South African Cultural Observatory

A Highlight On Our Recently Published Reports:

BY 17.12.20

The SA Cultural Observatory continues to produce valuable reports that are aimed at empowering policy makers, decisions makers and the various industry stakeholders to make informed decisions on aspects that contribute in developing and growing the industry.  In this newsletter, we highlight two recent reports which are: The Value of the Repatriation of South African museum artefacts: Debates, Case Studies and a way forward; and Indigenous Knowledge as Content for the Cultural and Creative Industries

Report: The Value of the Repatriation of South African museum artefacts: Debates, Case Studies and a way forward

This report sets out the results of an investigation of the strategic policy and implementation problems relating to the repatriation of South African cultural artefacts from museums and galleries around the world. The investigation provides an overview of the salient academic literature and legal landscape as well as the outcome of an online survey and focus group discussion. This benefitted from the input of key informants drawn principally from the museum and cultural organization ecosystem in the Republic of South Africa.

The key findings can be summed up as follows:

  • Arguments for the repatriation of cultural artefacts are based on a variety of values and are not simple;
  • Identifying the objectives of repatriation can help to determine which repatriation options may be acceptable;
  • There is no clear set of priorities for repatriation in South Africa, although there is a comprehensive, and generally agreed on, definition of what makes an artefact “of national significance”;
  • An argument against repatriation was the perceived lack of resources in South African museums to properly curate and protect valuable cultural objects;
  • South African museum professionals felt strongly that repatriation requests should take into account the context in which the artefact was obtained, as well as its cultural, historical, educational, and aesthetic values;
  • As also recommended by the AU and AFRICOM, the digitization of SA museum archives is an important priority

Report: Indigenous Knowledge as Content for the Cultural and Creative Industries

The overarching aim of this research report was to explore how cultural and creative industries practitioners who utilise or are interested in using indigenous knowledge as a primary knowledge or data source for the production of their goods and services can engage with the indigenous knowledge system, policy and regulatory frameworks governing indigenous knowledge in South Africa. The specific objectives that guided the research were the i). scoping of indigenous knowledge systems policy environment, ii).Determination of the current state of indigenous knowledge systems, iii). The need to explore the potential of indigenous knowledge systems to contribute to the sector, and iv). Identification of the legal, institutional, and social requirements pertaining to the commercialisation of indigenous knowledge systems.

The report findings show that South Africa has made some progress in terms of policy and developing a legal framework for the integration, regulation, utilisation and commercialisation of indigenous knowledge in the production of cultural goods and services. Among others, one of the most instructive policies in this regard is the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy of 2004. This policy captures government aspirations to exploit IK for the benefit of local communities who possess such special knowledge while at the same time protecting them from exploitative capitalist business systems. Its economic motivations of creating employment and income not only at individual but also at a national level consolidate endeavours expressed particularly by the DSAC that oversees the mandate on artistic and cultural productions. Accordingly, the policy responds to concerns that hamper IK development and usage under the prevailing socio-economic, legal and environmental context. Thus, it lays a solid foundation for the establishment of a complex indigenous knowledge system architecture and a legal environment within which CCIs practitioners can produce their goods and services using indigenous knowledge without jeopardising individual and community indigenous knowledge holders.

The country has also made strides in terms of conceptualisation work regarding the integration and regulation of indigenous knowledge in the production of cultural goods and services. For example, as per policy imperatives, the National Recordal System (NRS) offers great potential of protecting individual and community indigenous knowledge holders at a national level while, at the same time, providing a one-stop shop for CCIs practitioners who intend to use indigenous knowledge as primary content and data to produce goods and services. The NRS thus offers a strategic opportunity of empowering communities economically and boosting the national economy. However, the complex NRS needs to be refined, particularly at community and provincial levels where Indigenous Knowledge Documentation Centres (IKDCs) appear to be still struggling to perform to their best potential, with IK holders either reluctant to submit their IK or lacking sufficient understanding regarding the modalities and benefits of doing so. It appears apparent that, in addition to further resourcing of indigenous knowledge system structures and processes, public awareness needs to be raised among communities.

In the legal arena, the study found that there are various legal, institutional and social requirements in place to not only preserve indigenous knowledge for indigenous communities but equally to ensure that the commercial exploitation of such is not detrimental but beneficial to the indigenous communities. The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act of 2013 and the Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous knowledge Act of 2019 on a broader scale sets out the legal requirements of how IK should be registered and how intended users should enter into benefit sharing agreements with indigenous communities. The purpose is to ensure that any commercial exploitation of IK does not happen without benefit to the community. Various mechanisms and institutions are set up by law to ensure transparency, efficiency and recording of indigenous knowledge. The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act of 2013 establishes a National Council in respect of indigenous knowledge, a National Database for the recording of indigenous knowledge and a National Trust and Trust Fund for purposes of indigenous knowledge. The Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous knowledge Act of 2019 creates community representatives through trustees who are appointed by the curator. The curator is appointed by the Minister and is responsible for the control of the Registration Office, subject to the directions and instructions issued by the Minister or the Director-General as delegated by the Minister. Unfortunately both these crucial two pieces of legislation are yet to come into force.

Therefore, presently any recourse for the management of IKs for the benefit of indigenous communities has to be found in the existing traditional forms of intellectual property protection and promotion. Further, since these are national approaches the absence of a multilateral system deprives indigenous communities of any guarantee of the same legislative benefits when the IK is commercially exploited beyond national borders. It is therefore important for authorities to pursue multilateral approaches in line with national developmental plans in order to protect local indigenous knowledge.

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