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African Arts Institute And National Arts Council Collaborate On 2015/16 South African Handbook On Arts And Culture

A new edition of The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture is now available, published by the African Arts Institute (AFAI), with the NAC as the primary partner.

The handbook is an indispensable resource for contemporary arts and culture practitioners and offers invaluable insights and contacts across a wide range of disciplines, including craft, dance, design, fashion, film, heritage, literature, music, theatre and visual art. Executive Director of the AFAI and editor of The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture Mike van Graan said: “The Handbook is a practical response to the need for useful information within the arts, culture and heritage sectors.

“Comprising nearly 400 pages, it gives a comprehensive overview of key contacts across the creative industries in SA, including; government departments responsible for arts and culture at both national and local levels; public sector funding agencies and private sector sponsors; international agencies engaged in the creative industries in SA; competitions and awards; professional bodies and key media outlets. It also contains an introductory chapter on Africa for those keen to establish relationships across the continent.”

NAC CEO Rosemary Mangope commented; “The NAC is proud to be the primary partner in the production of The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture, a much-needed resource for our industry. As an organisation we encourage collaboration and partnerships so that, collectively, we can help to realise the dreams of those active in the sector. Not only does the Handbook provide a wealth of practical information that will help readers to act, network and collaborate, the listings celebrate South Africa’s arts and culture sector by pointing to the richness and variety of our local artistic practice and innovation.”

The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture retails at R295 (inclusive of VAT, but excluding packaging and shipping costs) and can be ordered from info@afai.org.za. Orders of 10 – 99 copies are eligible for a discount of 10%, while orders of 100 or more will receive a 15% discount.

Provincial launches are being planned across a range of cities during September and October where the Handbook may be bought directly – follow @nacsouthafrica and www.facebook.com/africanartsinstitute for all the latest updates.

My Toronto Theatre Adventure

It was a warm and beautiful night – far from the reports of the cold weather I was warned against. The next morning I was to meet the director of Julius Caesar, Estelle Shook, at her apartment on the east side of the city. I was here on a creative mentorship programme supported by the NAC and part of Canadian Stage: Spotlight South Africa, to work with Estelle’s creative team on her new production.

I decided to walk to Estelle’s as I was afraid I’d get lost using public transport and it seemed like a good idea as I could discover more of the city on foot.

I arrived at Estelle’s apartment about half an hour early – all walked out and dying to sit down. I walked over to an apartment and knocked. There was no answer. “Am I really at the right apartment?” I looked upstairs and decided to go knock at the apartment door up there. A charismatic, charming and friendly man opened! I knew he was an artist from the moment I saw him. I told him I was from South Africa and looking for Estelle Shook. He was very excited to hear I had finally arrived and exclaimed; “The director from South Africa! We’ve been waiting for you!”

He then escorted me back downstairs to Estelle’s apartment and unlocked the door for me; it turns out he was the owner of the building! He introduced himself to me as Michael and as it turned out he was indeed an artist, an actor who was also going to be acting in Julius Caesar! And just like that I had met the first Canadian artist I was going to be spending the next two months with.

A few moments later Estelle walked in and to her surprise found me in her apartment. A beautifully spirited person, she opened her heart and home to me and allowed me to be a part of her creative team for Julius Caesar in a generous and rewarding manner.

The next eight weeks spent in Toronto were to be an eye opener and learning experience for me. As a storyteller and creator I was given the privilege of growing purely by working in a different country with different approaches to making theatre. I also came to value the importance of a wider frame of reference when making theatre work.

Whilst I was in Toronto, I also had the privilege of seeing other plays and, by watching other director’s work, I was inspired and creatively stimulated. I also got to interact with a bigger circle of actors, directors and the movers and shakers of theatre in Toronto.

One of the many exciting moments of my trip was being invited to be a part of a cast of 12 storytellers in a theatre experience called The Dinner Table, as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. I told a story about my home, Africa, from the eye of a young and free black man living in a country ‘alive with possibility’ regardless of its past. The evening was a success and made me feel proud to be an African at that moment in time so far away from home. It was a defining moment in my journey both as a human being and an African storyteller.

During my time in Toronto I made relationships that I feel will last forever and are the beginning of interesting and hopefully sustainable theatre making collaborations and exchanges. I felt myself grow and undoubtedly my life has changed forever.

I would like to thank the National Arts Council of South Africa, Canadian Stage and The Market Theatre for putting together this amazing mentorship programme. I want to do my best to ensure that their efforts will not be in vain as I endeavour to contribute significantly to the theatre industry in SA and the world as a whole. Working on the creative team for Julius Caesar at Canadian Stage was an incredible experience, one that will stay with me forever.

Clive Mathibe
Clive Mathibe’s production of Cincinnati has just completed a successful run at The Market Theatre, Johannesburg www.markettheatre.co.za

Women take centre stage at the National Arts Council

Said NAC CEO Rosemary Mangope, “As we celebrated the central role played by South African women during the month of August, the NAC’s focus on empowering and upskilling women across all arts fields continues. Central to our mandate is the importance of facilitating strong leadership roles for women of all ages within the creative industries, where their voices continue to be under-represented.”

