SACO Conference in Port Elizabeth Enriches Youth

Younger delegates at the inaugural South African Cultural Observatory, or SACO conference have commended the new institution for the constructive content provided in Port Elizabeth on 17 and 18 May

The two-day SACO conference which centred on the theme ‘Counting Culture’, saw local and international speakers engage delegates on a confluence of creative, cultural and economic themes. These topics, which are directly in line with the work SACO is undertaking, form part of the National Research Agenda.

Youth-related issues were among the central conference topics and the SACO conference provided a platform for younger delegates to present their research in the creative and cultural industries.

Art Critic for the Johannesburg Times, 26-year-old Gabriel Crouse, presented the paper, ‘Portraying South Africa’ during a parallel discussion titled ‘Fine Arts: Markets and Social Values’. Crouse, who described the conference as “top shelf” says he gained new contacts and fresh ideas over the two days.

Zambian presenter, Bruce Ernest, both the Chairperson of the Zambia Creative Expo and the Managing Director of We Create Ltd, is cited as a highlight of the conference by many of his young peers.

Ernest believes future SACO conferences will offer more of this border-crossing knowledge exchange. “Since this was an inaugural event, a notable outcome is the fact that future events look forward to a more Africa-wide interaction and a multidimensional view of culture and creativity,” he says.

Culture and creativity belongs to all and the youth are supposed to be in the centre of action because they are the torch bearers of culture and creativity. I believe that the future belongs to all, but it mostly belongs to the youth who will carry the promising message ahead.

According to Crouse, events like the SACO conference ensure this kind of torch bearing is possible. “Know-how is acquired, mostly, by activity, especially team-work. To participate in SACO is to learn with and from some of the country’s most lucid deliberators. That is a privilege for any young person who attends, and enjoying that privilege means developing and sharing that know-how in time to come.”

The SACO CEO, Prof. Richard Haines says this is a central tenet of the SACO. “The SACO is involved with building capability in the sector, by creating opportunities in the arts, culture and heritage sectors,” he says.

Haines also says the SACO is strongly encouraging the participation of students, particularly post-graduate students, to involve arts, culture, statistical and economics-based research in their future work.”

The SACO’s recently launched scholarship programme, and their internship opportunities, further demonstrate the Observatory’s investment in the youth. “SACO is already employing emerging researchers, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we are offering scholarships, and opportunities for young people to work while they study,” Haines explains.

And he says, at future SACO conferences even more emphasis will be placed on youth-involvement.

For more information on the South African Cultural Observatory, please visit their website.

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