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Calling NAC Alumni

In 2017 the National Arts Council (NAC) celebrates 20 years since it was instituted, and over the years we have seen how the local creative community has come together to form a dynamic industry.

In this, the NAC has been a key role player that has firmly committed to its mission of developing and promoting excellence in the arts. However, we realise that to fulfil our mandate, we cannot solely focus on grant awarding but need to also leverage strategic partnerships and resources to offer not only our beneficiaries, but the wider arts community value adding services that will develop, support, promote and advance the arts.

One of these strategic partnerships we’re embarking on is with our past beneficiaries. With that said we are developing our very own alumni community and are calling on all arts organisations and individuals who have received support, financial or otherwise, from the NAC to be a part of this dynamic community.

This community will serve as a platform to pay it forward through the sharing of knowledge, experiences and opportunities that will benefit the wider arts community.

We would be honoured if you would be part of our valued alumni community and help drive the development and promotion of the arts to encourage excellence.

To join our alumni group please email your details to alumni@nac.org.za and we’ll be in touch with the next steps.

Looking forward to your participation.

Ms Rosemary Mangope
Chief Executive Officer

Craft: Angeline Masuku

Since 2007, Angeline Bonisiwe Masuku has travelled to the United States to showcase the baskets she makes by hand at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, which aims to “celebrate and preserve living folk art traditions and create economic opportunities for and with folk artists worldwide”.

She shot to prominence when she received the FNB Vita Award for Craft in 2007, and since then has also exhibited at similar art fairs in Italy and New York.

Masuku was born and raised in Zululand’s Empembeni village, where she learnt the craft of basket weaving from her aunt at the tender age of eight. She soon passed the skill on to her sisters, then to her children, and then to the community, who were able to use their newfound skill to send their children to school and forge a path out of poverty. Now Masuku showcases the community’s basket-making ability to potential customers and art lovers from around the world, having exhibited at the International Folk Art Market again in 2016.

To make her famous baskets, Masuku gathers ukhasi grass and ilala palm, and then uses leaves and roots to create natural dyes before weaving the materials into baskets adorned in traditional colours and patterns. She designs her baskets to incorporate imagery of her immediate rural environment, as well as the geometric designs typical of Zulu beadwork. The large, beautiful baskets she produces bridge the divide between traditional craft and modern art.

It takes Masuku two months to weave one of her big baskets. One day, she hopes to have her own office with a computer and a car, and attend big craft fairs all over the world. As a craft practitioner from a rural area, Masuku is a shining example of how a modern crafter makes the transition to being a cultural entrepreneur – versatile and productive, with a keen sense for business.

Masuku first received funding from the NAC is 2010, and uses it to cover the costs of buying materials and transport. She has also received funding from the Department of Trade and Industry, which has helped her with shipping, travel and accommodation costs. The support she has received has given her the opportunity as an artist and entrepreneur, and invest in her community.

Project profile: Emthonjeni Rural Development

Emthonjeni Rural Development is a multidisciplinary arts organisation with a vision to provide efficient and profitable quality services in the arts, culture and heritage, and tourism industries.

Emthonjeni aims to develop and market quality products through discovering talent, especially in neglected areas; develop discovered talent through workshops, and adopt crafters’ exchange programmes and product development; create market demand for trade fairs and exhibitions; and forge partnerships with progressive structures operating in similar fields.

The name Emthonjeni Rural Development refers to the formalised transmission of indigenous knowledge with a key focus on rural development. Institutions that transmit formal indigenous knowledge – particularly with regards to arts, culture and heritage – in rural areas are commonly known as “umthombo”.

In craft, for example, producers involved with Emthonjeni are brought face to face with issues that challenge their own cultures, the interpretation of their heritage, as well as the demands of a capitalist economy. As a source of reflection, exchange and dialogue, Emthonjeni has served to unify knowledge and inspire effective and creative training. It also serves as a foundation for achieving social cohesion and nation building in ensuring effective community development.

In this regard, Emthonjeni is continuously in the process of challenging itself to do much more towards achieving sustainable development in South Africa’s rural areas. This is done by offering project management services for exhibitions, workshops, conferences and festivals; providing services in interior design and product development; and organising skills development initiatives, training and research projects.

With activities specifically focused on arts education, Emthonjeni prioritises all disciplines in the arts and culture landscape as per the requirements of school curricula. Funding received from the National Arts Council (NAC) during the period under review assisted Emthonjeni in creating jobs for 10 artists, six of whom are disabled, as part of the Artists in Schools programme. These artists were deployed to teach art at four schools around Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

Importantly, funding from the NAC in 2015/16 enabled Emthonjeni to effect positive changes in the lives of these artists as well as the pupils they teach, as the artists were given an opportunity to contribute artistically to their local community and gain respect and dignity from learners. Most learners’ marks have improved as their creativity blossomed at school.

The funding also assisted Emthonjeni in contributing to the broader government and international agenda of developing arts education in rural schools. Along with support from the NAC, the Artists in Schools programme is also supported by the Department of Arts and Culture, the Department of Basic Education, Unesco and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Challenging times call for new ways of thinking

Why financial management officers in the public service need to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit.

I’m often asked what the difference is between financial management in the public service vis-à-vis that in the private sector. On the surface, it might seem like a simple question to respond to, since, as one would naturally assume, a financial officer operating in the public service has the added responsibility of being accountable to a broad base of taxpayers. Another obvious distinction one would draw is that in the public service, financial officers are not driven by profit. Instead, their core function is to ensure the sound management of funds allocated to their entities from state coffers.

