South African Cultural Observatory

New directions: Five years, five key goals

BY 27.09.18

PASSIONATE creative economy champion and researcher, Unathi Lutshaba, has been appointed Executive Director of the South African Cultural Observatory after a consortium of Universities led by Nelson Mandela University won a five year tender to ensure South Africa’s creative economy is well mapped, understood and analysed. Here are her five key goals for the next five years. 

New directions: Five years, five key goals

1.Finding new ways to talk creative economy

Firstly, my aim is to find a new language to discuss the economic crises of our times and include the creative economy in this new lexion. In the past, the cultural and creative industries were not seen as mainstream contributors to the country’s economy. However, a study by the DAC through the Mzansi Golden Economy (2011) revealed what we now see and, as we rightfully claim, as one the fastest growing sectors in the South Africa.

2. A more visible, informed sector

Secondly, I’d like to dream erased voices back into being. Many practitioners and artists whom I’ve interacted with in the past two and half years across the country have often expressed that they have been denied access to the sector. They raise a number of issues, including not having access to information, basic information on how to grow and develop their talents and skills so that they can make a sustainable living from their creative work; how to protect their work from being stolen, reproduced and later sold back to them by those who have access to resources to do so; and how to ultimately access markets for their cultural goods.

3. Challenge and support 

Thirdly, through SACO I want to encourage the young people and researchers in the sector to express themselves honestly and I want to see SACO becoming that safe space which the sector can be transparent about the challenges it faces, allowing for the creative voices to be loud, vulnerable but beautiful. I’d like to create a platform where aspects pertaining to developments within the arts, heritage, creative and cultural sectors can be discussed constructively.

4. Thinking collectively 

Fourthly, the SACO runs a series of dissemination workshops around the country, one of our platforms for knowledge sharing. Through these workshops, SACO aims to encourage collective thinking by rebuilding a new space for the neglected voices and I want to contribute to achieving social cohesion in our country through collective thinking, whilst making people to confidently believe that the sector has something for them, that they are invited and welcome to make a meaningful contribution for society and for themselves.

5. Fresh perspectives drawing on heritage 

Lastly, as a young, black female leader in the cultural and creative industries, I have a big responsibility to model and lead the deep-rooted values left to us by those who have paved the way before.  This year, our country is celebrating the life and times of Mama Albertina Sisulu, a struggle stalwart and consequently I need to ensure that her values and many others are evident in how I conduct myself every day. Our pride in our cultures needs to extend beyond outfits when we  claim to be celebrating our heritage. Our culture also needs to be entrenched in how we build businesses of the future and this year's Heritage theme "advancing transformation of South Africa's heritage" echoes this sentiment.


Executive Direction Executive Direction

The first quarter of our new financial year (2019/20) has been characterized by several momentous events. The country held successful national elections, elected the sixth administration into office, new national assembly members and new provincial legislatures

Executive Direction Executive Direction

These past few months have seen some good momentum gained in providing direction to the research outputs of the South African Cultural Observatory. In the same vein, the inputs for the Research Agenda have expanded the research possibilities for the Observatory and the sector as a whole.


Research is the word: What's done, what's to come Research is the word: What's done, what's to come

THE SOUTH African Cultural Observatory has a trove of research. Over the past three years we have generated research reports, monitoring and evaluation reports, a ground-breaking mapping study and more. We are intent on sharing this research widely and ensuring that the sector benefits, empowering through knowledge.

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