It’s been two decades since the inception of the National Arts Council (NAC), the public entity mandated to facilitate the development of arts, culture and heritage in South Africa. Over the years, the NAC has provided funding and support to initiatives and projects that educate, uplift, empower and express the hopes and dreams of South Africans, who have since 1994 been waking up to the possibilities of freedom of expression and democracy.
“The NAC has made tremendous strides from being a purely grant making agency towards realising its full mandate, that is, in addition to funding, to provide support and much-needed exposure to those working in the arts, culture and heritage sector,” says the NAC’s chief executive officer, Rosemary Mangope.
Since 1997, the NAC has funded a total of 5 896 projects and artists, an average of 536 projects and artists per year, with total funding provided amounting to more than R550 million, averaging more than R50 million per year. Over and above this, the NAC has opened many avenues and provided platforms for South African arts and culture workers in the international arena, paving the way for investment and development.
“Over the past 20-years I’ve engaged with the NAC in different roles – as an independent artist, as a director of a municipally managed theatre then through my position at the US Embassy to broker partnerships between South African agencies and their US counterparts, and I have seen the organisation grow from strength to strength. This 20-year milestone in the history of the NAC offers it an invaluable opportunity to reflect on its past, celebrate its resilient existence and to re-envision the next milestone,” says Ismail Mahomed, the CEO of The Market Theatre Foundation.
The NAC covers seven disciplines under its umbrella – Dance, Theatre, Literature, Visual Art, Music, Craft and Multidiscipline – all of which enjoy the same amount of attention and care from its teams of dedicated arts development officers, members of the board and executive, and support staff. As part of the national Department of Arts and Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy initiative, which aims to stimulate the economy by creating employment in the arts, culture and heritage sector, the NAC has identified several Flagship Projects across each discipline. These projects are aimed at creating socioeconomic growth through education and grass-roots development.
In addition, the NAC has supported and been involved in the establishment of key institutions and organisations such as Vuyani Dance Theatre in Johannesburg, the Keiskamma Trust in Eastern Cape, and the Visual Arts Network of South Africa.
“The NAC’s evolution over the years should be attributed to the tireless efforts of those past and current staff and board members who are passionate about breathing life into the organisation’s full mandate and who, by extension, have only the interests of development at heart. Although we cannot accurately quantify the difference the NAC has made in the lives of those participating in the arts, culture and heritage sector, we can safely assume that the sector enjoys greater exposure and vibrancy than it did prior to the NAC’s establishment,” concludes Mangope.