The arts play a significant role in contributing to nation building and social cohesion in South Africa. In their definition of social cohesion and nation building, the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture asserts that social cohesion is the degree of social integration and inclusion in communities and society, and the extent to which mutual solidarity finds expression among individuals and communities. Therefore, from the perspective of this narrative, a community or society is cohesive to the extent that the inequalities, exclusions and disparities based on ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, age, disability or any other distinctions, which engender division and conflict, are reduced or eliminated in a planned and sustained manner. For example, this can be achieved through various arts and culture programmes that are inclusive of all groups within a community. This programme meets the NAC objective of creating a vibrant, inclusive and a transformed arts and culture sector.
It is important that funding requests for this programme are underpinned by equity, inclusivity, diversity and participation of various groups of people (women, youth, vulnerable people and people living with disabilities).
An example of these projects are those that have the sole aim of fostering social cohesion and nation building such as arts indabas, conferences, book fairs, art exhibitions, workshops, arts festivals, stage productions and performances, creative writing, etc. All these arts activities can promote social cohesion and nation building in the content of their presentation.
This programme focuses on driving content creation at both an individual and at an organisational level. Content creation lies at the heart of the creative industries. It aims to promote excellence and innovation in new works. New innovative designs and works must have intrinsic and economic value, and incorporate the elements of dynamism and vibrancy to the arts. Research and development are essential elements in the creation of new works. The modern meaning of Innovation is a new idea, creative thoughts, and new imaginations in form of device or method. Innovation is viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. Design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object/art work or system for the implementation of an activity or process. Creation is the act or process of bring something into existence. An example of such a project, which demonstrated innovation, is called “African Robots meets SPACECRAFT. The artists used wire to build sculptures and breathed life into them using batteries to create mobility in the object. The artists assert that wire art is used for a range of subjects, however, the approach was to entertain and create a platform of wire art to be enjoyed by the public.
Platforms enable the arts to be showcased and appreciated. It is important to develop and support the platforms required to showcase the arts. Arts content creation and distribution is important for the development of audiences, audience engagement and for the consumption of the arts. Platforms allow artists to showcase creativity, innovation and excellence and to enhance market access. The Programme focuses on projects whose aim is to showcase art forms on a particular platform.
Applicants who wish to showcase art works that have already been created or have passed the creative phase may apply to this programme. For example, applicants who want to organize music performances, dance performances, poetry performances, drama festivals, etc. for the public to view. These art presentations develop audiences. In addition, visual artists and crafters who want to organize crafts fairs and exhibitions at Galleries for remote or online consumption can apply to this programme, as exhibitions are platforms to showcase the arts works. These projects meet the NAC’s objective to create market access and enrichment through arts and culture.
Strategic Initiatives help to raise the profile of the National Arts Council develop and promote the arts significantly in South Africa. They include innovation, capacity building, the leveraging of finances, partnerships and focus on execution to deliver value in line with the National Arts Council’s overall mandate. Strategic Initiatives focus on working with partners to leverage available funding, build sustained capacity and achieve real impact for the arts community.
Strategic Initiative projects have the potential and capacity to attract and broaden public interest and involvement in the arts; they may include local and international collaborations. Projects with intent to grow the sector could be art events, festivals or other projects and they assist the NAC in achieving its strategic objectives. Other examples of projects with strategic intent include arts residencies as well as part-funded commissions, which include elements of strategic capacity building and innovation. Innovation under this programme entails ground-breaking work and experimentation in various geographic regions, which grow and/or transform the sector by leveraging finances, in-kind contributions and partnerships. Strategic partnerships would be with stakeholders such as South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Department of Basic Education and Foreign Funding Agencies for example. Further examples of projects may include country- to- country partnerships, seasons programmes, performance circuits and so forth. Strategic Initiative projects build sustained capacity and require a substantial initial investment. These projects also tend to have a multiplier effect. Budgets and funding requests for strategic initiatives tend require substantive partner support to be larger than those for ordinary arts projects because of their potential impact.
Capacity building is an essential element for developing the arts to ensure excellence. Through support for the provision of training and education, this programme offers grants to support the growth and talent of arts practitioners and other industry related professionals such as community art centre managers, art technicians and arts administrators. This will ensure that South Africa has a sustainable pool of developed and talented artists and leaders.
Capacity building entails the transfer of skills through programmes designed to empower art practitioners. This is done through formal education and training and informal education and training programmes.
Formal education and training: A formal education and training programme entails a well-designed programme for training practitioners in a particular area of developing skills and knowledge. An example is a training course for theatre and drama for a duration of a year or more, which results in a qualification in the form of a certificate, diploma or degree. The attainment of the qualification is based on the excellent performance of a participant theoretically and practically.
Informal education and training: An informal education and training programme entails capacity building for participants in the form of workshops or seminars for example, and may take a short period to complete than a formal training programme. Most informal capacity building programmes are practical in nature. For example, script writing workshops, which may last for a week or more, and the end result will be based on the practical assessment of participants in writing their own short stories, which may be showcased as a final product of the workshop, such as script reading/performance.