SACO scholarship winners describe award’s impact


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The South African Cultural Observatory's home in Port Elizabeth
The South African Cultural Observatory’s home in Port Elizabeth

Past beneficiaries of the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) scholarship and bursary scheme this week spoke of the lasting impact of the award.

Previous beneficiaries of the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) scholarship and bursary scheme this week spoke of the lasting impact the awards have had on their research and lives, ahead of tomorrow’s closing date for the new round of grants.

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The SACO has allocated over R500 000 in the 2017 round for young scholars wanting to pursue honours, masters and doctoral studies. The research undertaken must fall within the scope of SACO’s work in the cultural economy, cultural and creative industries (CCIs) and/or related sectors.

The SACO scholarship and bursary scheme has been running for the past two years now with nine awards issued to students across the country, studying at the following institutions:

  • University of Johannesburg
  • University of Witwatersrand
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  • Tshwane University of Technology
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
  • Rhodes University

Some scholarship recipients shared their insights and experiences of the impact of scholarship on their academic lives.

Melissa Sangqu
Melissa Sangqu

Melissa Sangqu, who completed her honours at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in cultural statistics said: “The SACO scholarship allowed me to focus fully on my studies without the burden of tuition fees weighing my mom and myself down. In turn, this helped me to complete my degree and present my research at a national statistics conference – the 58th Annual Conference of the South African Statistical Association (SASA).

“Through my studies, I have been exposed to a new field of statistics. Cultural statistics focuses on quantifying the performance of industries in the cultural and creative sector. In exploring this field, I became aware of the importance of these industries in the economy. This scholarship gave me the opportunity to work with researchers from SACO where I had received data to analyse for my research.”

Sangqu’s study sought to look at the application of the UNESCO framework to South African-based CCIs and develop indices to study their economic impact. The research helped chart the presence of CCIs in particular areas, rural and urbanised, enabling the mapping of particular types of CCIs in selected provinces.

Nontokozo Mokoena
Nontokozo Mokoena

Nontokozo Mokoena is pursuing her Masters at the University of Johannesburg. She is exploring whether musicians find that the current South African copyright laws protect their own work effectively.

Mokoena says the funds have helped her to not limit her thinking with regards to her research, and allayed fears of not having enough funds to conduct field research.

“The scholarship has enabled me to have access to free education at such a high level of my academic career. That is something that I highly appreciate and value,” she said. “I truly value and appreciate the opportunity and to have a scholarship that believes in creating academic opportunities for students in the arts and culture sector.”

Her research will contribute to the wider body of research on the creative and cultural industries, particularly the music industry.

“My research help recording labels as well as musicians and independent artists to be aware of the digital music sales hindrances; this can assist them in formulating future effective strategies. The research will also contribute to the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) having credible and valuable literature that contributes and strengthens the South African arts and culture disciplinary.”

Fiona Gordon. Pic by Jesse Kramer
Fiona Gordon. Pic by Jesse Kramer

Another of the nine scholarship holders, Fiona Gordon is studying for her Masters in Arts Administration at Wits University. “My research seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the role played by communications professionals in performing arts organisations in South Africa, which I hope will prove itself a useful study in these times of financial uncertainty and changing strategies,” Gordon said.

Gordon added that a scholarship award mitigates the very real “impact of the financial, emotional and energy costs of paying for a degree”.

“Substantial financial support – especially when it is given in acknowledgement of the contribution your work is expected to make to the industry – is not only humbling, but an enormous relief. There is very little industry support for postgraduate studies in the arts, especially in the interdisciplinary field of Arts Management, despite the impact it can have on the sector.

“That SACO is actively encouraging of this kind of work shows its forward-thinking commitment to the sector, which we can all be most grateful for.”

The SACO’s scholarship and bursary programme closes tomorrow [January 31, 2017 at 4pm] and targets only South African citizens and students who:

  • Obtained an average of 65% in the preceding degree;
  • Are registered at a South African university for 2017;
  • Are registered for full-time or part-time studies; and
  • Are interested in studies relating to the field of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Priority will be given to designated groups. Scholarship/bursary is awarded for a maximum of two years to be distributed to the student by the recipient university.


  • Honours degree
    R30 000 Academic supervisor to apply on behalf of student
  • Research Master’s Degree
    Part-Time – R30 000
    Full-Time -R80 000
  • Coursework Master’s Degree
    Part-Time –R30 000
    Full-Time – R80 000
  • Doctorate Degree
    Part-Time – R40 000
    Full-Time – R100 000

All applications must be submitted on the SACO website by Tuesday 31 January 2016 at 4pm: For enquires: contact or SACO office on 041 504 4930.


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