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Alumni comments

Over the past 20 years the National Arts Council has supported various artists and arts organisations and as we celebrate two decades of enabling the arts members of our alumni share their experiences and well wishes for the future.

Claire Breukel – Curator and writer

In 2012 the National Arts Council awarded me a grant to help me complete my Art History Master’s degree at Hunter College in New York. Up to that point I had been unable to juggle working with the possibility of study and could not have afforded to even consider the workload of this degree without financial support. Thanks to the NAC grant I was able to complete my Masters in 3 years while working part time.
The grant gave me the space and time I needed to get the most out of the CUNY program. The opportunity to study in New York City proved invaluable to my practice as a curator and I continue to show South African artists, among others, internationally—however now with more knowledge of art history and a better understanding of the context in which we find ourselves today. I am forever grateful to the NAC for their confidence and support, and hope to pay it forward by showing artists from South Africa confidently and conscientiously.

David Mahlaba – Managing Director at Phinda-Mzala and Via-Katlehong

The National Arts Council’s continued commitment to providing the arts & culture industry with amazing opportunities and professional services has gained a highly regarded reputation in South Africa.

It has truly been a pleasure working with the NAC’s dedicated and hardworking team who share our passion for helping performing arts, thank you for the first 20 years and were looking forward to many more years to come.

Vusi Dumisani Nhlapo – Writer, Filmmaker, Arts Educator (Creative Writing) and Founder of Talent and Arts Organization

I would like to congratulate the National Arts Council of South Africa in its 20th Anniversary. The NAC has contributed a lot in my art journey, in 2008 I got a bursary to study for the Creative Writing Diploma at the School for Creative in Howick. After my studies I was receiving funds to develop young writers in creative writing in the City of Ekurhuleni (Duduza Township). I really thank the NAC for its support in growing my career. Today I am a Founder and Director of Talent and Arts Organization (TAO) an organization that promotes arts, creative writing, reading, literature art & dance all thanks to the support by the NAC.

Mary Elizabeth Lange – Chairperson

From ARROWSA: Arts, Culture, and Heritage for Peace we send congratulations to the National Arts Council on their 20th anniversary! Thanks to the NAC’s funding in the past years ARROWSA facilitators and participants from economically and socially challenged backgrounds were empowered personally and communally through knowledge and skills transference by performing applied theatre devised productions in Derry, Northern Ireland; Plymouth, United Kingdom and Lucknow, India and attending intercultural exchange youth congresses in the same cities. These devised productions and the theatre skills learnt at the congresses were then shared with ARROWSA participants in Durban that could not attend the congresses and with schools in the inner city. The NAC has also made it possible for several applied theatre specialists from the United Kingdom to conduct theatre for social change, physical theatre, and dance workshops with ARROWSA participants in Durban. The pay-it-forward aspect of the NAC funding ensured that the work that they funded continued within the community after the project ended and continues today. The work of ARROWSA towards promoting arts, culture, and heritage for peace through intercultural exchange and the acquisition of skills has been greatly enhanced due to funding from the NAC. May the National Arts Council’s work continue for 20 times 20 years as they continue to back the arts towards transformation in our country!

Gauteng Opera

Established in 1999 as Black Tie Ensemble, Gauteng Opera is an all-round performing arts and entertainment company, specialising in opera productions, concerts and events that are driven by excellence in vocal performance and theatre.

The company prides itself on being one of the foremost nurturers of experts and proponents for quality vocal performance and theatre practitioners. This is achieved through work opportunities for trained singers and training young South Africans with singing talent. Gauteng Opera also introduces young people who are interested in theatre to the discipline by employing them as interns to develop their skills in theatre management.

Through the years, Gauteng Opera has benefited financially from the NAC by receiving company funding, which has kept administration sustainable. Gauteng Opera also receives project funding that benefits South African singers, choristers, orchestra musicians, conductors, directors and designers, thereby securing a sustainable artistic workforce and contributing to the development of the arts in South Africa as a whole.

From 2013 onwards, Black Tie Ensemble was renamed Gauteng Opera. However, the Black Tie Ensemble Trust is still in existence. Funding from the NAC was first received in 2005 for a production titled A Tribute to Mario Lanza. For the period under review, project funding received from the NAC assisted in part for the launch of the Cula Mzansi project, comprising three short operas written by South African composers using South African stories for inspiration. Four performances of these short operas were presented at the Soweto Theatre in August 2015, with one of the performances taking place on Women’s Day (9 August).

Words from a Broken String, composed by Peter Klatzow, featured libretto by Michael Williams and was directed by Marcus Desando. Soloists included Natalie Dickson-Bath, Njabulo Mthimkhulu, Phenye Modiane, Kagiso Boroko, Thamsanqa Khaba and Sibusiso Shandu. These artists came together to tell the story of Lucy Lloyd, a 19th-century linguist who fostered a relationship with San convicts brought to work in her garden under the disapproving eye of her community and authorities.

