Themba Wakashe appointed as the new Director- General for the Department of Arts and Culture

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07 Sep 2007

The Minister of Arts & Culture, Dr. Z. Pallo Jordan has announced that Thembinkosi Philemon Wakashe has been appointed the new Director General of the Department of Arts and Culture, following a cabinet decision on Wednesday.

Mr. Wakashe is the second Director-General since the Department became independent and autonomous in 2004. He succeeds Professor Itumeleng Mosala who served in the position for four years until March 2007.

Wakashe was born on 29 November 1960.

As a boy, he showed a passionate interest in the arts that won him a scholarship that saw him pursue a BA (Drama) at Wits University which he completed in 1984.

Soon after that he went to New York University to read for a masters degree in performance studies. He later enrolled at Columbia University where he also completed a graduate programme in arts administration.

It was while he was studying in the United States that he was appointed manager for self-exiled piano maestro Abdullah Ibrahim in 1986. Soon after that he was employed as research assistant and associate in various American institutions, including Arts International, African Arts Fund and the Harlem School of the Arts.

Having completed his studies, Wakashe returned to the country to function as national Co-Coordinator for Arts & Culture South Africa, an umbrella body for formulating policies for the new society. He also worked as a lecturer in the School of Dramatic Arts at Witwatersrand University.

Significantly, he was appointed Chief Director for Arts, Culture and Heritage in the Department where he was responsible for relations with bodies like UNESCO, SADC, EU and former OAU.

Prior to that, Wakashe was part of the team that developed the Arts, Culture and Heritage White Paper which was the framework for the democratization of the arts sector. Also, he was credited with driving the development for the film industry.

It was in recognition of his arts focus, discipline and hard work that he was appointed Deputy Director-General in 2001, a job that saw him champion policy development, strategic planning, and oversight of statutory bodies.

It was during his tenure as Deputy-Director General in 2005 that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee appointed him Chairperson for the year to lead the body in its 29th Session which took place in Durban. Under his Chairpersonship the Africa Heritage Fund was set up to assist countries on the continent to maintain World Heritage Sites.

Throughout his life and career, Wakashe has made arts and culture central to his passions. His conviction that arts and culture is an instrumental of national unity and economic self-reliance is what makes him a natural choice to the position of Director-General.

“Wakashe is an arts veteran and administrator who has built a reputation as one of the few people who played a significant role in the efforts to formulate policies that would ultimately create better opportunities for South African artists to take their rightful place in the world.

“Over the last two decades his stature as an arts leader and visionary has grown as he has elevated the debate and formulation of policies behind the scenes to hew heights.

“It is only fitting that we appoint him the leader of this Department at a time when it has come into its own and plays a central role in nation-building efforts and to use arts and culture as an instrument for creating jobs and economic self-reliance among our artists.

“We look forward to working with him,” said Minister Jordan.