Gaps in leadership in the South African cultural and creative landscape have become apparent as the sector struggles to adapt and respond to these uncertain times. In 2022, a partnership between Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), Common Purpose SA and Manchester International Festival sought to create a network of emerging leaders who could propel the sector with renewed vigour.
The Cultural Producers Programme, supported by the British Council Creative Economy programme, is focused on accelerating growth in skills development, capacitating global networks and driving innovative new work in ever-changing markets.
The Cultural Producers Programme ran from March to July 2022, bringing together a core cohort of 25 mid-career creative and Cultural Producers, and aiming to upskill and unite them as a single network that enables innovative work practice.
We spoke with BASA’s Head of Research, Madeleine Lambert, in order to reflect on the Cultural Producers Programme and what it can tell us about South Africa’s creative economy.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with Creative Feel about the Cultural Producers Programme. To begin, could you give us a sense of the role a Cultural Producer plays in the South African creative economy?
In the South African creative economy, a Cultural Producer plays a crucial role in shaping and contributing to the cultural landscape of the country. Cultural Producers encompass a wide range of professionals, including artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, designers, curators, event organisers, and more. They are the individuals or entities responsible for creating, developing, and promoting cultural products and experiences.
One of the primary roles of a Cultural Producer is to generate and produce original artistic and cultural content, which involves conceptualising and creating works of art. Cultural Producers often draw inspiration from South Africa’s diverse heritage, history, and contemporary social issues, using their creative talents to express unique perspectives and narratives.
Furthermore, Cultural Producers also play a significant role in preserving and promoting South African culture and heritage. They engage with traditional art forms, rituals, storytelling, and indigenous knowledge systems, ensuring their continuity and relevance in a rapidly changing society. By bridging the gap between the past and the present, Cultural Producers contribute to the preservation of cultural identity and the enrichment of the collective memory of the nation.
Cultural Producers act as intermediaries between artists and audiences, facilitating the dissemination and distribution of cultural products. They curate exhibitions, organise festivals, manage theatres, galleries, and creative spaces, and coordinate events that showcase South African talent. These activities provide platforms for artists to showcase their work, connect with audiences, and generate income. By creating opportunities for artistic expression and cultural exchange, Cultural Producers contribute to the growth and sustainability of the creative economy.
Moreover, Cultural Producers also play a vital role in fostering social cohesion, inclusivity, and diversity. South Africa is a multicultural society, and Cultural Producers have the power to bring people from different backgrounds together through their work. They challenge societal norms, address social issues, and promote dialogue and understanding. Through their artistic endeavours, Cultural Producers can contribute to social change, empowerment, and the promotion of human rights and equality.
Lastly, Cultural Producers are important economic contributors to the creative sector in South Africa. They generate employment opportunities, both directly and indirectly, by supporting a network of professionals and businesses involved in the production, distribution, marketing, and consumption of cultural goods and services. The creative economy has the potential to drive innovation, tourism, and economic growth, and Cultural Producers are at the forefront of this sector, stimulating economic activity and generating revenue.
Overall, Cultural Producers in the South African creative economy are essential agents of cultural expression, preservation, and economic development. They shape the artistic landscape, engage with diverse communities, promote social cohesion, and contribute to the overall cultural richness and vibrancy of the nation.
How did the idea for a Cultural Producers Programme come about? Was it in response to a lack of accessible skills and resources for creatives in South Africa?
Yes, gaps in leadership in the South African cultural and creative landscape have become apparent as the sector has struggled with reduced mobility, inadequate skills, and diminished opportunities to network. Many arts organisations and practitioners in South Africa have, as a result, struggled to operate in the shifting economic landscape, particularly in light of the global pandemic. In response to this, the British Council and BASA conceptualised the Cultural Producers Programme to grow capacity and skills in the creative economy. Through this programme, BASA, and partners Common Purpose South Africa and Manchester International Festival, aimed to create a network of emerging leaders who can propel the sector with renewed vigour beyond the current challenges, with support from the British Council Creative Economy programme.
A part of the Cultural Producers Programme was the So Creative Summit which took place in Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct and featured a number of speakers and workshops. How important is it for emerging artists, creatives and Cultural Producers to be able to learn from and engage with industry leaders through events like this?
Events like the So Creative Summit, which provide emerging artists, creatives, and Cultural Producers with opportunities to learn from and engage with industry leaders, are incredibly important for their professional development and growth. Here are a few reasons why:
- Knowledge and Skill Development: Engaging with industry leaders through events like the So Creative Summit exposes emerging artists and Cultural Producers to a wealth of knowledge, expertise and insights. Industry leaders often have years of experience and success in their respective fields, and learning from their experiences can help emerging artists gain practical skills, industry-specific knowledge, and strategic insights. Workshops, panel discussions, and keynote speeches offer valuable learning opportunities that can enhance their artistic and professional capabilities.
- Networking and Collaboration: Events like the So Creative Summit provide a unique platform for emerging artists and Cultural Producers to connect with industry leaders, establish meaningful relationships, and expand their professional networks. Networking with industry leaders opens doors to potential collaborations, mentorship opportunities, and partnerships. Building relationships with established professionals can help emerging artists gain exposure, access resources, and receive guidance that can propel their careers forward.
