Speech by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the BASA Awards Johannesburg

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
21 Sep 2015

The month of September is a time in which we have the opportunity to reflect on our past so that we understand where we are today and who we truly are.

It is a time in which we are reminded, so that we do not lose sight of this, that the different strands of history have influenced us and shaped who we are and what it means to be free.

This year’s Heritage Month is celebrated under the theme: “Our Indigenous knowledge, Our heritage: Towards the identification, promotion and preservation of South Africa’s living heritage.”

Thus it is appropriate that the 18th annual Business Arts South Africa takes place in September as we celebrate the achievements of our living legends in the arts and the legends in the making.

Importantly, these awards also focus on innovation in business support and excellence. It is based on the understanding that if we are to build a thriving relationship between business and the arts, we can only do so, if we explore new ways of doing business and adopt a novel approach when it comes to the arts.

Therefore, these awards have succeeded in telling a different story of the arts and painting a picture where smart partnerships enable the arts to flourish.

Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) was founded in 1997 as a joint initiative of the Department of Arts and Culture, Science and Technology and the business sector, as a public/private partnership. To date the Department of Arts and Culture provides funding for the running costs of this initiative.

We are providing this support precisely so that the officials of BASA can forge partnerships without having to worry about where their basic upkeep is coming from. But we are also doing this to demonstrate our commitment to the success of public private partnerships in general and to business and the arts in particular.

Our country is fortunate to have many creative artists in all the arts disciplines. The problem remains for these artists to be able to sustain their activities and arts businesses and to tap into the resources to support them.

The Department of Arts and Culture funds artists through various means, including through our associated institutions, and through the Mzansi Golden Economy initiatives, but these resources are not enough to answer the needs of artists, communities and audiences throughout the country.

The development of arts businesses is important because it contributes to the cultural, social and economic life of communities, cities, rural areas and to our country as a whole. Therefore it makes business sense to invest in the arts. In doing so, you are encouraging and influencing the cultural imagination of our people and the shape of things to come.

Recently the Department concluded a national mapping study that identifies and looks at arts organisations and businesses in every part of the country and in every province. This mapping process has been important so that we fully understand what we have on the ground, what impact the creative economy has on the country and where best our interventions should be to grow initiatives and provide support.

Our study estimates that the creative economy in 2013 contributed R90.5 billion to the economy and created over 500,000 direct and indirect jobs. This shows that the creative economy is a significant force and has great potential to do even better.

Recently released research results in the BMI SPONSORSHIP 100 Report may provide insights into sponsorships across the economy and point in directions that have positive implications for the arts.

The Report suggests that there are more jazz fans than there are football fans in South Africa. It further suggests that Africa as a whole is an important focus of sponsors, with 87% of sponsors showing interested in the continent.

  • Some further high level results of the 2014 ARTSTRACK Report imply that music is being seen as an alternative to sports sponsorship.  It is also perceived to be the first option for sponsorship when it comes to the arts (particularly through marketing).
  • 57% of adults in SA are positively inclined towards companies sponsoring music, and 46% towards companies sponsoring arts and culture in general.
  • Important for the profile of BASA, is that 92% of sponsors claim to be aware of BASA – an upward trend in the last 7 years.

Now, let us imagine how our lives would be without the arts – without the sounds of music in our lives, without the inspiration of poets, without the fables and folklore told by story tellers, without the architects, who help to shape our physical spaces, without the words we read in books, the movies we see on television.

Without the arts, we would not know ourselves fully.

Without the arts, we would not have a vibrant narrative of our national life.

Life, without the collective resources of our libraries, museums, theatres and galleries, without literature, music, crafts and art, would be static and sterile.

Our arts and culture are therefore a strategic national resource and a way in which we too are viewed by the world.

What it means to be South African, what it means to be an African, and what it means to be human, are questions that can best be answered by the arts.

