The minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, and the British High Commissioner to South Africa, Judith MacGregor, launched the SA-UK Seasons for the 2014-2015 period. The venture will see the countries share creative pro-grammes, aiding in solidifying cultural relations between them.
“Through our Seasons with the UK, we are once more using the power of culture to break down barriers between people, to build trust and mutual respect as well as to support economic growth, job creation and the building of sustainable livelihoods,” Mashatile said.
Given the strong history between the two countries, it was only a matter of time before this programme was launched.
“South Africa and the UK have strong bilateral relations, a shared language, similar legal and financial systems and common values. South Africa and the UK are also long-standing trade partners and have vibrant tourism industries. The Seasons, through showcasing our rich arts and culture, will no doubt enhance our well-established relations.”
The timing of the launch coincided with the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy and given the colonial history between South Africa and the UK, the Seasons come as a positive effort to move forward from a dark past.
“We need to deepen and extend cultural relations and our special focus is on reaching out to the younger people to entice them with opportunities outside their usual environments,” MacGregor said.
For her the programme set a precedent to provide easier opportunities for British and South African artists to showcase their works in each other’s countries.
“Our vision 20/20 is about creating 20 new partnerships with South Africa which will see young people access markets which they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get hold of. To begin with, we will have a competition which will see five artists from South Africa travel to the UK for some time and hopefully prosper well after the Seasons is over,” she explained.
Bongani Tembe, who is the commissioner-general, has headed the same programme in France for the past two years. Bringing with him his experience and successful campaign in the French territory, Tembe said things would only improve in the English territory.
“The French Seasons were a great success for us and from that experience we are going to make sure we have an even more success- ful endeavour this time around,” he said.
Looking into the coverage of the French Seasons, Tembe said a number of media houses in and outside France did stories on the various cultural shows that were there at the time, putting South Africa on the map.
“We had over 300 media outlets reporting on the programmes, so much that some of the artists became popular and haven’t returned. Also, the tourism figures show that the visiting percentages to South Africa have risen by 15 percent,” explained Tembe.
He also let it be known that any artists interested in entering the SA-UK Seasons should submit their applications through the Depart- ment of Arts and Culture. The information on how to apply is on the department’s website at www.dac.gov.za.
“Through this partnership, both parties recognise the desire to positively influence each other, resulting in shared thinking on arts, culture and creative industry issues; building partnerships around opportunities for both our countries’ artists and arts institutions, par- ticularly around the challenges of creating job opportunities, promoting innovation and nurturing leadership of the arts for the future,” he said.
Tembe will work with innovative arts manager, Tom Porter, who is the head of arts for the British Council in South Africa, as well as an appointed team of experts and officials from both countries whose primary job will be to lead and implement the Seasons.
“We look at innovative ways to get the Seasons out there by using all the up-to-date technology we have today,” Porter said.
The SA-UK Seasons 2014 and 2015 will probably do better than the SA-French Season based on the mere fact that South Africa and the UK have stronger historical ties.
“If we did so well in France where language was a barrier, it can only be massive in the UK,” Tembe said.