Arts and culture
South Africa’s arts and culture are as varied as one might expect from such a diverse nation. The blend of local cultures and diverse influences make for a melting pot of creativity that never disappoints.
As custodians of South Africa’s diverse cultural, artistic and linguistic heritage, the Department of Arts and Culture aims to develop and preserve South African culture to ensure social cohesion and nation-building.
Arts and culture summit
A national consultative summit on the contribution of the arts,
culture and heritage sector to the economy was held in April
2011 and took a number of far-reaching resolutions. The summit resolved to continue with the implementation of the National Liberation Heritage Route Project, which will tell the stories of the country’s liberation struggle. Another resolution was that the departments of arts and culture and basic education should develop interventions in the education system to bring back arts education into schools. Through this initiative, government will deploy 3 000 full-time art facilitators in schools throughout the country.
Monuments, museums, plaques, outdoor art, heritage trails
and other symbolic representations create visible reminders
of, and commemorate, the many aspects of South Africa’s
Government has initiated several national legacy projects to establish commemorative symbols of South Africa’s history
and celebrate its heritage.
The legacy projects include the:
Work is underway in Oliver Tambo’s homestead in Nkantolo, in Bizana, where government is building a museum, an interpretation centre and a statue. An initial amount of R25 million has been set aside for this project.
Work is underway to upgrade and declare as heritage sites the graves of Dr Beyers Naude and Robert Sobukwe in Graaff Reinet.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the Department of Arts and Culture launched the Dr John Dube Heritage Legacy Project. This project will cost R60 million and is expected to create 270 jobs.
In Gauteng, the graves of Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and Charlotte Maxeke have been declared as national heritage sites.
Government has also declared the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria as a heritage site and has connected it with the Freedom Park by building a road linking the two institutions, as part of nation-building, reconciliation and nation-healing.
In the Western Cape, the department is working with the Ray Alexander Simonds Memory Centre to build a museum and a community centre in Gugulethu that will celebrate and honour the contribution of workers in the national liberation
In honouring the heroines of the struggle, government has declared the site of the 1957 anti-pass women’s march in Zeerust as a heritage site.
Arts and culture organisations
The following organisations play an active role in preserving
and promoting South Africa’s arts and culture:
South Africa’s cultural and creative industry is a good revenue
generator, and still has great potential to produce more and contribute to job creation.
The Cultural Industries Growth Strategy capitalises on
the economic potential of the craft, music, film, publishing
and design industries. The Department of Arts and Culture provides support in the form of financing, management
capacity, advocacy and networking, and by developing public-private
partnerships and other initiatives that use culture as a
tool for urban regeneration.
Worldwide, the turnover of cultural industries makes this the fifth-largest economic sector, which comprises design, the performing arts, film, television, multimedia, cultural heritage, cultural tourism, visual arts, crafts and publishing.
The Department of Arts and Culture has entered into partnership with significant stakeholders to map the cultural industries.
Cabinet has identified the creative and cultural industries as one of the drivers of economic growth and job creation in the implementation of the New Growth Path.
The Industrial Policy Action Plan 2 identifies the cultural industries, in particular the craft sector, music, jewellery production, clothing, leather, footwear and textile as some of the sectors that will be subjected to focused and significant support by the State.
Cultural festivals, African-cuisine projects, cultural villages,
heritage routes and story-telling are areas that can benefit
from South Africa’s booming tourism industry.
A range of arts festivals is held in South Africa every year.
These have become popular events, with many of them seeing growing attendance numbers. The Department of Arts and Culture provides financial support to various arts and culture festivals.
The National Arts Festival, held annually in July in Grahamstown,
in the Eastern Cape, is one of the largest and most
diverse arts gatherings in Africa.
Aardklop, held annually in Potchefstroom, North West, is
inherently Afrikaans, but universal in character. The festival
provides a platform for the creativity and talent of local artists.
Other festivals that attract visitors at both national and
international level are the Joy of Jazz International Festival;
Oppikoppi; Calabash; the One City Festival in Taung, North
West; the Awesome Africa Music Festival in Durban; the Spier
Summer Festival at Spier Estate in the Western Cape; the
Windybrow Theatre Festival in Johannesburg; and Innibos,
South African theatre is internationally acclaimed as being
unique and of top quality.
The theatre scene in South Africa is vibrant, with many
active spaces across the country offering everything from
indigenous drama, music, dance, cabaret and satire, to West
End and Broadway hits, classical music, opera and ballet.
In recent years, South African theatre has taken the
entertainment world by storm with commendable reviews for Umoja, The Lion King and Kat and The Kings. The reception
these productions receive in capitals of the world testifies to
the high quality of indigenous South African theatre.
While local music styles such as South African jazz have
influenced African and world music for decades, gospel and
kwaito are the most popular and most recorded styles today.
Kwaito combines elements of rap, reggae, hip-hop and
other styles into a distinctly South African sound.