Tronkvoël, a chamber opera composed by Martin Watt, featured Afrikaans libretto by Alwyn Roux and was directed by Tshepo Ratona. This short opera featured Sibusiso Shandu, Coert Grobbelaar, Kagiso Boroko and Elizabeth Lombard, and is set against the backdrop of 1970s apartheid South Africa at Pretoria’s notorious C-Max prison. Writer and poet Breyten Breytenbach was imprisoned there for two years for high treason, just metres away from the gallows. It is here, in the shadow of death, that the images conjured from the grotesque sounds of suffering come to haunt him.

Hani, composed by Bongani Ndodana-Breen, featured libretto by Mfundi Vundla and was directed by Warona Seane. Soloists included Njabulo Mthimkhulu, Khumbuzile Dlamini and Phenye Modiane. The opera depicts assassinated SACP leader Chris Hani as an embodiment of all those who lost their lives fighting injustice. It is set in the dead of night in the study of the writer, who recalls an encounter with Hani and enters a dreamlike state, interacting with a soothsayer, a praise singer and a chorus of ancestors.

All three of these short operas were conducted by Graham Scott and the choreography was done by Thoko Sidiya, with set design and lighting by Wilhelm Disbergen.

Gauteng Opera is a recipient of three-year company and project funding from the NAC. In the new financial year, company funding will be used for the administration of Gauteng Opera, which includes renting offices in Ferreirasdorp, Johannesburg, as well as the salaries of five administrative staff members, security guards, a cleaner, four soloist artists and three trainees of the Gauteng Opera Academy, apart from the normal day-to-day costs required to maintain a healthy company.

Gauteng Opera has survived 17 years through tough economic times. It is through support from institutions such as the NAC that this important institution in the South African music, theatre and arts landscape has been able to survive, sustain itself and grow.

Industry comments

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

Keiskamma Trust

What began in 2000 as the Keiskamma Art Project to raise the self-esteem of and provide income for women in the villages of Hamburg, Ntilini and Bodiam in Eastern Cape quickly mushroomed into a largescale multidisciplinary organisation that has expanded from just art to other programmes that cater to the needs of the local communities through providing an income from their artistic pursuit, as well as a platform to showcase their endeavours.
Keiskamma Trust

When the project reached numbers of more than 100, it began to make large-scale art works telling the story of South African communities in conflict, managing the Aids epidemic, and other themes relevant to life in a rural community in the 21st century. In 2006, the Music Academy was founded, which worked both separately from the Art Project and in collaboration with it in productions. The independent but collaborative model proved to be very successful, enabling the organisation to develop themes and a recognisable brand.

Soon after, the Creative Development Programme was launched and worked within the same themes, teaching children music, drama and visual art with a therapeutic KEISKAMMA TRUST approach. The organisation’s work aims to use creativity in the community for healing and income generation.

The project has been involved with NAC since 2008. In 2013, it produced the Keiskamma Carnival, a musical arrangement performed at the National Arts Festival, which was funded by the NAC. It also performed for the community in the nearby township of Fingo, and its relationship with this community still continues, with the Music Academy performing there again in July 2016.

The Art Project made puppets from felt and wire for the show, and a group of unemployed youth were trained to recite locally produced poetry and storytelling around the theme of birds. They acted out scenes using masks and puppets. The funding the project received from the NAC allowed many different groups to participate in this innovative endeavour.

In 2015/16, the Keiskamma Art Project, Music Academy and Creative Development programmes received flagship funding to take performances to the National Arts Festival. The drama group produced a play with director Mojalefa Koyana, accompanied by music produced by the Music Academy, with puppets and sets made by Keiskamma Art Project’s visual artists.

The production was named Indalo, meaning “nature” in isiXhosa. With this funding, it was again able to involve the local youth in a drama production, and take the Music Academy to Grahamstown and Cape Town to perform in various festivals.

The participants were able to learn more about stagecraft and performances, and showcase their work. The art project produced a book after many workshops of storytelling and collecting traditional beliefs of the Xhosa people about birds. There has been great demand for the book, which will be used as reading material for young isiXhosa speakers.

The Art Project produced the Instikisi Tapestries – a set of six embroideries that highlighted the plight of the intsikisi, the ground hornbill. These tapestries have since travelled widely since to awareness about the traditional hunting of the bird.

The involvement of unemployed youth has enabled the Keiskamma Trust to reach out to young people, and has made communities aware of the value of their traditional stories and language. The Art Project has employed many people, and provided local artists with an income; and excellence in music education has been proved a creative means of instilling a sense of self-esteem, perseverance and discipline. The opportunities created by the NAC have no doubt created long-term benefits in the lives of the young artists, musicians and performers.