Mangope highlighted just a few of the female-led projects currently being funded by the NAC. In the field of theatre Ntshieng Mokgoro is staging a two week Women’s Theatre Festival in Johannesburg in October 2015. The founder of Olive Tree Theatre Productions, Mokgoro aims to both encourage women to take centre stage in writing and directing their stories, and also to take on more central roles in the administration of theatres around the country. The two-week festival will offer a mix of practical workshops, film screenings and theatre productions.

Nomvuyo Gladys Manyati coordinates Kuku Craft in Bathhurst, which employs and trains female crafters, giving them vital skills while allowing them to earn an income. Also in the Eastern Cape is Sally Scott, a full time artist and teacher, who received funding for The Red Shoe Workshop, a creative sewing project for women and youth in Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth.

The NAC also supports the South African Literary Awards and initiated the First-time Published Author Award in 2009, awarded last year to Claire Robertson for her novel The Spiral House. Other legacy programmes include The Miriam Tlali Reading and Book Club, named after the literary veteran and first black South African woman to publish a novel in English, as well as the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award for writing in African languages.

Aletta de Vos of the D Piano Lab was granted funding this year for her project making use of technology to provide training in music literacy and piano technique for children from marginalised communities.

In the field of dance, Nadine Joseph, artistic director and choreographer at negative entertainment, staged neither HEre nor there (and everythIng elSe) at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown thanks to NAC funding, while Tossie van Tonder received funding for her archival work, which transposed every dance theatre film and image from 1959 to 2014 into a digital format.

“As an organisation the NAC is also proud to have a range of female panel members across all seven of our arts disciplines, who bring a wealth of advice and experience to our advisory process,” continued Mangope. “These include professional storyteller Nomsa Mlalose, artist Tracey Rose, actress Nakedi Ribane, arts manager and producer Nikki Froneman, academic Prof Marié-Heleen Coetzee, writer and artistic director Phyllis Klotz, dance specialist Lizelle Julie, dancer Mamela Nyamza, and craft and design experts Erica Elk, Bulelwa Bam, Jabu Gladys Dlamini and Nthabiseng Makhene.”

Lefika la Phodiso: Art as Trauma Therapy

Lefika La Phodiso (‘The Rock of Holding’) is Africa’s first psychoanalytically informed community art counselling training centre. The centre facilitates 16 arts counselling groups in Gauteng and Limpopo, collectively reaching almost 750 beneficiaries, receiving over 800 hours of intensive art counselling. Their mission is to build capacity for empathy by training groups of community art counsellors dedicated to psychosocial transformation through the creative arts and their vision is to provide safe spaces in which creativity and containment nourish emotional development and build healthy relationships. Established in 1994, in recent times, the centre has morphed from dealing with the impact and aftermath of apartheid to addressing issues such as xenophobic violence and reconciliation. Trained community art counsellors deliver direct art counselling and support to trauma workers and counsellors within the NGO sector, adults and children with HIV/ Aids, orphans and vulnerable children, abused children, autism, trauma, youth in conflict with the law and foster children in need of care.

Lefika has developed a model of psychoanalytically informed training that emphasises creative group-based interventions. The model is informed by psychoanalytic thinking as applied to community contexts and incorporates art making and creative expression within the counselling process. To bolster the practice of art therapy, the centre has increasingly shifted its emphasis to training counsellors. As part of their training, each student is required to set up a group within a community setting. The training is experiential and is supervised by psychotherapists from the Institute of Psychoanalytic Child Psychotherapy (IPCP) and the South African Psychoanalytic Confederation (SAPC). The centre has trained over 200 art counsellors and regularly exhibits work produced as a result of the counselling and hosts lectures and seminars.

Humbu Nsenga relates the experience of being an arts counsellor in the context of the centre to being something akin to surrogate parenting, with the centre providing a space for children to relate to adults in a different way. In an interview about the centre, she notes that the programmes take on an added importance considering the limited nature of arts programmes offered by the government school system.

Lefika la Phodiso plays a very important role in the community. Its weekday after-school programme teaches children a variety of art skills by working with them in a therapeutic fashion. Some of the disciplines include pottery, clay, art theory and printmaking. The organisation also runs a successful bi-weekly afterschool and weekend open studio programme for at risk youth and children with disabilities. The programme is designed to encourage thinking and cultivate creative capacity in a collaborative, supportive environment. The programme builds on school curriculums by using art to develop life skills and improve learning outcomes. The Open Studio also extends into holiday periods, when inadequate adult supervision often causes headaches for concerned parents. The school holiday programme, currently run in partnership with the Wits Arts Museum, involves week-long sessions with children from the surrounding inner-city neighbourhoods.

Kwanele Sosibo

Footnote

* Lefika La Phodiso is an arts organisation receiving significant project funding from National Arts Council for the 2014/15 financial year.

It is Africa’s first psychoanalytically informed Community Art Counselling training centre. Their mission is to build capacity for empathy by training groups of Community Art Counsellors dedicated to psychosocial transformation through the creative arts and their vision is to provide safe spaces in which creativity and containment nourish emotional development and build healthy relationships.

