Creative Feel: How is the MBDA involved in the creative sector?
Oyama Vanto: To answer this question, one needs to look at the MBDA’s overall mandate to be able to place the role and function of the creative and cultural sector within the bigger picture: ‘Our aim is to project-manage regeneration of the Port Elizabeth CBD with a view to promoting economic and tourism development against the backdrop of urban renewal.’ When we talk about the creative and cultural sector, this includes arts, culture and heritage. These are the lifeline and soul of a place and the people. What we do is create opportunities for this sector to also engage in urban renewal programmes that aim to bring people back to the city. There are many activities through which this is done. These include exhibitions, public art, performing arts, local film screenings, dialogues, and campaigns. These activities are done through partnerships with already existing creative and cultural projects and activities.
CF: What can creatives in the Bay look forward to?
OV: On the 25th May at Athenaeum we started an ‘Express Yourself’ live art program. The idea is to allow artists in the city a space to collaborate, create and engage on national issues. The programme will include performances, exhibitions, book launches, presentations and debates. There will be public art as part of the Vuyisile Mini and Baakens Valley upgrade planned for 2017/18, an outdoor film screening at Trinder square in June 2017 as well as an Investing in the arts workshop on 2nd June 2017 at Tramways building, in association with the DAC (National Department of Arts and Culture), Focusing on Mzansi Golden Economy.
Nelson Mandela Bay has all the ingredients for a vibrant coastal city with exceptional talented artists and rapidly growing independent festivals and events
CF: What are the highlights to date?
OV: The internationally known ‘Route 67’ public art journey which features 67 brilliant public art pieces is by far the most significant and well-known intervention by the MBDA. The Statue of Zola Nqini at Uitenhage Market Square is equally iconic in that area. The upgrade of the City’s heritage asset, the Campanile is about to reinvigorate the creative culture in the inner city. The Garden of Remembrance Memorial at Donkin is a must-see tourist and cultural attraction. We have created relationships with other institutions and departments to explore a more focused approach in giving support to local filmmakers, and have rekindled the cultural relation Nelson Mandela Bay has with Goteborg, Sweden. We have supported the development of the Nelson Mandela Bay Arts Council and have allocated an office space for the organisation at Athenaeum. A public art mural was done in honour of Sonia Payi, a seven-year-old rape and murder victim. The mural was done as a campaign against women and child abuse and is the initiative of the local artist.
CF: Can Nelson Mandela Bay make it big in the arts?
OV: The Nelson Mandela Bay is the leading city and the economic hub of the Eastern Cape. Whilst the city boasts some of the uniquely Nelson Mandela Bay international sport programmes like Iron Man, and now potentially World Iron Man, on the creative and cultural industries’ front the city has not done extensive work yet. There are attempts in correcting many errors here and the best place we are starting from is the creative and cultural industries’ policy of Nelson Mandela Bay. The funding and the application of this policy is critical. The City has an amazing cohort of fantastic, brilliant and global artists. What makes the creative industry a contributor in the overall GDP is the domino effect that is set off by the investments which are made into the sector to drive sustainable development and create inclusive jobs. An indication of this is a recent set of UNESCO guidelines on how to measure and compile statistics about the economic contribution of the cultural industries (pdf). We have what it takes because of the talent we have, the ability to host big international festivals, the beginnings of an arts grant by the municipality, the oldest running theatre in Africa, amazing landscapes, interesting heritage(s), and the City which recognises the impact that the sector has in job creation.
Our aim is to project-manage regeneration of the Port Elizabeth CBD with a view to promoting economic and tourism development against the backdrop of urban renewal
CF: Final thoughts?
OV: Nelson Mandela Bay has all the ingredients for a vibrant coastal city with exceptionally talented artists and rapidly growing independent festivals and events. All that the City needs is to integrate these into the daily lifestyle. Further investments in infrastructure and turning old buildings into studios, working spaces, exhibitions spaces, galleries, performance spaces, networking spaces and creating spaces is vital to the role that the MBDA and City need to play.