Adequate funding creates the potential for the organisation to enlarge its reach, improve its work, and employ more skilled people to invest in local communities. Although the organisation generates income for its projects through the sale of artworks and concert tickets, it still largely depends upon funding, and the contributions of the NAC have allowed it to make huge progress in several multidisciplinary productions.

New leadership on board at the National Arts Council

The National Arts Council (NAC) started the new financial year on a good note by announcing a new board of Council members appointed by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC).

The new Council which was appointed following a rigorous selection process, will serve the organisation between January 2017 and December 2020.

The new Council is appointed with the aim to provide oversight and strategic direction to the NAC as required by the National Arts Council Act.

Regarding this, Chief Executive Officer Rosemary Mangope said “Good and effective leadership is important in steering the organisation towards growth, development and the fulfilment of our goals and we at the NAC believe that the appointment of the new Council comes at the right time to help direct the organisation towards achieving its full mandate.”

Leading the Council as the chairperson is Mr Hartley Ngoato, a practicing attorney at Ngoato Attorneys. Mr Ngoato holds a LLB, BProc, and an HRD Diploma and has previously served on the board of an international company. On his appointment, Mr Ngoato said “It is truly an honour to be entrusted with the office of the Chairperson for the National Arts Council (NAC) of South Africa. I look forward to this exciting journey with my fellow council members and I am certain that as we work collectively, we will see the NAC continue to thrive and truly enable the arts.”

The full list of Council members is:

Mr Hartley Ngoato (Chairperson)
Ms Jabu Dlamini (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Edmund Qhawelenkosi Mhlongo
Ms Mmathebe Anna Faith Moja
Ms Thandiwe January-McLean
Mr Pheni Cryprian Ngove
Dr Same Sizakele Mdluli
Ms Avril Louise Joffe
Ms Maria Magdalena van der Spuy
Ms Erica Megan Elk
Ms Nakedi Ribane
Mr Michael Arendse
Mr Bongani Mavuso
Mr Pheni Ngove
Mr Moshe Apleni
Mr Zolani Mkiva
Ms Thoko Nogabe
Mr Jerry Mabuza
Professor Sekgothe Mokgoatšana

Staying relevant, 20 years on

For those of us who are, let’s say “old enough” to cast our minds back two decades, to 1997, we’d probably remember the world as an almost completely different place to what it is now.

The new South Africa was in its infancy with the late Nelson Mandela as its first democratically elected president, we were preparing to usher in a new millennium with the dawn of the so-called information age, and great strides were being made towards creating a free and inclusive South Africa.

An important element of building that democratic South Africa was, and still is, the establishment and maintenance of institutions that represent the needs, aspirations and expression of its people. One such institution, which was established during that promising post-apartheid period, is the National Arts Council (NAC). Over the past two decades, the NAC has evolved from being solely a grant disbursement entity towards providing support and ancillary services to a sector that had, by and large, in the past been neglected by means of exclusivity, cultural disenfranchisement and oppression.

The NAC’s evolution over the years could be characterised by the tireless efforts of those past and current staff and board members who are passionate about breathing life into the organisation’s full mandate and who, by extension, have only the interests of development heart. Although we cannot accurately quantify the difference the NAC has made in the lives of those participating in the arts, culture and heritage sector, we can safely assume that the sector enjoys greater exposure and vibrancy than it did prior to the NAC’s establishment.

One leading factor in this assumption is the NAC’s key deliverable of facilitating transformation, nation-building and social cohesion, as reflected in the 10-point plan of the minister of arts and culture. In real terms, this facilitation process has resulted in the creation of strategic, cross-cutting partnerships and the funding of flagship projects that educate, and assist in creating an understanding and mutual respect of South Africa’s diversity and cultural heritage.

In addition, the NAC has played its part in building a strong platform for exposing artistic excellence locally, continentally and globally. Over the years, our artists and cultural workers have travelled far and wide, not only to exhibit their work, but to learn from and impart their knowledge and techniques on others. In terms of investments, various formations have embraced the NAC and opened performance platforms for artists; and exhibitions, festivals and performances are funded regularly as a means of exposing artists to investors and audiences who would otherwise not have access to the arts.

Although we do acknowledge that the South African arts, culture and heritage sector is not currently performing to its full capability of stimulating meaningful economic stimulation, much work is being done by the national department of arts and culture, the NAC and organisations associated with it to forge ahead and position the sector in its rightful place within the economy, as well as to promote the sector as a viable means of education, growth and sustainability.

Over the next two decades and beyond, the NAC therefore intends to continuously reinvent and reimagine its role in the sector as a meaningful contributor and agent of change in an increasingly uncertain yet exciting world.

Rosemary Mangope
CEO, National Arts Council