This edition of The Artisan comes at an interesting time, as we have just celebrated Women’s Month and Heritage Day.
These are two critical celebrations in a relatively young democratic country that is in the process of healing the wounds of its past while forging ahead with appropriate, equitable and sustainable socioeconomic development.
Part of the mandate of the National Arts Council (NAC) is to facilitate access to the arts for historically disadvantaged individuals, and foster the expression of a national identity and consciousness by means of the arts, cultural expression and heritage. These aspects are hardly considered when thinking of the NAC as a grant making agency, yet they ought to be central to informing how the NAC fulfils its grant making function, as it is only when redress and identity consciousness are considered that positive growth can be experienced and enjoyed.
The NAC gives expression to its full mandate through the various projects it is either directly or indirectly involved in. This is especially done in terms of promoting women empowerment both inside and outside the organisation, and by means of adopting a strong focus on social cohesion and nation-building, the latter being critical to preserving and creating awareness of South Africa’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. As you will read in this edition, the NAC entrusts much of its internal high-level functions and decision making to black women who are passionate about the arts and exposing South Africa’s arts, culture and heritage (ACH) sector to audiences and investors that extend far beyond our national borders. In this edition, we have also highlighted two exceptional initiatives that drive the promotion of our heritage and gender empowerment, Gauteng Music Development and Zikulise Community Upliftment Project.
Founded by the legendary Victor Ntoni, Gauteng Music Development has, over the years, pioneered the production and transcribing of traditional music, among many other exciting projects, as you will read. Zikulise is a non-profit company at the forefront of creating jobs through vital skills training. The organisation offers foundation and advanced courses in fields such as sewing, ceramics and bead weaving, among others. What makes all Zikulise courses compelling and essential to socioeconomic development is that they are coupled with business skills training.
These are two projects that clearly highlight the manner in which the NAC is engaging with the challenges faced by women, especially those who are previously disadvantaged, as well as the NAC’s commitment to elevating South Africa’s heritage to its rightful place as something to cherish, revere and learn from to make a positive and meaningful impact in the lives of many young South Africans. As I have certainly learnt from my experience as chief executive of the NAC, the ACH sector is inextricably linked to education, social change and economic development and is integral to creating an identity that is unique and robust.
The late, great Miriam Makeba said it best when highlighting the dynamism, timelessness and richness of culture and heritage: “…In my culture, the past lives. My people feel this way in part because death does not separate us from our ancestors.”
Enjoy the read.
CEO, National Arts Council