South African Cultural Observatory

New knowledge is power - A final word

BY 28.03.18

LOUIS L'Amour said, 'There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.' In many respects, this is the end of something and the birth of something new. Nelson Mandela University - and its partners, the Universities of Rhodes and Fort Hare - are concluding the three-year South African Cultural Observatory contract with the Department of Arts & Culture.

The Department will make an announcement in regard of the new contract, but I am very pleased to report that as far as the past three years have gone, we believe our contracted has been incredibly successful. In large degree, this success is a testament to collaboration: between the SACO and DAC; the university partners; and the many stakeholders across the South African Arts, Culture and Heritage (ACH) sectors and Creative and Cultural Industries (CCIs).  

I can also think of no better way to illustrate this level of collaboration than the third South African Cultural Observatory 2018 International Conference or #SACOConf2018. This conference was an expression of all that we have worked toward. We are describing the conference as a watershed, as it not only gave the SACO a platform to present the significant body of work developed over the past three years, and our recently completed mapping study and employment report, but also to elevate the many perspectives of the ACH sectors and CCIs.

The first attendance of the Minister of Arts & Culture, Hon. Nathi Mthethwa, was also a huge honour. The Minister cancelled all his engagements for the day and spent the time attending parallel sessions, engaging creators and taking an active role in the programme. SACO was proud to bring together a distinguished and diverse group of presenters, speakers and conference attendees. International, African and South African Speakers were plentiful and each made a meaningful contribution to the overall success of the conference programme. There were 52 speakers in total and over 200 people at the conference.

The conference platform also spoke to the pressing needs to understand the creative economy better, so we can be prepared for what lies beyond the creative economy. Knowledge is power in this regard – and the new knowledge showcased at the conference is going to stand the South African government and the ACH sectors and CCIs in good stead.

Building a cultural information system – which is the mandate of the SACO – is no small feat. In the past three years we have generated new knowledge on the South African creative economy, mainly focusing on:

  1. Developing a National Research Agenda to guide all research across the ACH sectors and CCIs.
  2. Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of DAC’s Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy funding and on measuring the impact of cultural events.
  3. Developing frameworks for: M&E of Publically Funded ACH projects; Cultural Seasons; and Cultural Statistics; and Cultural Diplomacy.
  4. The development of the free, online South African Festivals Economic Impact Calculator.
  5. A major mapping study to understand the South African CCIs and creative economy by looking at:
    1. Trade in cultural goods
    2. Employment
    3. Macro-economic impact assessment and analysis
    4. Provincial location and clusters
    5. Transformation, ownership and employment.
  6. In addition, we developed a large body of additional research and concept notes to guide the development of cultural policy; including an assessment of the current iteration of the Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage (2017).

All this and more is available in the SACO online library, free for download. I encourage you to read the now significant body of available research on the South African creative economy:

Our work has touched all corners of South Africa – and we completed two major domain workshop roadshows to bring our research to all creators and thinkers operating in the CCIs and ACH sectors across the country. In addition, the research commissioned – both in-house and that which was outsourced – has had its own economic impact on the ACH research landscape.

Three SACO conferences – one hosted each year – also brought new and existing research to light. They have also provided a working platform for creators and academics to engage each other and share insight.

I couldn’t be more proud of the team which delivered the South African Cultural Observatory project to the benefit of the entire arts, culture and heritage industry. To them, I say a heartfelt thank you.

It has been a wonderful opportunity to be a part of such an exciting, and indeed industry-shaping, initiative. I hope the long-term impacts of sound and well-thought out research will continue to benefit the sectors and industry for decades to come.

Tips hat,

Your Culturalist,

Prof. Richard Haines

South African Cultural Observatory: CEO


SACO 2018 Conference: ‘By the Numbers’ 

  • Day 1: Attendees = 205
  • Day 2: Attendees = 163
  • 20 Chairs
  • 51 Speakers
  • 1 x Arts & Culture Ministerial Delegation
  • 1 x Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture Delegation
  • Landmark figures on employment:
  • CCI employment 2.25%
  • Cultural Economy employment 6.7%
  • 15 x media attended
  • 3 x media releases
  • Coverage exceeding an advertising value equivalent of R2.5-million
  • 1 x The Herald wrap on SACO
  • X 2 hits in The Sunday Times.
  • 3K people reached on Facebook in March
  • 6K tweet impressions in March
  • 3 x videos developed over conference period
  • 5 x Nelson Mandela University student interns used
  • 10 x Media Workshop Graduates filming sessions
  • 3x Living Legends in attendance
  • 30 x VIPs attending pre-conference dinner


#SACOConf2018 programme cross-section of research, sector snapshots #SACOConf2018 programme cross-section of research, sector snapshots

THE South African Cultural Observatory 2018 International Conference programme represents a cross-section of global and local research and sector status snapshots. We are very excited to be hosting our third international conference at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth next week on 7 and 8 March.

SA Cultural Observatory – By the Numbers SA Cultural Observatory – By the Numbers

IT IS an exciting time for the South African Cultural Observatory led by a consortium headed by Nelson Mandela University. We are wrapping on what has been a three-year-long contract with the Department of Arts and Culture and we are preparing to bid to host the SACO again.


#SACOCOnf2018: Going beyond #SACOCOnf2018: Going beyond

WELCOME to the conference edition of the newsletter. This month we moved swifly to launch the SACO's 2018 Conference website, announce the conference theme, issue out a call for papers, and open registration. We have a very exciting international conference coming up that is both forward and backward looking as we seek of view 'Beyond the Creative Economy: Trends and Issues in National and Regional Economies’.

Beyond the creative economy? Beyond the creative economy?

IT IS conference planning season for the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO). This means an intense review of the trends and research emerging from the creative and cultural industries (CCIs) and the arts, culture and heritage (ACH) sectors. I spent three weeks recently travelling to Europe and the United Kingdom, which gave me some real first hand insight to some of the most pressing issues on the minds of many thinkers, academics, researchers, economists and policy-makers. There is much to be excited about.


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