by Suzy Bell

11 / arts in crisis:

ARTS IN CRISIS: Flo and Bloq (Onkabetse Hlabyago and Juda Mokone) are Limpopo musicians and co-founders of Dice Factor

An arts crisis that has been brewing for 16 years is reaching boiling point in Limpopo. The Limpopo Arts and Culture Association (LACA) – an independently-funded non-profit non-governmental organisation has launched an online petition in a bid to draw attention to their ongoing plight. Arlette Franks, Secretary General on the LACA Board/Exco and Interim CEO of the Beautiful Stuff Limpopo Arts Support Centre Project said: “After 16yrs of appealing to the Limpopo Dept Sports, Arts & Culture (DSAC), artists are still waiting for rightful redress and service delivery and yet we still apply every year." On behalf of the artists she said the DSAC is failing its mandate and vision of fostering partnerships, social cohesion, economic development and cultural industry. “It does not support, assist, facilitate, sponsor or donate to artists or projects. There is no help with fundraising, capacity-building, access to venues, infrastructure, resources and sponsorships. So why do they exist and what exactly are they doing with the money?” she further challenged. Artists argue that the DSAC must justify its right to exist to cost the Limpopo Government approximately R300m in public funds per year, without ever actually impacting beneficially on the community arts sector. “Limpopo has no DSAC-subsidised public theatre, art school, centre, company or development programmes,” said Franks.

LACA raised NLDTF funds and opened an arts support centre project in a rented house in Polokwane in 2009 which helped to generate an income for up to 150 people and deliver services to up to 2000. LACA invited DSAC to partner to create a proper community arts centre on public property, using LACA’s funds/operations and DSAC’s custody/access to public property but Franks said that DSAC did not respond. Subsequently LACA has now had to vacate its premises. “Funding is threatened; jobs may be lost. At an emergency meeting with the HOD it was stated that the DSAC needs more funds, staff and space before it can start helping community arts. The HOD said the Dept needs more of everything before it can help community artists," said an exasperated Franks.
Chairman of Arterial Network SA, Rehad Desai, responded to the arts crisis and said: “The Arterial Network stands for accountable and transparent governance, our government has policy and legislation in place, and has signed numerous conventions which speaks directly to involving arts and cultural practitioners from civil society in an open manner in regards funding and who gets to represents their art at major exhibitions. We require government to respect best practise in this regard. We cannot afford our government to be seen to be working on the basis of patronage.”

A spokesperson for The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, confirmed they were aware that LACA has a number of grievances against the Department and that an internet petition highlighting the Limpopo arts crisis was in circulation. “The Department is regrettably in no position to assist LACA with its immediate predicament of suitable premises needed, since the Association had been asked to vacate their previous premises, by the Polokwane Municipality,” said the spokesperson. The Department added that they are currently not in possession of premises that will suit their requirements, nor is the Department in any position to immediately assist financially, due to budgetary constraints and targeted funds already allocated to specific projects, as set out in the Department’s Annual Performance Plan. “The Department’s funding for projects cannot be misinterpreted as funding for arts and culture only, since projects with regard to school sport, sport development, recreation, museums, heritage, libraries, archives and language services also need sufficient funding,” they said. They concluded that their Department remained the second smallest in the Province and in terms of budgeting and staff compliment the ideal number of artists they would want to support and assist remained unreachable.
In MEC H.J Mashamba’s budget speech for the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, he confirmed the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture’s Budget for the 2011/2012 year was R279,767m of which Cultural Affairs will be allocated R31,344m. Ironically he ended his budget speech with these words: “Think of the talents that could be unearthed if every youth had access to materials needed to create works of art, sports fields to practice on, theatres, libraries...”

The HeARTbreak Petition to the MEC of Limpopo's Dept SportsArts & Culture

This article first appeared in the Cape Times top of the Times 14 May 2011 and is reproduced with kind permission of Suzy Bell and the Cape Times.