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For art’s sake

George Eliot Mary Ann Evans portrait Alexandre-Louis-François d’Albert-Durade
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), aged 30, by the Swiss artist Alexandre-Louis-François d’Albert-Durade

Data from attempts to console us with the assurance that ‘the share of women in global exhibitions has grown from 25% in 2000, up to 33% in 2018.’ But I, for one, am not assured. I am not consoled. I have two daughters and I am horrified. It terrifies me that merely by virtue of their biology, whatever my daughters may do creatively or otherwise in life will still only be valued at one-third of that of a male child. It’s just not okay. And it makes me go all Greta Thunberg inside: HOW DARE THEY? HOW DARE YOU? HOW DARE I? HOW DARE ALL OF US?
     I have always been a proponent of l’art pour l’art, the philosophy of the intrinsic value of art or ‘art for art’s sake’. But equally so, I have always attempted to reconcile that position with being an advocate for the reasons that creativity plays such an important role in a vast range of so many things, ranging from music helping learners to comprehend mathematics to dance inspiring design innovation and even the role of comedy in medicine (consider, for example, comedian Dr Riaad Moosa’s medical educational show The Best Medicine, currently in production, which utilises humour to communicate important and practical health promotional information). 
     Sometimes a creative work is awesome just because that’s what it is: awesome. Sometimes the value of a creative work has to do with the conversations it generates, the lessons it teaches, or perhaps the way in which it potentially shifts how you or I see the world or ourselves. But none of those has anything to do with gender. And why would they?
     Business and Arts South Africa NPC (BASA) has a proven track record of supporting creative projects in South Africa. It also has a majority-female staff complement, a historically female executive leadership and currently, a gender non-binary CEO. BASA’s ongoing Supporting Grants programme offers a slightly different lens to conventional funding and development agencies in that we focus on amplifying and extending existing partnerships between arts and businesses that aim to meaningfully impact society through shared value and social cohesion. BASA’s purpose is quite clearly not merely art for art’s sake, but very much art for all – and for the sake of the good and the beautiful. And I am thrilled to be celebrating my first anniversary at the helm!

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