Lack of funding poses a threat to festivals

Nation Nyoka

The arts industry in South Africa often struggle financially due to a lack of external funding and bureaucratic red tape.

According to the co-ordinator of AfrikaBurn, Helena Sheridan, the arts is not supported enough by government. AfrikaBurn takes place every year in the Tankwa Karoo. This festival funded itself before it started to receive funds from the National Arts Council (NAC) in 2008.

“As with sport, art has a great ability to unite people and break down barriers between cultures and we need as much of that as we can get in this country,” said Sheridan.

Lisa Combrinck spokesperson of the Department of Arts and Culture, under which the NAC falls, said the council cannot provide funding to everyone. She said other entities that artists and festivals can turn to for funding include the National Heritage Council and the National Film and Video Foundation.

Another factor that can influence the arts is politics. According to Annalise Doubell chairperson of the Vrystaat Arts Festival committee and assistant editor of the Volksblad, the once-prestigious Sand du Plessis theatre in Bloemfontein deteriorated due to problems within the Performance Arts Centre of the Free State (Pacofs).

Doubell hopes a lack of funding and sponsorhips will not force the Vrystaat festival to suffer the same fate as Aardklop. The Aardklop foundation announced the closing of this festival in its present form earlier this year. “Previous sponsors like banks are not eager to sponsor something that does not fit government’s sentiments,” Doubell said.

However, Tracy Saunders, chairperson of the Cape Town-based Jungle Theatre company, said that there are corporate sponsorships, as well as funding from large corporations, available.

Artists also need to be creative with ways of finding funding, according to Lakin Morgan-Baartjies, marketing manager of Business and Arts South Africa (BASA). “People need to look at what they can do for their communities and what they can share with each other. They need to collaborate and form partnerships for the sake of sustainability,” she said.

Another challenge is waiting lengthy periods for the approval of funds. Monique Schiess, media liaison at AfrikaBurn, believed that such delays could be ascribed to bureaucratic hurdles such as tightened controls. Sometimes corruption also play a role.

The grants given do not cover everything. “Artists fees are always extremely low or not included in the grants, therefore the festival circuit is an important contributor to the income stream of artists,” said Saunders.

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