South Africa’s arts, sports and culture sector is unquestionably one of the most affected areas in this time of lockdown and social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Minister of Arts, Sports and Culture Nathi Mthethwa recently expressed concern about the large number of artists excluded from accessing the department’s Covid-19 relief fund.
With this in mind, the National Arts Council (NAC) announced an extension of its round of funding for this year.
Rosemary Mangope, CEO of the NAC, told The Citizen that arts practitioners were experiencing immense challenges during the national lockdown period.
“Their world has been turned upside down. Gigs, concerts, performances, exhibitions, markets and festivals have been muted, stretching across the value chain from performers to technicians, marketers and other support staff,” said Mangope.
“This [pandemic] has made it incredibly difficult for many artists to earn a living and pay their bills. They also face the uncertainty of not being able to plan, as no one can predict when the situation will return to normal.”
Mangope said when the government effected the lockdown, many artists missed the submission date due to the unavailability of resources such as printers and scanning equipment. As a result, the NAC had taken a resolution to extend the funding application date to 19 June.
The NAC’s new call for project funding focuses on proposals that comply with Covid-19 restrictions and protocols, given that live performances are not permitted until level 1 is reached – and even then social distancing and other restrictions are likely to apply.
“This means applicants are requested to propose new arts projects that employ digital innovation, as we begin to explore new ways of developing, promoting, exhibiting, selling and distributing art, and interacting with audiences.”
Sipho Mahamba, a past recipient of the fund and now CEO of the Endumbeni Cultural & Creative Arts Centre, said the funding for online streaming projects offers a welcome relief for artists.
“As long as social-distancing policies are in place, the arts scene will have to adapt, or artists will be redundant. The alternative for artists is to look to online entertainment.
“This is an opportunity for the government to increase local content on radio and television so that artists can increase their income through royalties,” he said, stressing that this will expose a wider audience to local artists and content, and that can contribute to audience business.
“This is an opportunity for artists to be innovative so that their work suits the dispensation which is favourite to online streaming and television,” said Mahamba