Up-and-coming SACO researchers foster insights

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SA Cultural Observatory interns and researchers with CEO, Prof. Richard Haines.
SA Cultural Observatory interns and researchers with CEO, Prof. Richard Haines.

Through an assortment of research opportunities, the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) is engaging young academics in arts, culture and economic studies that both develop the research capabilities of these young minds and offer fresh insights into the work the SACO is undertaking.

CEO, Prof. Richard Haines says the Observatory’s young researchers and interns are contributing to sustainable capacity building within the arts, culture and heritage sectors.

“Through their qualitative and quantitative research they are adding significant assets and stocks to the cultural statistics, trends and forecasting domains. This will benefit both the public and private sectors while also producing employable graduates who have been exposed to a range of local, national and international expertise.”

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Associate researcher Siphosethu Tetani says meeting Haines at the Counting Culture conference in May consequently led to her taking up a position within the Observatory.

“The SACO is a catalyst for the South African creative economy to reach its optimal potential by becoming a holistic repository, collector and developer of knowledge,” Tetani says. “I’m looking forward to more growth opportunities that the SACO promises to afford me.”

Researcher, Amy Shelver says the “opportunity to walk in step with the coming to life of the SACO has been deeply gratifying”.

“Research takes a long time when it is done properly,” says Shelver, “so we are literally only at the starting line. But we are a team of passionate academics and cultural activists who want to see the realm of arts, culture and heritage given the worth it deserves.”

Shelver wholeheartedly believes in the insights the SACO offers the industry. “Without measure, the SACO is one of the best initiatives conceived of by the DAC because it enables the industry to have the data it needs to both defend and develop itself on hand,” she says.

At present the SACO employs four researchers and eight interns, who undertake research and administrative duties under the guidance of the SACO senior staff. Ntombizodwa Mashologu says this opportunity has offered her a chance to work with an array of people, while learning from stalwarts of the industry about issues that have, until recently, not been addressed.

Fellow interns Thembela Xhoxho and Konrad Kapp say the SACO has provided them with holistic learning opportunities. Kapp says he is appreciative of “the bird’s eye view of the creative and cultural industry” the SACO has given him, while Xhoxho says he is excited by opportunities to employ the knowledge he gained at university in his day-to-day work.

“My involvement with the SACO has helped me gain valuable lessons about how in depth we must go to produce quality research,” says intern Masixole Nondumo. “Also, we have met people, who provide us with a better sense on lessons learnt, challenges and milestones of being in a fully functional cultural observatory.”

Through his work, Nondumo has become a crusader for the SACO’s cause; he says the work they are undertaking has the potential to trigger change, and demonstrate the impact of the industry on the country. “The Observatory is set to be the cord between the academic world, practitioners and the cultural and creative industry. The work we do is an enabling tool for the industry to communicate using a common language,” Nondumo concludes.

The SACO researchers are focused on bringing some elements of the SACO National Research Agenda to life.

They are also committed to fostering this level of passion and dedication to the industry through the roll out of more internship and research opportunities in the future.

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