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February 17 2017

Long Live Arterial Network | An Anniversary Message from Arterial Network Swaziland

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Arts and Culture after Independence

When Swaziland attained her independence on the 6th of September 1968 from her colonial masters, there was neither the effort nor the means to support the development of the arts sector, despite a visible need and talent on the ground. Swaziland has always been a country that places value on culture, but not so for the arts. The status quo continued until a number of arts associations were formed and lobbied for the establishment of the Swaziland National Arts Council, although government preferred to name it the Swaziland National Council of Arts and Culture. It was established as an independent, although government-funded body, with its operations overseen by arts associations who could advise on good governance practices. However, in 2010 the structure mysteriously became a government body under state control, with no representation from the arts civil society, and their focus shifted to tradition and culture, rather than the arts.

The challenges that existed in 1968 at the cusp of independence, still exist in 2017 and there is no universal solution that could instantly resolve the list of obstacles that continue to prevent growth, such as:

- The absence of arts education, university scholarships and arts centres for development
- The absence of legal, regulatory cultural policy frameworks to support the development of the arts and to strengthen arts institutions
-  The lack of donor support from the international community, corporate sector and government that reduces artists to the status of beggars
- The lack of knowledge about management systems
-  The absence of public spaces to showcase artistic talent and encourage/ unearth new talent; and
- The frequent abuse of arts products by public broadcasters who refuse to pay royalties for work that is used.

A New Hope

In this difficult climate, the arrival of Arterial Network in Swaziland offered a glimpse of hope. The local chapter was  launched on the 25th of September 2010 by His Royal Highness Prince Lonkhokhela, who was the chairman of the Swaziland National Council of Arts and Culture at the time. The launch was also witnessed by Mulenga Kapwepwe, the first continental Chairperson of Arterial Network.

Since then, the visibility of Arterial Network in Swaziland has grown with the roll out of advocacy and lobbying, capacity building, exchange programmes, information sharing and knowledge management initiatives. As an organisation that champions artistic rights, the government of Swaziland has frowned upon the organisation’s activities to the extent that in 2016, national police were deployed to stop a workshop. Despite this setback, Arterial Network Swaziland has stood resolute and continued to be a strong voice for the sector.

In recent years, the organisation has lived up to its expectations by growing in size and membership, and those who are committed to its vision have continued to practically apply themselves. This growth has been led by the democratically elected Chairpersons of the National Steering Committee, namely Maswati Dludlu (2010-2012), Gugu Dlamini (2012-2014), Muzi Ntshangase (2014-2016) and the current Chairperson, Sivumelwano Nyembe. They have each displayed their commitment to see Arterial Network’s agenda pursued despite interference from government, and the Arterial Network vision, mission, values, aims and objectives have continued to be motivating factors for artists who want to see a thriving environment for the arts in Swaziland.

As Arterial Network celebrates 10 years of existence, the Swaziland arts sector is living evidence of the necessary role that the network has played in improving the arts sector. Though there is still a long way to go to address the multifaceted challenges in Swaziland to create a conducive environment for the arts to thrive, Arterial Network has shown artists the path to an alternative future - there is no other organisation that has done as much.

We are proud of Arterial Network and may she continue to inspire the living spirit in the heart and minds of people in the sector, and those connected to the sector at all levels. Long Live Arterial Network!

Arterial Network Swaziland activities have been made possible with support from the Commonwealth Foundation, Stichting Doen, Africalia, punto.sud, European Union, COSPE, OSISA, Swaziland Theatre Club, Cultural Development Trust and other partners.

Maswati Dludlu
Arterial Network Swaziland National Coordinator

Contact Arterial Network Swaziland by clicking here.

Photo Credit

Arterial Network Swaziland

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