A new born baby or a recycled scoundrel?
Monde Ngonyama: Cultural Industries Federation? Is this another vehicle to balloon the egos of Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban artists?
I could only wonder at the announcement of the task team for the envisaged South African Cultural Industries Federation. After twenty years of democracy, this country lacks, other than the ability to recognise shame, the absence of an altruistic citizen.
Is this another vehicle to balloon the egos of Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban artists?
Minister Dr Pallo Jordan called for the unity of the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector towards the end of his term. The resultant product was the Cultural Workers Union of South Africa. I have never had the fortune of seeing a single document about this CWUSA except knowing that Mabutho Sithole was its president. We tried in vain to call him in the Nelson Mandela Bay region as we wanted to know what CWUSA really is and what does it stand for. All recorded attempts to contact him were not successful. You could see Kid, as Mabutho Sithole is known, trotting alongside Zwelinzima Vavi on a number of broadcasts. Needless to say CWUSA in the minds of many remained a paper scarecrow that only gave false sense of importance to some Comrade Artists. We ordinary artistic folks only watched at it as a jet flying high in the sky leaving behind a smoke that disintegrated amongst the clouds as it moved furthest from it. As children we would shout at it though: “Nkosi, bring us sweets! Nkosi, bring us cakes!” For such childish enthusiasm one remembers what the late Steve Tshwete once pointed out, that we were hoping for the clay cattle to fart in the water.
In March 2014, the Human Rights Month, the outgoing Arts and Culture Minister, Mr Paul Mashatile blessed the establishment of the South African Creative Industries Federation.
In 2013 the Department of Arts and Culture went to many provinces, calling for the quadrennial review of how the country has fared in promoting the Human and Cultural Rights of its citizens. This was to be submitted to UNESCO. Key in the review tool was the question on how much the DAC and the government in general have involved the civil society in their endeavours of promoting the Human and Cultural Rights. Surely hitherto our government has done very little under the auspices of a unitary state. Under the Department of Arts and Culture South Africa walks to a different direction to the very founding charter of this democracy, the Constitution of the land. South Africa remains a federal country by looking at the spread of resources and implementation of policies if one’s vintage point is the Department of Arts and Culture… Do we then have a good story to tell? From a writer’s point of view I am reading this story from a book that is missing a substantial number of pages. Can I then retell the story with pride and confidence? In the land of cheats and deceivers I will still receive a standing ovation if I venture.
One cannot judge the intentions of the founding of SACIF, except to welcome the initiative. One thing we all agree on is that the lack of a united representative body for Arts, Culture, Heritage and Creative Industries is a self-inflicted wound to everyone involved. The question is the tool required for the solution.
CWUSA was supposed to be a “Union”, a workers’ union. If names mean anything such an entity was bound to fail in the context of South Africa however the intentions were. Let us take the example of Artist Zola. Artist Zola is an actor who has a good script in his hand. At all times that he has not produced his script, Artist Zola is a worker and qualifies thus to be a member of CWUSA. The National Arts Council invites applications for funding and upon applying Artist Zola receives R250,000 to produce a three hander. Immediately upon completion of auditions, as a producer Artist Zola is an employer. Is he still a member of CWUSA? When the project is done albeit Artists Zola is unable to account properly for the funds, Artist Zola becomes a worker again. Secondly a number of unions survive on subscription of their membership. With jobs in Arts, Culture and Heritage sector limited to office based people, who are members of NEHAWU largely, with the rest of practitioners generally not living on regular income, it was going to be difficult for a union in this industry to survive on membership subscriptions. Thirdly whether it is in the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector he who has capital will always use it to weaken any potential opposition to ensure continued free reign. How immune were the members of CWUSA from the poisonous fangs of events organisers, television producers, electronic media advertising companies? You remember the old song famous amongst township school choirs? Ndimtyela Ngokwam Unodoli Wam! (I eat on behalf of my doll) Without an ethics book that has active policing in our country CWUSA was dead from the day it was mooted.
We now have a mooted “federation”. Once more what is in the name? At a glance one thinks of an entity that is a mother body of autonomous affiliates and associates. However so, there is a bothering question though and that is, was the thought of a “federation” premised on the recognition of existing entities? Or is it a hope that with political bravado all other underlings will follow sooth anyway? Lurching within these extreme ends will ensure the success or failure of the SACIF. Secondly was the instigating urge a need to unite the arts, culture, heritage and creative industries in the country versus the realignment of the Department of Arts and Culture nationally with its provincial departments and municipalities? How will uniting artists salve the inherent failure of government structure? The known fact is that the voice of provincial departments and municipalities carry no significant weight to the ears of DAC. And here is where major problems lie. The Department of Education nationally engages National Treasury for all schools in the country. The Department of Health nationally engages National Treasury for all health matters nationally. Department of Arts and Culture remain subjective and border on the likes or dislikes of officialdom… Do we need a civil society structure to remedy that? Or can a civil society structure dare point out that there is no way children of crabs will swim straight if the mother who gave them the genes and DNA swims skewed? In isiXhosa we call that a Dance of Crabs…Umdudo kanonkala.
The South African Creative Industries Federation has a lot of work to do and most of all their first job is to remember that one of the lessons that many current admirers of Nelson Mandela have failed to do, is what his oppressors and imprisoners failed to do. LISTEN! Mandela was kept in jail for twenty seven years because his oppressors could not dare listen to voices beyond those of their own. And one thing that will undo the gains of this democracy is doing the same, resisting to listen to voices other than those of ones’ own.
The second lesson that SACIF must learn, though it has been hard to many powerful and intelligent individuals, it is to build citizens out of everyone in the land instead of glorifying villagers and residents in making them feel better than others from the other village or township.
Thirdly the past twenty years have failed to integrate five more provinces that were created in 1994 instead glory was ballooned upon the capital towns of the previous apartheid four provinces, into a united South Africa. Some of us have had to remain bystanders who by misfortune of abode have had to accept being regarded as morons, lesser gifted and not deserving glory and spoils of liberation.
We were brought up to know that Consultation is three things inseparable. That is communication, information sharing and involvement. We have seen how the White Paper Review has mocked the tenets of democracy by only listening to Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban. It remains to be seen how long it shall take for our government to bury us alive. We hope SACIF will try and be better though prospects are very gloomy. But there is no dying in hope.
Phambili neSACIF, Phambili!
General Manager, Port Elizabeth Opera House
041 586 2256
082 366 0555
Article source: http://www.artlink.co.za/news_article.htm?contentID=35126