South African Cultural Observatory

Executive Direction April 2020

BY 02.04.20

With the disastrous havoc wreaked by the Coronavirus, the world as we knew it yesterday is no more. As humans that occupy the planet earth, we have never found ourselves in this position, at least not in modern times. We are all traversing in uncharted territory. As we put together this Newsletter, I couldn’t think of one industry that will be as severely impacted as the cultural and creative industries. For, in the main, the sector works best and to a large extent depends on people coming together. It thrives in contexts of social proximity, not social distance. The industry started feeling the impact immediately as soon as the world and people in our country started to appreciate how COVID-19 moves and spreads - when people get together - and that was before lockdown.

We don’t as yet understand the economic impact of the virus on our industry and will only fully understand it long after the carnage. As of this week, we start conducting an initial industry-wide survey to try to come grips with how it is affecting our sector. Anecdotal stories that are coming through are extremely horrifying. The picture from early research done in other countries seems to suggest that the impact is already very high. In the US alone the industry is reported to have already lost US$3,7 billion from cancelled or postponed industry work and activities, and Australia has already over US$100 million.

In SA, we were already dealing with a recessionary economy that had already reduced disposable incomes and the ability of arts and culture consumers to pay or participate fully in the industry. Given this context, I join those making a call to government, the private sector and individuals with the means to participate in fundraising efforts and activities that are designed to assist art and culture practitioners during and after this crisis. The relief initiative (Department of Sport, Arts and Culture: Sector relief framework and criteria) announced by Minister Nathi Mthethwa will hopefully alleviate some immediate financial challenges imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic, but we all know it is not enough. As such, I encourage everyone who has the means to do their bit to support those who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.

Many of you would have been eagerly awaiting the results of our bi-annual mapping study (a key industry report that provides economic analyses of the entire Cultural and Creative Industries sector as it relates to the size, growth, employment and contribution to the SA economy and GDP). We were due to release this early this month, but unfortunately, we are also having to deal with the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. We are hopeful that we will be able to publish the results soon

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