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Row over arts council fund

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Over 300 local artists said that they would not be benefiting due to a “shortage of funds”

Picture: John Hogg

A ROW has erupted over R2 million that was handed over by the National Arts Council to the Northern Cape last week, where local artists were informed that they would not qualify for any funding.

The Province received funds for capacity building (R350 000) and social cohesion (R882 482), while arts platforms received R850 000 from the National Arts Council.

Over 300 local artists said that they would not be benefiting due to a “shortage of funds”.

“We were informed that R2 million would be ring fenced for job creation for artists and community members. The MEC (for Sport, Arts and Culture) advised that the funds would be used to host another artist summit in Kimberley next month.”

The artists are aggrieved that while they were told that there are no funds, according to them the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture awarded R1 million for a Christmas Eve party in Colesberg.

During her keynote address at the meeting with stakeholders and beneficiaries of funding from the National Arts Council, MEC Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba noted that financial support for artists was extremely limited.

“Funding is a huge challenge in your sector and every indication is that it could become worse before it becomes better. I am also of the view that you might think the funding received today is a drop in the ocean needed by you to transform the sector and take arts to the next level and ensure that you become self-sustainable.”

She said provincial government would do its utmost to fund the arts.

“I do, however, urge you to confront the reality of a diminishing fiscal by reviewing how you organise yourselves, how you share resources and how you collaborate so that there are mutual benefits for all.”

Spokesperson for the department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Conrad Fortune, said that the National Arts Council had allocated funding to artists who had submitted proposals for various programmes to promote social cohesion and nation building, capacity building, strategic planning and productions.

“The applications had to have a strong element of developing communities and audiences.”

He stated that the department had contracted four companies to act as events management organisers. “We are therefore contractually bound to plan the events with one of the four companies, depending on which service provider offers the best price and proposal.”

Fortune said that the companies were responsible for selecting the service providers. “We have, however, stipulated that the service provider must utilise local service providers in the specific town where the event is held to boost the local economy.”

He added that the artist summit was one of the events to be organised by one of the appointed events management companies. “We are unable to provide costing for the hosting of the artist summit, as this is a matter between the department and the appointed service provider. We are not at liberty to divulge such information as we will be in breach of contract.”

Fortune stated that MEC Mbinqo-Gigaba would host a Christmas lunch for 100 elderly citizens in Colesberg on December 7. “It is not a Christmas Eve bash. The lunch is also being hosted as part of advocating the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children.”

He said the Christmas party would provide an opportunity for older persons to socialise and share in the festive spirit in a joyous manner.

Fortune added that the department had hosted workshops with accredited service providers to assist artists to draft proposals, manage their funding, marketing and becoming self-sufficient.

“It is unfortunate that artists regard government as their only source of income.”

He stressed that the department strictly adhered to all procurement policies and supply chain management processes.

“The department enters into procurement business with companies that are registered on the central database system and that meet all the requirements as set out in the guidelines.”

He believed that there was an orchestrated attempt to discredit the good work of the department.

“Various initiatives are being implemented to promote and develop artists in the Province. We have provided funding to artists to perform at the annual Grahamstown Festival, the Northern Cape Arts Council has provided funding for productions and plays. We have made the Mayibuye Centre available to the Music and Dance Academy at no cost. We have provided funding to various artists to hold productions at the Northern Cape Theatre during December. We have also made our 22-seater minibuses available to transport artists to perform at festivals and shows.”