As we commemorate 20 years of democracy, the role of the arts in exposing social injustices and inspiring our nation to rise up against oppression, amongst others was discussed.
The legendary Human Rights Advocate George Bizos-who is internationally renowned for representing former first head of democratic State and the late Dr Nelson Mandela, says arts is key in any revolutionary State.
“South African should and must pride itself in preserving their culture and heritage because that’s what it is about.”
He also made a classical example in the likes of French, Russians and North Africans, who made ingenuity in their respective arts.
The likes of John Kani, had courage to kiss a white actress which was disallowed during apartheid, continued Bizos, as he sat poignantly listening attentively and his grey popping-up whenever answering.
In taking Government head-on, he obstinately said:”Government hates artists who question them.”
Sibusiso Xaba, Director General at Department of Arts and Culture, in defense responded that, as Government department they’re always embedded with problems that seem not to go away, much to the reaction of the packed audience.
“I’m of the view that Community Art should be supported although we encounter bottlenecks along,” he says.
Despite the R3,1 bn budget for arts and culture, Xaba failed to give the exact percentages of what has been allocated to and how, following the questions from the audience that comprised of Professors, students, Lecturers and few arts practitioners.
Freelance theatre journalist, dance history researcher and consultant Adrienne Sichel, said unflinchingly that arts funding has become a political game.
“This perpetuates the notion that for an artist to be respected in his/her own backyard, one would have to come from overseas. What about our young-ones, who are packed in this house? Are we saying to them go overseas to be celebrated in your own country?” she asked vehemently.
Issues such as human rights, censorship and access to the arts funding remain a sore sight, and until our Government reacts, our artists will continue to die like paupers,” emphasized Sichel, strongly.
Phyllis Klotz, Sibikwa Founder, Cultural activist, writer, director and educationalist, was at pains that almost 35 theatres have collapsed as a result of non-intervention from funders and Government.
She says, since the implementation of By-Laws, international funding has dried-up hence the collapse of projects, particularly those in townships.
“It has become too expensive for small productions to attend National Arts fest. How do we avert that and where do we start?
Perhaps, it’s time we draw disparity on law and arts?” she proposed.
These dialogues are hosted in partnership with Brand South Africa– on university campuses across South Africa, in a bid to stimulate debate between young people and those very icons that have helped craft and shape our world-renowned Constitution.
Director of Wits Theatre, the outspoken Gita Pather was the facilitator.