Kwaai Jazz is gaining popularity.
The National Arts Council (NAC) is responsible for funding the KwaZulu-Natal, Cape and
Gauteng orchestras as well as the Cape Town Jazz Orchestra.
South African dance is unique in its vitality and energy.
More and more South African dance companies, individual
dancers and choreographers are being invited to perform at
festivals throughout Europe, Australia and the United States
Contemporary work ranges from normal preconceptions of
movement and performance art or performance theatre, to
the completely unconventional. Added to this is the African
experience, which includes traditional dance inspired by
wedding ceremonies, battles, rituals and everyday life.
The Dance Factory in Johannesburg provides a permanent
platform for all kinds of dance and movement groups, while
the Wits (University) Theatre is home to the annual Dance
Umbrella, a showcase for new work.
The Cape Town City Ballet is the oldest ballet company in
The largest ballet company is the South African Ballet
Theatre (SABT), based in Johannesburg. The SABT celebrated 10 years of existence in February 2011. Marking this celebration, the SABT had two full-length seasons in 2011. The 2011 season included full-length productions of Romeo and Juliet and Sleeping Beauty, as well as its annual year-end concert.
Art galleries in South Africa’s major cities display collections of indigenous,
historical and contemporary work. These include:
Universities also play an important role in acquiring artwork
of national interest.
These include collections housed in the Gertrude Posel
Gallery of the University of the Witwatersrand, the University
of South Africa Gallery in Pretoria, the Edoardo Villa Museum
and other galleries at the University of Pretoria, and a collection
of contemporary Indian art at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The craft industry has been identified as a strategic sector
for the economic upliftment of South Africans. The crafts
industry has the potential to create meaningful jobs and the
Department of Arts and Culture has begun to consolidate
the marketing and distribution of South African products to
international markets such as Art Mundi in Brazil.
The South African film and television industry is valued at
around R12 billion a year and creates direct and indirect jobs for more than 30 000 people.
Funding for film production increased from 6,9 million in 2009/10 to R8,7 million in 2010/11.
There was an estimated 20% increase in the number of bed nights used by film producers in Cape Town in the 2010/11 summer season, compared with the previous summer. Most came from Britain and Europe (Germany, Italy, Spain and the Scandinavian countries) but also from the USA and increasingly India.
By the third quarter of 2010/11, 3 793 permits had been issued for, among other productions, South African, Italian, Dutch, American, British and Indian productions
The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) develops
and promotes the film and video industry in South Africa. It
is also involved in the development of projects that appeal
to targeted audiences and have greater commercial returns. The foundation disburses grants for developing and producing
feature films, short films, television series, documentaries
and animation projects, as well as bursaries for students
from other countries. This ensures a South African presence
at major local and international film markets, festivals and
The South African book sector has become globally competitive and the country’s writers continue to command respect across the world.
The total net turnover of the book publishing industry in
2010 was estimated to be worth R3,4 billion. More than 12 000 authors earned an estimated R1,8 billion worth of royalties. The publishing industry employs about 3 000 individuals on a full-time basis and 2 400 freelancers. More than 7 000 people are employed in the printing industry.
Electronic books downloaded onto a special reading device is gaining in popularity. In 2010, this subsector earned about R1,2 million with a total of 524 titles available.
The new pop culture in poetry, often referred to as “spoken-word poetry”, is one of the most celebrated art forms throughout the country and beyond. Poets such as Lesego Rampolokeng, Lebogang Mashile, Kgafela oa Magogodi, Blaq Pearl, Jessica Mbangeni and Mark Manaka are household names in the genre. There are regular platforms created to give these poets opportunities to hone their skills.
The current generation of writers is also making its mark on the world stage, with writers such as Zakes Mda, Niq Mhlongo and the late K Sello Duiker having their novels translated into
languages such as Dutch, German and Spanish.
The Department of Arts and Culture in collaboration with the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) is reprinting some out-of-print books that are considered as classics in indigenous African languages.
A total of 27 titles in all the nine previously marginalised languages were reproduced and distributed to public libraries across the nation.
The department embarked on the second phase of the project, which involved the re-issuing of a total of 18 titles (two in each indigenous language). These titles include: Apha Naphaya by DM Jongilanga, Ikusasa Alaziwa by OTM Nxumalo and Megokgo ya Bjoko by Oliver Kgadime Matsepe.
More than 300 of the approximately 1 000 museums in Africa
are in South Africa. The Department of Arts and Culture
subsidises most museums, which are otherwise autonomous.
The department pays an annual subsidy to 13 national museums, ensuring the preservation of artefacts and collections that are important to all South Africans.
National Library of South Africa
The National Library of South Afica (NLSA) is a custodian and provider of the nation’s key
knowledge resources. It is mandated by the NLSA Act, 1998 [PDF] to collect and preserve intellectual documentary heritage
material and to make it accessible worldwide. It ensures that
knowledge and information are not lost to posterity and are
available for future research.