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April 30 2015

TOWARDS AN AFRICAN ARTS AND CULTURE INDEX

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Picture: (c) Cyan Development Concepts

An inception workshop was hosted in South Africa on 26-27 march to explore the experiences of some African countries in relation to the development of the African Arts and Culture Index.
The workshop focused  on the first pillar, namely Cultural Policy and Cultural Governance. Participants to the workshop included representatives from the following countries: Angola, DRC, South Africa, Rwanda, and Madagascar. The main purpose of the workshop was to discuss the extent to which the benefits of Cultural Policy and Cultural Governance are enjoyed in African countries. The specific objectives of the workshop are listed below.

  1. Exploring the set of institutions and structures that define the cultural public perceptions (“good” and “bad”) as well as: i) its creation; ii) manner of delivery to African citizens and the private sector; and iii) how public policies are made on the continent.
  2. Examining the motivations and practical choices made by African decision-makers when they invest, legislate and orientate the development of the Arts and Culture sector.
  3. Proposing guiding principles and necessary components that attest to a cultural governance model that is conducive to developing Arts and Culture in the African context.
  4. Proposing indicators for measurement of the quality of implementation models for Cultural Policy and Cultural Governance.

Each country represented at the workshop had a unique context, but the premise of this workshop sought to generate essential leverage points of commonalities that could be excavated as an operational point of departure.

Common factors between countries

The Country reports highlighted some of the commonalties between the countries that should be looked at in developing indicators and cultural policies:

  1. Language and its importance
  2. The impact of the past colonialization and the independence of countries
  3. The struggle of identity and traditions
  4. The challenge of inclusivity and participatory democracy
  5. Funding; its criteria and access for the sector including looking at who are the stakeholders (e.g. government, foreign donors).
  6. The question of voice in terms of for example traditional versus contemporary works; network orientated (some have access to networks, others don’t have access)
  7. Cultural heritage and censorship/ self-censorship of expression linked to public space of involvement
  8. Institutional framework - there is a need to look at ways of working together; to do more in-depth exploration; and the need for common databases
  9. Programmes and processes need to be reviewed
  10. Implementation and expectations need to look at technical capacity of the framing of questions, its practicality and developing an idealistic vision

 

 

Reworking of indicators

The main question explored was: What are the critical factors for the success of Cultural Policy and Cultural Governance within the African context?  The group suggested several indicators that fall under these five priority areas:

  1. Public governance: government governing

The exploration should take into account:

  • Public consultation; vital in the development of policy.
  • Entities that have a cultural mandate. Institutions that exist and their mandate should be identified and their gaps should be determined. Furthermore inter-governmental agreements or partnerships should be investigated.
  • Adherence to international conventions and other instruments. The production of reports could determine whether instruments are applied and whether laws or policies have been developed, but not implemented.

 

  1. Cultural policy and Legislation

This section explored the policies, strategies and legislation that are affecting the cultural sector. By definition legislation can be seen as the laws and statutes that are in effect to protect and promote the cultural sector.

 

 

  1. Funding and financial

The exploration should take into account all levels: national/ provincial/ city contexts. This issue is generally focussed very much on government and in some cases agencies, but in some countries it is imperative to also look at the self-sustainability of artists.

  1. Artists’ governance of the sector (Self-governance/Informal)

In some countries, there are self-sustained actors who:

  • Have a great capacity of producing creative products that meet the need of the market
  • Are very entrepreneurship oriented
  • Use very progressive models for market development, information sharing, technology sharing, production, distribution

 

All these five priorities informed the creation of indicators that will be part of the broader report.

Conclusion

In the group discussion the following emerged:

 

  1. There is a need for an indicator about diversity. The possibilities of introducing sub-headings (e.g. cultural diversity) should be considered. There is a need to break down issues and give guidance to cultural representation in its diversity.
  2. The allocation of funding and opportunities have their biases, so it is vital to establish how it is measured. For example, in South Africa more activities are done in urban areas than rural areas.
  3. The importance of identity and colonial heritage.
  4. The contemporary versus the traditional art forms.
  5. The issue of self-sustaining artists and theatres that is able to draw crowds versus public spaces that have become white elephants.
  6. It was unanimously agreed that indicators should not merely consist of tick-boxes because it does not necessarily change anything. There is therefore the need to strike a balance between quantitative and qualitative approaches. This issue was made repeatedly throughout the workshop

 

 

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