South African Cultural Observatory

Executive Direction - July 2019

BY 04.07.19

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. The country witnessed the inauguration of the 5th democratic President of the Republic of South Africa. Shortly thereafter, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed the names of cabinet members that will join him in the executive.

In his cabinet announcement, the President also announced a reconfigured government with new portfolios. Significant for our industry, the President merged the two ministries of Sports; and Arts and Culture into a single new ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture. This portfolio is led by Minister Nathi Mthethwa who previously led the Arts and Culture ministry. Interestingly, the two portfolios have always been combined in several provinces.

For most us who only work in the arts, culture and heritage space, it is tempting to think that the sector will be overshadowed by sport. The reality though is that they should not be seen as competing, but rather complementary. As some have remarked, ‘sports carries culture’. It is rather difficult to imagine Indian culture without cricket or Brazilian culture without football and volleyball.

The 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics (FCS), posits the following: “For some countries, particular sports are closely related to their cultural identity, as sport may be associated with social structures and traditions. An example might be sumo wrestling in Japan. In other countries, sports may be no more than a recreational past time, or most commonly undertaken for little more than physical exercise. Moreover, the same sport may have very different associations in different countries. In some classifications (European Commission, 2002), spectator attendance in sports events or watching sports events on TV are perceived as the cultural activity, while professional sport may not necessarily be viewed as being cultural. These strong differences of approach, and a common interpretation that it is participation and not sport as a ‘product’ or ‘sector’, which is ‘cultural’, have led us to consider sport as a related activity”.

In my view, the merger provides us with an excellent opportunity to seamlessly fuse sport, arts and culture to the benefit of the broader economy. It also gives us as the SA Cultural Observatory an opportunity to fully understand how we can as country promote our arts and culture through sports and sports through arts and culture. The industry is currently in a fortunate space in that policy makers have started appreciating the importance of the sector as an economic sector.

Until then,

Unathi Lutshaba

Executive Director: South African Cultural Observatory

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