This fundamental role of the arts is in enriching individual lives and those of families, friends, and networks. The arts also raises consciousness and enhances social bonds through encouraging reflection and discourse. In this way the arts can produce solutions and promote active citizenship that is desirable in a pluralistic society.

All these experiences lead to social cohesion and the making of a nation, a continental identity and a sense of internationalism and solidarity in the world.

South Africa’s music, visual arts, films and literature are continuing to make their mark in the world. We need to invest much more in the arts to help to tell our stories and to produce great art works.

We need more local content and the origin of this content begins with encouraging a girl child who can write, inspiring a boy child who can sing, creating enabling conditions for a nation who has the confidence to dream.

This is not the task of teachers or parents alone, but of all of us, government and business who must share a common vision and an understanding that society as a whole should profit from business success.

Our task is also a continental task and, significantly, South Africa was the eighth country on the continent to ratify the African Union’s Charter for Africa’s Cultural Renaissance.

This Charter is a tool developed to empower Member States to promote Pan–Africanism, cultural renewal and continental identity as well as strengthening national policies and other cultural instruments, contributing to Africa’s socio-economic and cultural integration, building sustainable peace and fighting against poverty.

As government we are committed to advancing the arts. Our support for the arts community takes many forms. Our policies have helped to stimulate cultural activity in all parts of the country. We have dedicated public funding for the arts.

However let me repeat that this is not enough. Other partners need to come to the party in more sustainable and sustaining ways.

We would like to see many more corporations becoming involved with the arts. To all those who are already there, we appreciate your cooperation, your consistency and your effort.

Working together, I am certain, we can build a platform for the growth and development of the arts, which can enrich our lives and bring joy to so many.

I am aware that BASA has 160 business members, all of whom are active sponsors of the arts and the awards. Let me commend Hollard and Business Day for partnering with the BASA awards and its recognition of excellence in arts sponsorship across 15 categories that recognise the scale and scope of South African sponsorship of the arts.

Last year I indicated that the Department would commence with Creative Arts Incubators. Thus far 6 incubators have been launched in a pilot programme with the Department’s performing arts institutions. These incubators aim to develop the skills of arts entrepreneurs and also to create new revenue generating products and services. A further call will be made to arts organisations and business for the hosting of incubators later in 2015.

Linked to the incubators is a modest fund that will provide seed capital to support the products and services developed in the incubators; and on a wider scale, discussions are at an advanced stage with National Treasury that will allow for the launch of a venture capital fund.

The Department has also been engaging with National Treasury and the Davis Tax Commission to make representation to the Commission on this and other reforms that will enhance the ability of the arts, culture and heritage sector to attract investment.

We believe that there is a need for on-going research that tracks the contribution of the creative economy to the GDP of South Africa and to the transformation of our country; and that research should provides insights into a return on investment for the funding that has been provided to the sector.

The Department has awarded a 3 year contract to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) to host the Cultural Observatory. This is a research programme that will conduct impact studies, assist with monitoring of key programmes, disseminating information and filling in the missing gaps, so that we are all increasingly knowledgeable about the realities and needs on the ground.

I began by talking about the theme of Heritage Month. Let me conclude by indicating that we have launched The Living Legends Legacy Programme.

This is a new programme initiated by the Department to recognise the contribution of “living treasures” to the country’s intangible cultural heritage and to ensure that the legends continue to play an active role in shaping the sector. This, we shall do, through a number of interventions, including master classes, appearances at key events, benefit concerts, and involvement in artists in school programmes. We are also exploring artists in residency programmes through our associated institutions.

We have made R5 million available for this initiative for this year and a further R15 million over the next three years.

Let this be a clarion call to business to become involved in this initiative and to pledge your support to the living legends legacy programme.

We wish all the finalists well and convey our congratulations to the winners of the BASA 2015 awards.

May you continue to do the good and innovative work that you are doing to build arts in this country and in promoting South African art to the rest of Africa and to the wider world.

I thank you.