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30Jul

Something Really Wrong Is Happening

"Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is.” These words by Willa Cather were more in my mind on 26th July 2013 when the Mandela Bay Development Agency, Swallows Foundation, Arterial Network of South Africa and the Port Elizabeth Opera House hosted the Cultural and Creative Industries Symposium. Speakers remained true to the truth in their eyes and to the eyes of many. Their pronouncements were an echo of what many have been saying all along and that is : The lives of South African artists, Eastern Cape in particular, could be better than the shamble they are. Only if there can be a will to listen and sincere intent to change artists (people) lives.

The ANC government, in recognition of the uneven past on access and development of cultural development, promulgated a White Paper for Arts, Culture and Heritage in 1996. This came about after national listening sessions by the task group comprising largely of civil society. Despite all the intentions of the process of that time the reality is that the consequences were a lamentable sore for the Eastern Cape artist. In the spirit of going forward we now would wish to say all that is in the past. I wish I could embrace that sentiment to the fullest without lying to myself.

On 12 July 2013 the Department of Arts and Culture, through Minister Paul Mashatile and the Director General Sbu Xaba, assembled experts in Sandton, Johannesburg, to discuss the proposed Review Of The White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage. I was able to attend the workshop only because I happen to serve on the council of the South African State Theatre which is based in Pretoria. The venue for the workshop was way out of reach of the ordinary artist and the environment does not compliment the intention of the country through the department of arts and culture, Social Cohesion. Needless to say, under the current impatient ticking on Annual Performance Plans by government department, the show was to go on. As anticipated, everyone was not happy with (a) the time given for the public to comment on the document, (b) poor effort made in drafting an incoherent document, (c) lack of understanding of both the sector and constitutional imperatives of the country by the proponents of the White Paper Review, (d) evident disregard of broad consultation. These and more compare to nothing in pain than the confession by a senior official from the Eastern Cape department of sport, recreation, arts and culture. He was the only representative from the Eastern Cape government and there were eight commissions to deal with the White Paper Review. He said, "Monde I did not get a proper briefing about this workshop. The entire provincial department should have been here.” Sadly that was an observation too late, the damage had already been done. A near eternal wound had been inflicted for the second time in the history of democracy to the people of the Eastern Cape.

The deadline for the comments and submissions to the White Paper Review has come and gone. It was 25 July 2013. The Eastern Cape did not make an informed submission to the life changing legislative piece. I repeat the Eastern Cape did not make an informed submission to the life changing legislative piece. The Eastern Cape is sliding down to the proverbial dump. The province which was once the cradle of intellectuals has turned into the home of eulogists. The province which at some point was a vanguard of liberation of the downtrodden has since become the textbook on how not to care for your own people. Looking at our home is what someone once described as being similar at looking at an onion, layer by layer, with each making your eyes drip in tears. Is it the sky that is falling or is it the ground that is sinking? Something really wrong is happening!

The White Paper will be submitted to parliament and parliament will come to the people, we were promised.

In 2012 March the MEC for Arts and Culture in the Eastern Cape, Mrs Xoliswa Tom, assembled a Summit on Arts Culture and Heritage in East London. Resolutions were taken after painstaking debates. Ideally the Department of Arts and Culture nationally took part in the summit. I could not help but be anxious, maybe I am intellectually imbalanced, when I noticed that only one of the DAC officials who were present at the Eastern Cape summit was present at the White Paper Review workshop. As such none of the DAC senior officials who were part of the East London summit are close at all to the White Paper review process. My paranoia boils at this point. In all likelihood our sentiments are as old as before 1994 on cultural prominence. Probably the question to be asked is whether the resolutions of the East London Summit were forwarded to DAC after the summit? Or it was merely another Annual Performance Plan accomplished? Tick, Tick! Let’s go home the AG is happy!

To put all doubt to rest the province needs to redeem itself on this one issue. In order to ask questions that can be answered the way forward is to hold a Summit Assessment of Arts Culture and Heritage Landscape in the Eastern Cape. This will give chance to the political head of the province to summon DAC to come make a presentation on the White Paper Review. As an individual that is the message I will take to the MEC, Honourable Xoliswa Tom, Head of Department Mr Mzolisi Matutu, Arts Culture and Heritage Senior Manager Mrs Nobhongoza, Deputy Chairperson of ECPACC Mr Vukile Pokwana and to the municipalities. I will express my view and anguish to them. I will ask them to forgive me if I sound and seem lunatic in believing that either the sky is falling or the ground is sinking. I may be mad in thinking that something really wrong is happening! Ndincediseni zihlobo, inkomo yeyele! (Help me friends, the task is cumbersome).

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