South African Cultural Observatory

About Us

Initiated by the Department of Arts and Culture, through the Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy (2011), the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) is a statistical and socio-economic research project, launched in 2014, which charts the socio-economic impact of the arts, culture and heritage (ACH) sectors and the cultural and creative industries (CCIs) in South Africa.

We use a range of innovative statistical methodologies, audits and research tools to understand our creative economy. Our main purpose is the development of a comprehensive cultural information system which continuously captures cultural data and monitors and evaluates government initiatives in the ACH sectors and CCIs. The SACO is headquartered in Nelson Mandela Bay – hosted by Nelson Mandela University on behalf of the Department of Arts and Culture, in partnership with Rhodes University, University of KwaZulu-Natal  and the University of Fort Hare – but operates nationally analysing the CCIs and ACH sectors.

The SA Cultural Observatory supports the collection and analysis of data, influences policy, shares insights and builds on the intellectual capacity gained across the arts, culture and heritage sectors. We work across the breadth of all cultural domains, including the arts, heritage, tourism, museums, libraries, archives and creative industries.

The key functions of the South African Cultural Observatory include:

  • Advanced theoretical and policy-relevant research on cultural trends and the cultural economy
  • The conceptualization and collection of statistics (data-bases)
  • Monitoring and Evaluating the impact of  cultural events
  • Providing physical and online access to the cultural information
  • Capacity building within the Arts, Culture and Heritage sectors and Creative Industries
  • Networking, partnering and knowledge sharing
  • Promoting cultural diplomacy

The Cultural Observatory is a long-awaited and vital initiative in the country’s cultural landscape. The evidence and data collected and analysed assists in assessing where the competitiveness, job-creating and income-generating potential of the creative industries lies. The work of the Cultural Observatory adds value to the arts and culture sectors and enables a real socio-economic value to be attached to activities central to the rich tapestry of South African life.

More News
Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) funding  Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) funding

The application period for 2020/2021 Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) funding from the Department of Arts and Culture has been extended from 11th to 18th November 2019.

Call for the 2020 NMU/DAC bursary programme application Call for the 2020 NMU/DAC bursary programme application

The DAC bursary programme at the Nelson Mandela University wishes to inform all prospective language studies students that the DAC bursary programme for 2020 is now open.

SA museums have come long way SA museums have come long way

The main function of museums has traditionally revolved around collecting, preserving, researching and displaying objects. To control a museum means precisely to control the representation of a community and its highest values and truths. It is also the power to define the relative standing of individuals within that community. Museums are more than containers of things; rather, they are complex reflections of the cultures that produced them, including their politics, social structures, and systems of thought. Cultural institutions, like museums, can be powerful in telling the “authorised” version of our histories, in shaping national identity and in building social cohesion, as well as contributing to education and research through their collection, archiving and conservation of artefacts.

The SACO team attends UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Ad Hoc Expert Meeting in Geneva The SACO team attends UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Ad Hoc Expert Meeting in Geneva

The SA Cultural Observatory Executive Director, Unathi Lutshaba & Head of Research, Prof Jen Snowball participate in UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Ad Hoc Expert Meeting in Geneva. The meeting was first of its kind & was aimed at bringing together experts from various countries to discuss the relationship between creative industries and economic development.

The artist with a deep appreciation for art- Mr Avhashoni Mainganye The artist with a deep appreciation for art- Mr Avhashoni Mainganye

At a recent SA Cultural Observatory workshop in the Vhembe district in Sibasa, Limpopo, we came across the definition of an artist- Mr Avhashoni Mainganye. Currently based at the Vhembe Arts and Culture centre in Thohoyandou, the unassuming Mainganye is an accomplished painter, printmaker, sculptor, photographer, arts teacher and mentor with more than 30 years’ experience in the industry.

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