The Centre is awarded for a series of training resource books and accompanying activities showcasing previously disadvantaged South African artists and renowned arts activists. The project will also disseminate the Lefika model of training and practice.

For more information: http://www.arttherapycentre.co.za/

SLED: Sustaining heritage through sign language education

And while the mainstream arts scene is increasingly growing – it often fails to extend to one important, but often forgotten group – South Africa’s deaf community. Often unconsidered in policy-making, interpreters are often the only visible point of contact with the deaf. After all, who can forget the huge controversy following the fake interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie. But there are strides being made towards greater accessibility.

Sign Language Education and Development (SLED), a local organisation eagerly supported by the National Arts Council, is turning the tide in this area. They are achieving this by creating a rich collection of works in South African Sign Language, to make sure that the history and heritage of South Africa is accessible to the deaf community, in a way which allows it to be transferred from generation to generation.

SLED is not only concerned with issues of heritage. Indeed, their primary aim centres around the education of deaf children, and their stated mission is to “facilitate the deaf child’s equal and democratic right to literacy and learning through the promotion of South African Sign Language.” Considering the challenged state of South Africa’s basic education system, and the sparse number of teachers qualified to teach deaf children, SLED is one of the few organisations which undertake projects to address this. Regularly involved in drawing communities into their initiatives, the support of donations and funders like the National Arts Council play a crucial role in making sure they can continue their work.
But the complexities go beyond just rands and cents. It’s about making South African Sign Language into a living, breathing language, with a history and future. Unlike the case in other countries where sign language has been codified in written form, South African Sign Language still lacks formal documentation.

As a result, over time, much of South African Sign Language (SASL) has been transmitted through face-to-face communication – which, although useful, limits the possibility of widespread dissemination. This means that a long history of poems, plays, songs in different versions of SASL remain lost to this generation of deaf people.

As early as 2001, SLED identified this issue and started to develop materials which directly speak to issues of culture and heritage. The deaf community, like the hearing one, have ideas and artistic talents, and SLED’s initiatives give them a space to share these with the rest of the community. In 2009, SLED held an eight day storytelling workshop, which in addition to discussing the challenges, also crafted new documents, videos and other resources which can be used and shared widely.

This included a set of stories, poetry, stories from the participants themselves, and other works which were compiled into a DVD. It was important for the project to produce a variety of genres, in order to make sure that deaf learners (and families and caregivers) had access to the same diversity and range of content that the hearing community is exposed to. However, deaf learners do live in a hearing world, and English literacy remains an important skill, and an anthology of the works was made available in 2011.

SLED has recognised the significance of a dynamic education – and the place of cultural knowledge in parallel with academic knowledge. Through the continued support of bodies like the National Arts Council, fellow organisations such as DeafSA, and ordinary people invested in the projects, they make a remarkable contribution to the lives of South Africa’s deaf community.

Binwe Adebayo

* Sign Language Education and Development is an NAC flagship project. The organisation’s objective is to see all South Africa’s Deaf children achieving their full potential through the understanding and use of South African Sign Language (SASL). The underlying purpose is to enable all Deaf children to participate equally and fully in education, society and employment, embracing their democratic rights. To this end, SLED focuses artistically on signed SASL stories, poems, richly illustrated reading and teaching materials to communicate learning, culture and history. SLED’s Deaf artists in the form of illustrators, poets and storytellers, work alongside linguists to create dynamic and effective educational material.

SLED has been awarded funding to develop a wide range of signed SASL literature for Deaf learners, including educational materials in signed poetry, children’s stories in SASL and in print, historical and contemporary biographies, descriptive narratives and SASL non-fiction. The process will involve research to identify Deaf poets, artists and narrators before creating these unique Deaf community resources.

For more information: http://www.sled.org.za/

A Word from the CEO

This year we have reached an important milestone in delivering on this promise. It is with a great sense of reward and achievement that I can announce that the NAC has received a clean audit from the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) for the 2014/2015 financial period. This is the first clean audit that the NAC has received since its inception. In addition to the award, we have achieved 90% of our targets set out in the Annual Performance Plan (APP).

The NAC does not operate in a vacuum. It is an integral part of an eco-system that operates at a national, provincial regional and local level. In a world of scarce resources and fiscal constraints, it is important that this ecosystem works together to best utilise its scarce resources and to marshal the necessary energy and focus to deliver value to the artistic community in South Africa.

As part of fulfilling our mandate we strive to develop personal and meaningful relationships with stakeholders that extends beyond grant application processes. It is with this in mind that we are excited to launch this quarterly newsletter, which we hope will make an entertaining and informative contribution to the South African arts eco-system. It is our intention that The Artisan will provide varied and alternative perspectives on topics and events on the South African arts calendar and position the NAC as an important enabler of the arts in our country.

The NAC would also love to hear from you. So please share your thoughts and inputs with us on The Artisan.

Ms Rosemary Mangope
Chief Executive Officer
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