Opening Address by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha at the Africa 2008 Conference and Workshop on Best Practices in Managing, Leading and Marketing Arts, Culture and Heritage Tourism, Johannesburg

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24 Jun 2008

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen

Firstly, I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to open this important conference and workshop. My task this morning, as I understood it, is just to do the official opening. The keynote address is someone else's responsibility.

This groundbreaking conference and workshop offers all of us working in the arts, culture and heritage sector a fresh perspective which, I am certain, will assist us in dealing with some of the challenges that confront the sector.

I understand that, in addition to focusing on the challenges faced by the sector, the conference will also discuss the substantive issues pertaining to governance, politics, policy, planning, management, tourism and marketing as well as provide creative and cultural industries business support and advice and other related services.

The discussions should, to a large extent, be informed by the strategic direction and plans of government departments responsible for arts, culture, heritage and tourism underpinned by the broader government imperatives.

This conference takes place at a time when we are experiencing so much destruction of our heritage in our country and the continent under the pretext that we are reclaiming and/or protecting our heritage. The recent incidents of violence and vandalising of our monuments are a case in point. I hope that this conference will also be able to provide us with tools to address some of these challenges.

The vision of our Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) is to develop and preserve South African culture to ensure social cohesion and nation-building. The arts, culture and heritage have made a significant contribution towards achieving these goals. These goals embrace the values of ubuntu.

The DAC will also soon be undertaking a study on the importance of heritage in tourism. The purpose of the study is to determine the impact of cultural heritage tourism on the overall economic growth and development in South Africa and to find the tools to measure its economic value.

Government is also concerned about the level of differentiation and lack of authenticity in the development of cultural products. Previous research undertaken by SA Tourism noted that cultural products needed to be more targeted, authentic and sophisticated.

This conference takes place just at the right time and I am sure it will assist DAC a great deal in formulating effective policies and strategies for the development of cultural heritage tourism in our country.

What we have yet to understand and engage with is the dynamic relationship between the arts, culture and heritage sector on the one hand and the tourism industry on the other hand. There needs to be greater recognition and better understanding and appreciation of the philosophy and economic contribution of the arts, culture and heritage sector and how it operates. We, therefore, need to create synergy between the two sectors.

Sometimes I question the wisdom of placing Tourism together with Environmental Affairs under one government department. Some provincial departments in South Africa have, of course, placed Tourism and Arts and Culture under one department which makes it easier to find synergies between the two sectors. I think they could be more successful and sustainable if placed together under the same department.

In theIn the mid 1990's, the DAC, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) embarked on programmes to realise the economic potential of the arts, culture and heritage industry. Both the DTI and DEAT later established Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA) to encourage investment in the sector. This is in addition to the incentives and tax breaks which are administered by DTI for the film sector.

These These initiatives were specifically aimed at realising the economic potential of the arts, culture and heritage industry. This resulted in the arts, culture and heritage being incorporated into national economic priority programmes. The Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA) has now been included the creative industries as national priorities for economic growth. The department would like to see increased involvement of various stakeholders, communities and other spheres of government in creating sustainable economic opportunities in the arts, culture and heritage sector. In other countries, such as United Kingdom and Egypt, the arts, culture and heritage sector contributes significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP) and is the bedrock of their tourism industry.

In the pursuIn the pursuit of economic benefits, we need to be mindful of the challenges posed by the commercialisation of the arts, culture and heritage. I am also aware of the debates of 'arts for arts sake'. I, however, believe that it is indeed possible to strike a balance between commercialisation and responsible usage of the arts.

Culture is a way of life and may mean different things to different people but the bottom line is that it defines us as belonging to the human family. It is also important that we understand that culture is dynamic - it is not static. We, therefore, need to preserve and protect what is good, authentic and uniquely South African and market it for the benefit of our people and our country making sure that we eliminate all distortions and misrepresentation as well as for enjoyment by tourist who visit our country. The arts in South Africa, and in most developing countries, are under-funded because of competing needs such as health, education and housing. It is therefore important to develop innovative and creative strategies to resource the sector. Another challenge is that whilst business values and acumen do not seem to have been assimilated by the sector, yet there is so much to learn from the private sector.

Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) remains a challenge in the sector, particularly to the previously marginalised communities. This is exacerbated by monopolistic tendencies of some role-players. Entry barriers remain high in the areas of production and distribution of cultural content. It is, however, encouraging to see small production and distribution companies emerging in sectors such as music and film.

In South Africa, for example, there is still the challenge faced by the majority of our people who remain in the fringes with no access to critical goods and services available in the sector.

Audience development in particular, remains a critical challenge; without a sustainable audience base, the South African cultural and heritage sector will not realise its potential. We need more black audiences for our books and publishing industries, theatre, museums and heritage sites to name but a few.

However, whilst the benefit of globalisation cannot be disregarded, it nonetheless poses a threat to the sustainability of indigenous cultural industries. Rapid technological advances also mean that we have to keep abreast of such developments in modern technology.

If the arts, culture and heritage sector is to make a significant contribution in supporting the tourism sector, then we need to develop a more dynamic people-driven approach which places people at the centre of such initiatives. Other forms of partnership also need to be entered into or strengthened, for example, between the public and private sector; between national government departments; and between the three spheres of government.

I am looking forward to the day when our television screens, radio stations and bookshops will inundated with locally produced cultural content.

This conference and workshop is most welcomed and I would like to thank the organisers for taking this initiative. I wish you all a very successful conference and I will await the outcome of four days of deliberations with keen interest.

It's now my honour to declare this conference open.

I thank you.