The National Arts Council (NAC), an agency of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC), embarked on a series of virtual panel and roundtable discussions in commemoration of Women’s Month and Heritage Month, with the view of bridging the gaps between cultural practitioners, whose collaborative efforts have been hampered by the pandemic.
As part of the Marketing and Communication Unit’s APP targets of achieving 3 Round Table Discussions and 3 Business Match Making Initiatives, the unit established themed virtual discussion which initiated knowledge sharing platforms between established professionals and young/emerging professionals from the arts, culture, and heritage sectors. In August, and as part of Women’s Month, 3 roundtable webinars were conducted and in September, as part of Heritage Month, 1 roundtable discussion was conducted.
The themes for these dialogues have been prompted by the severe impact that Covid-19 and the resulting nationwide lockdown has had on our cultural and creative industries. As our nation continues its fight against the global pandemic of COVID-19, we believe that it is our duty to highlight and sustain conversations related to the current epoch and its effects on the creative sectors.
1. Roadmap to Success: Women in the Arts Dialogue (Women’s Month 2021)
Facilitator: Zanele Khumalo
– 11 August 2021 at 2 pm: Asanda Sizani, Boitumelo Tshupa, Louise van der Bijl and Nthabiseng Malaka
– 18 August 2021 at 2 pm: Charmain Mrwebi; Dr Marlene le Roux; Langelihle Mthembu; Roxanne Konco
– 25 August 2021 at 2 pm: Kitty Phetla; Boitumelo Tlhoaele; Mmabatho Montsho Teresa Firmino; Ursula Pule.
From the National Arts Council:
– H.R.H. Princess Celenhle Dhlamini (Host)
– Thola Phetla (support)
– Gontse Mathabathe (support)
– Fikile Mthembu (support)
– Nomazulu Toukobong (support)
– Bavik Gosai (IT Support)
This webinar series highlighted the work of Womxn in the creative industry and allowed for a transfer of knowledge and skills. The participants hailed from a wide pool of backgrounds, with varying specialties. All three sessions were hosted by collector; editor, entrepreneur, speaker and storyteller Zanele Kumalo, alongside participants who hail from different disciplines in the arts, culture and heritage sector.
The webinars were hosted via the Zoom platform and was broadcast live on NAC’s Facebook platform (via Facebook Live). The sessions occurred every Wednesday afternoon at 2pm, starting from Wednesday, 11 August to Wednesday, 25 August 2020.
Participants discussed the challenges faced in their professional journeys and how these challenges were/are being overcome. They also looked at how their experiences shaped their careers and the lessons they have learnt from these experiences. Moreover, the established professional provided tips and recommendations on professional development to the younger/emerging professionals. The main objective of this webinar series was to ensure that artists learn from each other and are assisted in developing skills and knowledge they may not have acquired in their careers. The platform afforded the up-and-coming arts practitioners’ access to markets to enable their projects or organisations to gain exposure on a national base with a possibility of global access.
Themes were created to guide and frame the conversations and to give the participants the ability to prepare questions and responses.
Theme one: Sustaining a career in the arts in the times of a global pandemic.
- Examine pre-COVID gains/shortcomings in the workplace and determine where progress/regressions have occurred since the start of the pandemic.
- Consider how socially distanced careers are creating new opportunities/challenges?
- How has the sector/organisations/companies successfully adapted to the workplace environment to support the needs of women and mothers?
- What do you tell a client or funder who believes that pursuits like art and culture make the most sense to cut during a crisis?
- Which projects that you are/were involved with or have seen that give you hope or make you excited about a career in the arts?
- Which pink tax or invisible labour at the workplace would you like to take away from the next generation of women following you?
- What advice has most helped you build or sustain a career in the arts?
- How have you used your own failures for your own or the benefit of others?
- Have you thought about any ways that you hope to be a catalyst for gender equality in your respective field?
Theme two: Tactics for a holistic growth strategy in the arts, culture and heritage sectors.
- Address the micro and macro aspects of being growth-minded on a personal level and professional level.
- Discuss actionable tactics/techniques for building career momentum in the sector.
- Is education a key factor in building career in the arts? What are some of the other ways that have been impactful in your career -mentorship, networking, what about awards? And how are you using these to help those coming behind or alongside you?
- How important is keeping abreast of trends in your career and what are some of the future careers you’re seeing open already or that you would like to see?
- How does one achieve a work/life balance? Do you feel this in important in your life or do you have a different approach?
- What do men need to do in practical terms to help women in this sector?
- Can you talk about how language, inherited knowledge, and heritage have played a role in your success?
Theme three: Tactics for a holistic growth strategy in the arts, culture and heritage sectors.
- What is a brand?
- With everyone online, how can one grow a personal brand that stands out in the current digital age?