But in an increasingly complex economic environment, where competitive forces in the private sector, locally and globally, greatly impact on the day-to-day operations of public entities, the response might not be as simple, or as easily simplified. Granted, public entities are in essence non-profit organisations, their sole focus being service delivery. However, much can be gained when private sector financial management practices are adapted to the public service and vice versa.

One example, which has become a strong motivator in my role as chief financial officer (CFO) of the National Arts Council (NAC), is the professionalisation of the finance team to fulfil best practice requirements in terms of qualifications and appropriate experience. This professionalisation process firstly entails gauging the latest trends in the accounting and financial management spheres and responding effectively to allow staff to position themselves accordingly. Secondly, part of professionalising staff would be to encourage them to become members of professional bodies such as the South African Institute of Professional Accountants. Such membership, of course, would have certain requirements, which staff would then strive towards fulfilling.

Lastly, a professionalised staff complement would naturally become more attuned with norms, standards and changes in corporate governance. This is especially relevant at present, with the next iteration of the ground-breaking King Report on Corporate Governance for South African Businesses (King IV). With this, we get a clear sense of the extent to which the finance team ought to be integrated into the organisation, specifically, and into the broader economy.

So instead of trying to find differences between financial management in the public and private sectors, it might be worthwhile to employ a new way of thinking to find feasible and prudent similarities. Herein lies convergence between the two spheres, where financial officers in the public service have a broader and more inclusive role to play than what they’ve traditionally come to understand. Rather than being the passive “processors” of organisational financial information, the challenging economic times have necessitated more agile and active public service financial officers who serve as enablers of sound business strategies and processes.

In this sense, as in the more “cut-throat” private sector, public service financial officers need to build greater efficiencies within their respective organisations – whether by means of effective oversight and involvement in the roll-out of infrastructure projects, or in terms of being integral to operational processes, the latter being of critical importance when identifying bottlenecks in business processes to effectively engage and manage them. This is particularly crucial in an organisation such as the NAC, where grant disbursement is at the forefront of the entity’s mandate, with the quality of internal operations having direct bearing on whether it delivers services effectively.

Hence, it becomes essential for financial management officers in the public service to adopt an approach whereby efficient business processes, and the identification thereof, become central to their day-to-day activities. This, in turn, speaks directly to accountability, something that we can all agree is of vital importance in the South African public service at present.

Taking these factors into consideration, especially when looking at financial management with a less polarised view in terms of “public” and private”, we can see that there is indeed space for entrepreneurship in government departments and public entities. It then becomes incumbent on public service financial management officers to drive this entrepreneurial spirit with the view of delivering essential services efficiently, within mandated parameters and guided by principles of accountability.

By Dumisani Dlamini
Dlamini is the CFO of the National Arts Council, a national agency mandated by the Department of Arts and Culture to develop South Africa’s creative industry.

Good leadership should be part of our culture

As we enter a new year, it is important to think about leadership and how it, depending on its effectiveness, steers us towards growth, development and the fulfilment of our goals not only as organisations, but as individuals.

I am often asked “what makes good leadership?” or “what are the characteristics of a good leader?” but I’m always hesitant to answer as there are no clear-cut answers, and standard definitions fall short in the way of describing the nuances and multifaceted nature of good leadership.

My primary focus when it comes to leadership rests within the arts and culture sector, not only in my role as CEO of the National Arts Council (NAC), but when looking at the sector as a whole and identifying the necessity for effective leadership to steer the sector towards playing a more significant role in the economy, and contributing more positively and with greater impact to society.

To me, effective leadership entails placing values at the heart of an organisation. Values which, in turn, are rooted in positive behaviour aimed at promoting growth, equality and strong, robust communities. Effective cultural leadership also entails the ability to recognise and embrace changing realities, and the ability to articulate vision and bring about change through working with peers and within networks.

The relevance of cultural leadership cannot be overstated as, now more than ever, South Africa (and I’d go as far as including the world) is in need of creative and innovative solutions that call for collaboration and greater networking. This is particularly important in an increasingly connected world where stronger networks and collaborative approaches enhance cultural diversity and a spirit of togetherness rather than conflict.

In this sense, effective cultural leadership calls for individuals to step up and be original and true to themselves. It reinforces the notion of understanding one’s talents and how they can contribute to the sector’s growth. Leadership, therefore, is not merely about rank but the ability to embrace all contributions and understand that leadership happens at all levels. This means active participation by all in finding solutions and contributing to socioeconomic progress.

There are South African cultural organisations, which the NAC has had the privilege of working with, that are being led by individuals who have a strong understanding of their place and roles as leaders. These include Lefika La Phodiso, the Umcebo Trust, Ifa-Lethu, Africa Meets Africa, Lalela and ASSITEJ, among others. All have succeeded in making unique contributions to cultural advancement against all odds to benefit the most deserving communities.

In 2017 and beyond, the NAC will continue its collaborative approach through identifying key partnerships that need scaling up. We plan to invest heavily in these partnerships, not only in terms of funds but through promoting our partners on all platforms available to us. It is part of our vision to see the arts take their rightful place at the centre of a thriving economy. There’s no doubt our country has enormous and unparalleled talent and potential. What we need to realise is the coordination efforts in order to work to scale and implement good models to benefit the entire nation.

By Rosemary Mangope

PESP Hotline