South African Cultural Observatory

Executive Direction - December 2019

BY 06.12.19

2019, what a year it was. It has been an exciting year for the Arts, Heritage, Cultural and Creative sector. This is not say there were no lows. That would be abnormal. The industry lost several artists, young and old. We will forever be indebted to them for they have bequeathed us with their brilliant artistic contributions which will live continuously in society’s collective memory.

Overall, it was a positive year for the industry. The cultural and creative industries received serious recognition as a significant economic sector with a possibility to make a huge impact to the country’s economic development. South Africa, including the highest office in the land, took note of our various research outputs, particularly the Mapping Study 2018 which showed that the sector is a significant economic contributor. We are due to release results of the latest Mapping Study in the first quarter of 2020.

In releasing The Creative Economy Outlook and Country Profile early in the year, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) predominantly relied on our Mapping Study for information about South Africa’s creative industries. The Profile highlights the trends in the international trade in the cultural and creative industries.

The year was filled with so many positives for our artists. They hoisted the SA flag high on a global stage. From Sho Majozi bagging the BET award to Ndlovu Youth Choir making it to the finals at America’s Got Talent, Trevor Noah’s Grammy award nomination to Nomzamo Mbatha and Thuso Mbedu landing acting roles in Hollywood. All this is testimony to the thriving industry.

The team at the Observatory traversed the length and breadth of the country throughout the year conducting dissemination and capacity building workshops, engaging with art practitioners in the most remote rural areas and various metropoles. We interacted with artists from all nine provinces, in their rural and urban settings, and can attest that the future of the industry is indeed bright. It is our hope that we will engage with even more practitioners in the new year.

As the year draws to a close, let us all take heed of the United Nations’ declaration for the year 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The objective was to raise awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of Indigenous languages across the world with an aim of establishing a link between language, development, peace, and reconciliation.

In South Africa, the Department of Arts and Culture offers bursaries to students wishing to enrol for degrees majoring in African Languages, Translation Studies and Linguistics in a bid to build capacity in language practice and to elevate the status of previously marginalized official languages. In a research we conducted at one of the recipient universities, we found that over 90% of the graduates get employed and remain in the languages related professions. In addition to the bursaries programme, the Department additionally supports the South African Book Week, which encourages and gives exposure to writers and authors who write in various languages, including indigenous languages. The Book Week is aimed at encouraging as many South Africans to read and engender a strong culture of reading. Our assessment of the Book Week reveals that the number of authors writing in African languages was on the increase, which bodes well for the promotion of previously marginalised languages. It is my hope that beyond 2019, we will do our bit to promote all indigenous languages.

Finally, it is that time of celebratory festivities, where majority of South Africans take time out to enjoy what the arts and culture industry has to offer. Be it music concerts, theatre performances, movies or simply visiting museums and art fairs, there is variety of cultural products on offer. I would like to urge as many South Africans to go out and buy tickets to support local artists. This has a huge economic benefit to the industry, those it employs and the country in general.

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