- What expectations are placed on womxn-led brands and/or womxn creatives/professionals in the arts?
- How important is a personal brand in the arts, in comparison to a professional/business brand
- Does anyone feel uncomfortable with the concept of a personal brand and what are the alternatives to help you build your career and market yourself?
- How do you use media interest in your work to your full advantage? Have you learned by trial and error or do/have you had help in this area?
- Have you had to do any reinventing of your brand because of the pandemic? Did you have help with this or did you strategise on your own?
- How important is it to get others input into marketing yourself?
- What advice has most helped towards your success in building your personal brand?
The dialogues were conversational and they were structured in such a way that each participant would gain insights and learnings from each other’s worldview, while feeling comfortable enough to share their own experiences. As a result, each participant travelled in the world of arts through the perspective of other participants. The conversation encouraged a supportive environment for each panellist’s journey in the sector.
Chairperson of NAC Council, H.R.H. Princess Celenhle Dhlamini hosted each session and introduced the facilitator and panellists. This ensured the visibility of the NAC’s Council and its commitment to continuously engage the sector.
Outcomes and Recommendations
This webinar series highlighted how collaboration is important factor in uplifting younger practioner’s in the creative sector. Other people’s proficiency can help you in areas that you are still developing.
Personal branding was a key factor that helps others know who you are. If you know what your brand is, you are able to refine it, own it and know who your target market is.
The exclusion of women in the arts was highlighted and panellists emphasised the need for a shift in gender roles, especially in how boy-children and men are educated and the assignment of domestic activities for women. Men need to be held accountable as role players in the home, to allow for women to achieve their career goals and impact in the arts.
Cross-disciplinary and multi-generational dialogues are critical in strengthening womxn art practitioner’s work and impact in the arts, culture and heritage sectors. These dialogues create an enriching platform for knowledge-sharing, while allowing younger practioners to learn from more established practioners in the sector.
It is also important to have more women-led conversations, beyond Women’s Month, in order to keep the momentum of engagement and knowledge sharing alive.
2. Our Living Heritage: Roundtable Discussion in commemoration of Heritage Month
Facilitator: Cllr Tshepo Mashiane
– Hlengiwe Dube (artist);
– Lucy Campbell (KhoiKhoi elder);
– Mbuso Khoza (musician);
– Msaki (musician);
– Prof. Sekgothe Mokgoatšana (academic) and;
– Tiego Tjale (author).
From the National Arts Council (in support):
– Thola Phetla
– Gontse Mathabathe
– Fikile Mthembu
– Bavik Gosai
Our living Heritage was the second webinar of this quarter, which took place on 30 September 2021 on the Zoom platform. It was broadcast live on NAC’s Facebook page for the broader arts community to access. The discussions marked the continuation of a series of industry-wide consultations by the NAC
Overarching theme for 2021’s Heritage Month: “The year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Celebrating South Africa’s Intangible Cultural Heritage”.
DSAC Subtheme: Celebrating Living Legends as holders of our intangible cultural heritage – celebrating two living legends: uMma Beauty Ngxongo and uBaba Mgwayo Enoch Mabiko.
The one-hour long conversation was conducted virtually on the Zoom platform and was live-streamed on NAC’s Facebook page. The webinar was conversational and focused on how the work of panellists created collective cultural, linguistic and artistic expressions. The conversation, which was facilitated by NAC Council Member, Tshepo Mashiane who highlighted the importance of the unifying thread embedded in our collective histories and cultural practices.
Outcomes and recommendations:
This session was important in expanding and highlighting humanity’s shared identity, heritage and culture.
The webinar allowed panellists to conversate on their understanding and definition of heritage and culture, both which have complex meanings. Heritage was defined as something that we inherit, and something that is part of a legacy transferred from one generation to another. Heritage encompasses everything that relays to human life, both tangible and intangible and is a share entity. Culture, on the other hand, was defined the ideas, customs, beliefs and social behaviours that sets us apart. In the context of South Africa, culture can vastly differ, due to our history.
The inclusion of the Khoe/!Xam people was an important step in bridging the gap between South Africa’s diverse cultural groups and ensured that this webinar was inclusive of a group of people who are often excluded and forgotten in important Heritage conversations.
Conversations on Heritage and Culture cannot occur without the inclusion of the First Peoples of South Africa, the Khoe/!Xam people. A deliberate identification for a special type of people was important in insuring that the speakers come from diverse backgrounds in the creative and cultural sectors.
Another important factor in ensuring an inclusive conversation on Heritage and Culture, the use of language needs to be better considered. Despite English being a common language that is largely understood by most people in South Africa, the use of mother-tongues should be encouraged.
The use of translators should form part of upcoming Heritage month roundtables to ensure that panellists can freely speak in the language of their choice. The inclusion of sign-language should also be considered in upcoming conversations to reach a wider audience.