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International involvement at SACO National Conference

An impressive line-up of international experts will contribute key academic, creative and economic insights and findings at the South African Cultural Observatory’s (SACO) first national conference in Port Elizabeth from Monday, 16 to Tuesday, 17 May.

Focused on mapping the impact of the South African creative and cultural industries, the Observatory is a new national research institute, hosted by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University on behalf of the Department of Arts and Culture, with partnership support from the University of Fort Hare and Rhodes University.

Although the majority of the conference speakers are South African, fittingly for Africa month, there will also be significant input from speakers from the continent and as far afield as Canada, France and the Ukraine. These delegates will utilise the conference to consider the growing global economic impact of the creative sector, how to measure and amplify its impact, and find the best methods to articulate African and international best practice.

International contributions will be delivered by founder of the Grenoble Observatory, Guy Saez, considered a global leader in cultural observatory work; Canada Arts Council manager for research, evaluation and performance measurement, Gabriel Zamfir; National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of the Ukraine, Prof. Oksana Ryabchenko; Regional Director for Sub-Saharan-Africa of the Goethe Institute, Dr. Norbert Spitz; Co-founder of the Ideas Expo Botswana, Tumiso Godiraone Mabusela; and Bruce Ernest Chairperson of the Zambia Creative Expo.

My own research is about the concept of creative cities, which is at the core of the conference. I am very excited and curious to see how my colleagues understand the concept here. I am very happy to attend the inaugural conference of the Observatory to whom I wish a full success.

He says that SACO Conference will also provide excellent networking and brainstorming opportunities. “South Africa has a policy and cultural experience which the world expects a lot from. This country shows us that the path of economic development and cultural diversity are valuable for everyone. I’m sure SACO will value this experience. It is a magnificent challenge,” he adds.

Equally excited for the conference is Prof. Ryabchenko, who will utilize the conference to share the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine’s vision of “cultural influence on global transformation processes and changes of consumption patterns”.

“I think the SACO conference will be a remarkable source of inspiration and new ideas for me and my colleagues, combining international experience with local knowledge,” Prof. Ryabchenko says. “I am looking forward to seeing new opportunities for exciting studies and expansion of cooperation.”

Dr. Norbert Spitz, Regional Director: South Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa Goethe Institute South Africa, whose Conference contribution will focus on the network of European national cultural centres in South Africa (EUNIC) and its mission of a common approach to cultural co-operation on a multi-lateral level, says he anticipates higher understanding and connection building at the Conference. “The SACO will give me the opportunity to get a deeper insight in ongoing discourses in the fields of arts and culture in South Africa. It is also an opportunity to exchange ideas and to network.”

African speakers will offer insights from a bit closer to home. Botswana’s Mabusela says his talk will focus on “the new African Creative”. “The young African creative’s inspiration and aspirations, their approach to the craft and most importantly their desire to succeed will be the crux of my talk,” he says.

He is also as eager to contribute to the conference as he is to take-away from it. “The SACO conference presents a great opportunity to learn more about African creativity and culture,” Mabusela says.

The list of speakers is exciting, I believe that there will be a lot to take home from the learned speakers. I think for people like me who are constantly engaged in helping develop the creative industries, this presents a great opportunity to engage and learn from academics who are involved in research and have extensive knowledge in the creative industries across the continent.

Ernest says his speech will give delegates a glimpse into developing African cultural economies. “Delegates will learn about the opportunities and challenges experienced in the creative industry in emerging economies like Zambia,” he says. Ernest explains that “knowledge gaps are caused by inadequate access to information and inadequate availability institutions,” which is why institutions like the SACO are integral to the industry, across borders.

Under the banner ‘Counting Culture’, the conference will also highlight the growing economic influence of the sector – spanning visual and performing arts, heritage and museums, festivals, architecture, advertising, design and digital media – which is increasingly recognised globally for its socio-economic contribution.

This inaugural conference, which serves to introduce the creative and academic sectors to the Observatory, will be held at The Boardwalk International Convention Centre, and will set the agenda for this significant organisation.

Attendance to the conference is free, but delegates will be responsible for their own transportation, accommodation and catering.

Registration for the conference is now closed.

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