The recent Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) Arts and National Development Imbizo – Rethinking the Positioning of the Arts in South Africa – provided thought-provoking discussions and debate. Opening the discussion, Dr Barry Gilder spoke of ‘harnessing the arts’ to the development of South Africa.
You know me as a firm believer in the arts as a progressive enabler, a key to opening the door to many other sectors and engagements, but it is a little disconcerting if we continue to imagine the sector as an instrument and enabler alone, without acknowledging its sometimes startling and singular goal. This is particularly prescient when you read the words of artist Lucky Ntimani from Mbokota Village, Limpopo, who was recently quoted in the Limpopo Mirror, as saying, ‘To me, art is life, I do not craft my sculptures for the aim of gaining money. I dream and wake up to create.’
While I have never met Mr Ntimani, or seen his work, I think that the complexities of the creative are fixed in those two sentences, that the rights of the artist as a creator are not easily addressed, and could be perceived as a binary. The question that I was asked to respond to at the MISTRA Imbizo was: ‘Do Cultural Policies and Commercial Interests compliment or contradict one another in South Africa?’ This under the theme of ‘Multiple Dynamics of Creative Freedom’. And it is with Mr Ntimani’s two sentences in mind, that I have attempted to understand what it means to be an artist, and also to understand what the dynamics of creative freedom consist of, within the framework of our Bill of Rights.
Less and less I believe in binaries, but rather in the idea of a spectrum or shifting range. I believe that policy and commercial interest could be aligned on a spectrum, or could shift to different points, depending on whose commercial interests, and what could be regarded as a positive outcome, as impacted by policy. I also believe more in the line between core and flex as described by Common Purpose’s Julia Middleton in the book Cultural Intelligence. What is unshiftable, immutable to one’s personality and leadership, for example, versus where one is prepared to flex, shift and change in order to reach the aforementioned outcome.
To continue reading what Michelle Constant says about the tension between self and the world, purchase the May 2019 issue of Creative Feel or, to continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture sector, subscribe to our monthly magazine from R180.00 to R365.00 per year. SUBSCRIBE HERE!