Local and International Speakers to Tackle Interdisciplinarity

The 2016 ACT | UJ Arts & Culture Conference will see a host of local and international speakers investigating why interdisciplinarity is vital to innovation within the creative sector.

With the theme #creativeintersections, this year’s conference, which will be held in Johannesburg on 16 and 17 March 2016, will see speakers from various creative backgrounds discuss and debate local and international interdisciplinarity in relation to gender, class, race, tradition, identity and innovation.

Keynote speakers, Didintle Ntsie and Alexandrina Hemsley, will discuss interdisciplinarity from a local and international perspective respectively. Both women are young, community-driven practitioners with fresh voices. They will explore the impact and value of multidisciplinary practice, and why it is relevant in the current creative climate. They will also explore interdisciplinarity as an alternate thinking approach and problem-solving method.

Ntsie, a local empathy-building matriarch, creative intersector and public voice says she believes delegates at the conference have a lot to look forward to. “My hope and intention is that the delegates walk away feeling better equipped to navigate the various spaces in which they move with dexterity and confidence, a better understanding of the multiple tools available to them and a better awareness of the role they are capable of playing in shaping and impacting society through creative means.”

She says the theme of this year’s conference could not have come at a better time, especially in the local environment. “The very unique context of the South African creative landscape, which includes the political landscape, requires an equally unique formula and template for creative problem solving and collaboration,” Ntsie says. “It’s becoming increasingly impossible to ignore interdisciplinarity as the necessary ingredient to address the many complexities we face within the creative sector.”

Local and International Speakers to Tackle Interdisciplinarity
Alexandrina Hemsley illustration. Image provided by the Arts & Culture Trust

Hemsley is a British performance artist, dancer and writer currently exploring her racial and gender identity, which ACT feel is powerfully relevant in South Africa. At the conference her keynote address will focus on interdisciplinarity in an international and personal context.

Hemsley creates work that aims to reclaim her identity as a mixed-race woman and tries to engage with the various cultural frameworks that mark, violate and subjugate her body, on her own terms. Often she fails and falls into stunned silences, but her artistic practice is a way to undo this in an embodied reaction. The collaborative and multifaceted nature of her work makes her an excellent fit for this year’s conference theme, #creativeintersections.

Two panel discussions will form part of the conference programme. The first, on the Wednesday, will see conceptual fashion designer, Tzvi Karp; writer and academic, Dani Mupotsa, and artist, Laura Windvogel (aka Lady Skollie) discuss the impact interdisciplinarity has on African identity and whether a pan-African identity is a limiting or liberating label.

The Thursday panel discussion will see Associate Professor at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic research (WISER), Hlonipha Mokoena; CEO of the Ifa Lethu Foundation, Dr Narissa Ramdhani, and director at the Museum of African design (MOAD), Aaron Kohn collectively discuss the complexities and implications of multicultural collaboration. Mokoena will unravel the terminology of these concepts from a historical and anthropological perspective, whilst Dr Ramdhani will reflect on her experience of South Africans working with South Africans in her extensive efforts at the Ifa Lethu Foundation.

Dr Ramdhani says this year’s conference theme is a pertinent one. “I see interdisciplinarity not as a mere concept growing out of modern discourse, but as a strategy for the creative sector to cut across traditional boundaries, through the use of cross-cultural thinking and collaborations, and as a solution to the new revolutions permeating the globe,” she says. And she believes that conferences like the ACT | UJ Arts & Culture Conference are integral in our country due to the lack of interest from corporate and governmental sectors in the local arts and education landscapes.

“Given the conference’s use of the rubric #creativeintersections, I am enthused by the possibility of forceful and beneficial engagements that will catalyse strategy necessary to overcome the challenges that confront this landscape,” she says. “It will also allow attendees to explore the benefits of balancing economic demands with the achievement of organisational or individual aims,” Dr Ramdhani concludes.

This year’s conference will also host an interview segment with Geekulcha, a place where young, ambitious tech minds meet and share, and designer-maker consultancy ThingKing. ThingKing and Geekulcha will discuss their thinking methodologies and the role their surrounding communities play in their practice, as well as why it has never been more relevant, profitable and cooler to be a nerd. “Nerds tend to be passionate for the sake of passion,” says Lyall Sprong of ThingKing. “They quickly become artisans of the technologically new.”

Sprong believes conferences such as this one are integral to creative communities, whether you are a nerd or not. “We need to get together to foster collective meaning,” he says. “Skill and passion, when complemented with creativity, become the incubation space for innovation.”

The 2016 ACT | UJ Arts & Culture Conference taking place on 16 and 17 March 2016, is entitled #creativeintersections – an interactive experience, and is presented by the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) and UJ Arts & Culture, in partnership with the Department of Arts & Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy Programme, Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) and SAMRO Foundation, with support from the National Arts Council, Nedbank Arts Affinity, and Creative Feel Magazine.

To stay up to date with information and opportunities, visit www.creativeconference.co.za or follow the Creative Conference on Twitter or Facebook. Tickets for the conference are now available on the website.

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