- Inspiration and Role Models: Interacting with industry leaders at events like the So Creative Summit can be highly inspiring for emerging artists and creatives. Hearing success stories, witnessing the achievements of established professionals, and learning about their creative processes can ignite creativity and motivate emerging artists to push boundaries and strive for excellence in their own work. Industry leaders can serve as role models, providing a sense of direction and possibility for emerging talents.
- Industry Insights and Trends: Staying updated on industry insights and trends is crucial for emerging artists and Cultural Producers to stay relevant and competitive. Events like the So Creative Summit often feature discussions and presentations that shed light on current and future trends, market dynamics, and best practices. By engaging with industry leaders, emerging artists can gain valuable insights into the ever-evolving creative landscape, helping them make informed decisions, adapt their strategies, and position themselves effectively in the industry.
- Validation and Exposure: Being able to learn from and engage with industry leaders at events like the So Creative Summit can provide emerging artists and Cultural Producers with a sense of validation and recognition. Interacting with established professionals and receiving feedback on their work can boost their confidence, affirm their talent, and help them refine their artistic vision. Moreover, exposure gained through such events can lead to increased visibility, attracting opportunities, audiences, and potential patrons or investors.
In summary, events like the So Creative Summit are essential for emerging artists, creatives, and Cultural Producers as they provide invaluable opportunities to learn, connect, gain inspiration, and stay informed about industry trends. Engaging with industry leaders fosters growth, accelerates professional development, and expands the possibilities for emerging talents in the creative sector.
The other public event attached to the Cultural Producers Programme was the TH[!S] US [AN]THOLOGY at P72 in Parkhurst. Could you tell us a bit more about this showcase?
A key element of the Cultural Producers Programme is practical and applied learning. In order to put their production, leadership and collaboration learning into practice, the cohort was divided into teams to collaborate on developing and showcasing new creative products/events. They were supported by micro grants (courtesy of the Cultural Producers Programme and the Industrial Development Corporation), and exhibited their creative products at an in-person showcase titled TH[!S] US [AN]THOLOGY at P72 Projects in Parkhurst in July of 2022. Digital representations/elements of their work were also created to be showcased online.
Visitors to the showcase enjoyed an immersive experience that embraced a range of artistic talent, including an interactive and playful intervention by Mandisa Buthelezi, Luke Draper, Lebogang Mashifane, Siwaphiwe Mgoboza, Chumisa Ndakisa, and Xabiso Vili; a collection of site-specific fashion/performance interventions from Hector Dibakoane, Lesiba Mabitsela, Khaya Masipa and Hannah van Tonder; a celebration and preservation of the Khoi San / Khoe heritage and identity by Darion Adams, Deidre Jantjies, Nadine Mckenzie and Robyn-Lee Pretorius; the collective expression of grief metamorphosing into celebration from Ash-Leigh La Foy, Tegan Peacock, Niamh Walsh-Vorster and Thobile Ximba; and an interdisciplinary exploration of sacrifice in the pursuit of power, status, money, and love by Kutlwano Kepadisa, Mzwakhe Khachela, Jane Mpholo, Zandile Nongogo, and Promise Nyalungu.
The Cultural Producers Programme took place during BASA’s overall 25-year anniversary celebrations. How does a programme like this speak to BASA’s legacy and impact in the South African creative economy?
The Cultural Producers Programme reflects the organisation’s significant legacy and impact in the South African creative economy. BASA has been at the forefront of fostering collaboration between the business and arts sectors, and the Cultural Producers Programme exemplifies its commitment to supporting and empowering Cultural Producers in the country, and to collaborating with the right partners for maximum impact.
BASA’s legacy lies in its longstanding efforts to bridge the gap between business and the arts, recognising the mutual benefits of collaboration. With the creation of the Cultural Producers Programme, BASA demonstrates its continued dedication to nurturing and promoting Cultural Producers as key contributors to the creative economy. The programme serves as a testament to BASA’s ongoing commitment to advancing the arts and its recognition of the vital role played by cultural producers in shaping South Africa’s cultural landscape.
The programme’s impact is multifaceted and aligns with BASA’s broader objectives. Firstly, it provides a platform for Cultural Producers to showcase their work and engage with a diverse audience, thereby amplifying their visibility and impact. By facilitating connections between Cultural Producers and business partners, BASA enhances opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and professional development, contributing to the growth and sustainability of the creative sector.
Furthermore, the Cultural Producers Programme embodies BASA’s emphasis on social cohesion and inclusivity. It supports and promotes artists from diverse backgrounds, ensuring that a broad spectrum of artistic voices is represented. By championing diversity and inclusivity, the programme fosters an environment that encourages dialogue, understanding, and social change. BASA’s commitment to these principles reinforces its legacy of driving positive social impact through the arts.
The impact of the Cultural Producers Programme extends beyond the artists themselves. By facilitating connections between Cultural Producers and the business community, BASA promotes partnerships that generate economic opportunities and stimulate the creative economy. These collaborations not only contribute to the financial sustainability of Cultural Producers but also enhance the overall growth and competitiveness of the creative sector in South Africa.
Learn more about BASA’s Cultural Producers Programme here.