Show Me The Money

2010-02-19 14:22

On May 15 2007, the then deputy minister of finance, Jabu Moleketi,

stated that: “The Soccer World Cup is also about providing a stage to show the

very best of the African continent and to build pride and unity. Government has

programmes and funding for R150 million for arts and culture related projects.”

With just less than a 100 days to go, I ask – where is the


The ministry of housing in the last cabinet spent R22 million on a

series of plays, and no one can ever forget the Sarafina II saga in 1996 when

Mbongeni Ngema was awarded a R14.27 million contract to produce the sequel about

Aids that would positively influence the mindset of the youth. Ngema is also

said to have received more than R20 million from Mpumalanga provincial

government. Fast forward to end of last year, when President Jacob Zuma met with

local artists and musicians to discuss what government could do to ensure that

arts and culture in South Africa thrives.

In June of this year, we will have hundreds of thousands of people

from all over the world in South Africa to not only watch football but to

experience the South African spirit, culture and life. Across the world, major

festivals or events like Midem (a four-day business and networking event for

music professionals held in Cannes, France) take place and many have South

Africa as their focus for this year. If there ever was an opportunity to create

a solid platform for arts and culture in this country, now is the time.

I have been blessed to meet young artists, actors, musicians,

poets, etc with phenomenal talent and the desire to grow, evolve, and challenge

themselves. They hope that someone will recognise their talent and give them a

boost. Put a group of artists together and what you generally get is a flurry of

negativity and frustration with how difficult it is to raise the necessary


Yet every day, we hear mind-boggling figures being bandied about in

terms of what has been spent on trips and single plays.

I have a simple proposal. Since so much money seems to be shoved

down an artistic black hole and the powers-that-be seem comfortable enough with

it, let those funds at least alleviate the life of the ordinary artist, even if

it is temporarily.

Say R3 million was spent on a trip to a literary conference,

including flights, accommodation, etc. Instead of sending a couple of officials

on free trip, split that money up amongst a couple of artists. Ask artists to

submit a 12-month plan to initiate and create something and, at R12 500 per

month for 12 months, you could provide 20 artists with the livelihood required

to create.

If you could take five authors, five playwrights, five painters and

five musicians, imagine what you could get out of that to market to the

thousands of World Cup visitors as well as those of us who enjoy the occasional

artsy evening out on the town.

Simplistic? Yes, the solution is not as complicated as we think.

The ­objective is not to make a profit but to assist in the development of South

African society and its people.

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