Cape Town artists stage protest over management of Covid-19 relief funding

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Ilingomso Lethu a traditional dance group from Khayelitsha during the Cape artists protest action against the National Arts Council (NAC) and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) at the Artscape Plaza on March 27, 2021 in Cape Town.
Ilingomso Lethu a traditional dance group from Khayelitsha during the Cape artists protest action against the National Arts Council (NAC) and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) at the Artscape Plaza on March 27, 2021 in Cape Town.
PHOTO: Brenton Geach/Gallo Images
  • Artists gathered in Cape Town to give protest performances over the management of funding meant to offer relief to the industry.
  • The arts sector has been hard hit by the pandemic, with many entertainment venues forced to close under Covid-19 regulations.
  • The artists claim funds meant to offer them relief have been mismanaged.


Artists gathered at Artscape in Cape Town on Saturday to demand answers from the National Arts Council (NAC) over relief funding meant to support artists affected by the pandemic and economic crunch.

The artists presented a variety of performances in solidarity with colleagues in Johannesburg, highlighting the skills and talents of a highly specialised industry "which has been decimated by Covid-19", the organisers said in a statement.

Ilingomso Lethu, a traditional dance group from Kh
Likhwezi from Nyanga during the Cape artists protest action against the National Arts Council (NAC) and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) at the Artscape Plaza on March 27, 2021 in Cape Town.

The arts industry is questioning the NAC's allocation of R300 million, handed over as part of the Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP) last year.

The event organisers said while some artists received funds initially, many of the disbursements were then reassessed and the funding recalled.

The protest performances in Cape Town were in solidarity with acclaimed opera singer Sibongile Mngoma and a group of 20 artists who have peacefully occupied the NAC offices in Johannesburg.

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Mngoma said: "The groundswell of support across the country shows that our cause is shared and of utmost importance. Sit-ins, hunger strikes and protest marches – these are clarion calls for meaningful change in the agencies and government departments that are tasked with the care of arts and culture.

"We call upon creative industry practitioners across SA to unite and take action wherever they can so that truth, transparency and progress can prevail and our industry can get up off its knees and thrive."

Jazzart dance theatre during the Cape artists prot
Jazzart dance theatre during the Cape artists' protest action against the National Arts Council (NAC) and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture at the Artscape Plaza on 27 March 2021 in Cape Town.

The protests come a year after theatres and entertainment venues were forced to close under Covid-19 regulations.

"As South Africa's lockdown reaches a full year that has seen theatres closed, live entertainment and music venues shuttered, touring school and professional productions shelved, film and television shoots at a minimum, markets and festivals cancelled or drastically downsized, South Africa's performing artists are in a desperate situation and are actively seeking meaningful engagement with the [Department of Arts and Culture] and ways to reinvigorate and revive their industry, with the support that the PESP was intended to provide," the statement read.


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