceramic pieces rose to fame because of his unique, earthy, elegant ceramic works. And, Illustrator, designer, artist Daniel Ting Chong is emerging as one of Cape Town’s top creative talents following a series of exhibitions, talks and design collaborations with leading international brands such as Nike and the Discovery Channel. Refilwe Thaisi of Seshweshwe fame is another designer who has received support from the Department in taking her designs using the Shweshwe print to new markets.

The DAC also supports other training and development programmes in the design sector and a number of other design platforms. These include the Sister Bucks fashion training academy, the Thuthuka Jewelry training project, the Armor Fashion seminar, the Berlin Fashion Focus and the KZN Fashion Council, to mention a few. In terms of wider market access, the Department has also given over 40 South African designers from various provinces funding to participate at international platforms such as Africa Fashion Reception, Swahili Fashion Week, Lagos Fashion Week, Torino Fashion Week and Uganda Fashion Week.

Moving away from fashion, the area of visual arts is also receiving continued support from the DSAC. The Department launched The Art Bank in 2017 with the purpose of supporting local artists, particularly emerging artist, by purchasing their works and exhibiting and selling their works across the country. The Art Bank assists in building the reputation of the artists and introduces their works to wider markets. It is a national programme of the DSAC as part of the Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) strategy implementation and the National Museum of Bloemfontein, an agency of the Department, hosts the collection. The vision of The Art Bank programme is to promote, foster and stimulate a vibrant market for the collection of South African contemporary visual arts.

To date, 196 artworks have been acquired from 98 artists at a cost of over R 3,2 million and exhibitions have taken place in Bloemfontein-Oliewenhuis , Durban, Johannesburg, and currently in Polokwane. The DAC recognizes the importance and value of artists to telling the story of our nation and diverse cultures, building the reputation of the country in the arts world and contributing to creating stronger awareness on numerous issues such as the importance of recycling through their techniques. Since its inception, the Art Bank has received R6 million in funding from the Department.

On the international stage, the South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is of strategic importance in stimulating the supply and demand of the works of South African visual artists. It is indeed the task of government to discover and encourage national talent and to promote the talent on international platforms. Over 700 000 people visit the Venice Biennale every two years from May to November. In 2017 the DAC invested R 6,5 million to give our artists access to this strategic platform and a further R 8 million in 2019 promoting artists such as Mohau Modisakeng, Candice Breitz, the Natal Collective, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Mawande Ka Zenzile and Tracey Rose. The pavilion also created 27 additional jobs.  In addition to the Venice Biennale planned by the Department in 2017 the MGE Touring Venture Program supports many artists who want to go on tour to promote their works. One such initiative is Undiscovered Canvas founded by Nomaza Nongqunga-Coupe, which is a brand that has taken the international visual arts space by storm. The initiative that promotes South African art in Europe has created a further strategic partnership in France to establish a residency for African Artists. Gibs Digole, a young artist from Limpopo, was the first beneficiary of the residency and continues to sell his artworks internationally.  

Minister Mthethwa reiterated that, “Supporting South African artists in all areas is an essential part of the role of the DAC and our commitment to continuing to do so will be apparent in the activities we have planned in the 2020-2021 year. Our teams remain alert to requests for support, and opportunities to submit proposals will be announced for the above programmes that will prioritise emerging designers.”


Issued by: Department of Arts and Culture