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.

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