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It’s been two decades since the inception of the National Arts Council, the public entity mandated to facilitate the development of arts, culture and heritage in South Africa. The National Heritage Council and Market Theatre Foundation share their well wishes for the NAC.

NAC – 20th Anniversary message from CEO of the NHC, Adv. Sonwabile Mancotywa

This 20 years milestone of the National Arts Council of South Africa marks the coming of age of the strategic direction of the arts, culture and heritage sector in this democratic country. Congratulations to the NAC for striving to give South Africans the freedom to express their culture and heritage through the arts. I can concur that they have done so through a fruitful partnership of national importance we have with the organisation through the NHC’s Heritage Education School Outreach Programme to educate our primary school learners about our country’s intangible heritage. The arts, culture and heritage are fundamental to society for they possess the creative and innovative means of self-actualisation and social transformation based on the social practices, values, traditions and histories of cultural communities. We acknowledge that heritage has distinct and specialised functions, like the creative arts which constitute a set of inextricably interrelated practices which together make up the heritage systems of the country. Through our partnership, we remain committed to educating South Africans about their heritage through the arts, and strive to sustain the economy of our country through arts, culture and heritage.
Message From The Chief Executive Officer: Market Theatre Foundation:

The story of South Africa’s transition to democracy can be written in many forms but the way in which artists continue to tell this tale will always be one of the most vibrant records that we can endow to future generations. From songs that heal us to poetry that inspires us, from music that moves and to dances that engage us in reflection, from novels that inform us to theatre productions that challenge us to re-envision new possibilities, from crafts that draw on the spirits of our ancestors to new art forms that anchor us to our present time the one certainty that we all have is that in the past 20-years the access to the arts that South Africans have has grown in leaps and bounds.

Not only have South African artists successfully created exciting and cutting-edge work to present in our leading theatres, galleries, music halls and festivals but over the past twenty years we have witnessed so much more work being developed and presented in some of the most remote parts of the country. If there was any commitment made in 1994 to the “Arts for All” philosophy then we can proudly proclaim that this is one vision to which we have remained absolutely true.

The past 20-years could not have been an easy journey for a funding institution that was born at the dawn of our new democracy. It could only have been faced with massive demands from a passionate arts community wanting access to its limited pots of funds. The National Arts Council needed to create policy. It needed to create systems. It needed to connect us to the global community so that we could grow out of the pariah status that isolated South Africa during the international cultural boycott of the apartheid years.

Over the past 20-years I’ve engaged with the National Arts Council through my different roles as an independent artist, as a Director of a municipally-managed theatre then through my position at the US Embassy to broker partnerships between South African agencies and their US counterpart; then as Artistic Director of the National Arts Festival and now finally as the Chief Executive Officer of the Market Theatre Foundation. In addition, I’ve sat on boards of organisations that have engaged with the National Arts Council. I can only envy the resilience of the NAC to respond to the many demands that it receives; and to how it has reinvented itself to meet the challenges of our constantly evolving arts and cultural industry.

No organization can grow without embracing that it will be praised for its successes as much as it will be criticized for the areas where it could have done better. This is indeed the South African story a testimony that our journey towards the transformed society that we continue to seek is built stronger when it rests on the foundations of critical reflection, well-earned celebration and dynamic re-envisioning.

This 20-year milestone in the history of the National Arts Council offers it an invaluable opportunity to reflect on its past, celebrate its resilient existence and to re-envision the next milestone. As artists across our country take their curtain calls and as audiences applaud, as crafters package their new products and as arts collectors take home their new artworks the message is loud and clear — we are undoubtedly a far better country where the arts continue to heal us and to offer us hope. For that we do owe some gratitude to those who have worked tirelessly at the National Arts Council over the past two decades to facilitate our artistic journeys and experiences.

Ismail Mahomed
Ceo: Market Theatre Foundation


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