271010 the effect of ‘reduced ignition propensity’ legislation on British American Tobacco’s South African operations. PHOTO SUPPLIED 7

Cape Town - Alcohol, casinos, money, theatre, dance … It isn’t that much of a stretch to imagine a narrative thread connecting these subjects.

But it was a little surprising to see this week that the newest sponsor of South African arts and culture is a Japanese tobacco company.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) is sponsoring a new South African Dance Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be handed out at the Impact Awards on November 2, at Sun International’s The Maslow in Johannesburg.

JTI, which distributes cigarette brands including Camel, Benson and Hedges, Silk Cut and Winston in various markets around the world, is collaborating with the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) to add the dance award to their annual list of honours that recognise and celebrate excellence in South African arts, culture and creativity.

JTI joins Distell, a leading producer of wines, spirits and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages; Sun International, which runs a diverse portfolio of hotels and casinos; and Nedbank as a sponsor of the annual awards.

ACT, South Africa’s premier independent arts funding and development agency, is celebrating 21 years of existence and 18 years of the Impact Awards this year. The awards began as one accolade being handed out for the first nine years and expanded to five categories over the following six years.

This year, dance is added to lifetime achievement awards for visual arts, theatre, arts advocacy, music and literature. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winners will each receive a cash prize of R30 000. Past recipients of the awards include a galaxy of stars of the South African arts scene including John Kani, David Goldblatt, Miriam Makeba and Mimi Coertse, to mention but a few.

Social investment

ACT, which has a reputation for supporting community, educational and artistic projects as well as rewarding individuals and lifetime achievements, aligns well with the corporate social investment policies of many businesses.

For Sun International, a founding supporter of ACT, the synergy between leisure, entertainment and the arts is fairly obvious and, according to a statement from ACT, the company has been “a faithful supporter in all initiatives that ACT has undertaken”.

The hotels and casino group, which has created some of Africa’s most iconic hotels, from The Royal Livingstone Hotel at Victoria Falls to The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City, places a strong emphasis on being responsible corporate citizens through their contributions and commitment to the economy, communities and the environment.

Distell, another long-standing supporter of ACT, has a history of actively supporting CSI projects in communities where they have a business interest.

The Distell Foundation has for many years designed arts and culture programmes to incorporate two of their main focus areas: foetal alcohol syndrome, such as remedial art therapy programmes to assist vulnerable individuals who are affected by alcohol misuse, and youth development programmes, which are aimed at helping individuals make healthy choices in life.

Nedbank has also supported ACT since its inception in 1994. The bank has raised and distributed nearly R15 million through its Arts Affinity Programme in support of more than 800 South African arts, culture and heritage development projects.

During the first five years of the Impact Awards’ existence, two further founding trustees, the Embassy of the Netherlands and Vodacom, joined ACT. Thus, the partnership between the private sector, government and local cultural community was extended to include international co-operation.

And now JTI is on board, having identified ACT as a good fit for their CSI objectives. The company already supports many cultural institutions across the globe – from world famous arts and culture organisations such as the Louvre Museum, the Teatro alla Scala, the Bolshoi Theatre and the Mariinsky Theatre, to hundreds of lesser-known local arts organisations and activities.

Not recognised

JTI’s director for corporate and legal affairs Lizette Rau said of the new award: “Dance, in South Africa and abroad, is perhaps the most under-recognised and un-awarded of the arts disciplines. South Africa’s dancers and choreographers make a profound contribution to the local and international dance landscape.”

ACT CE Pieter Jacobs said: “The aim of the ACT Awards has always been to celebrate and acknowledge excellence, and without this prestigious ceremony many luminaries who have been celebrated globally would not be acknowledged for their valuable contributions locally.”

To date, the Impact Awards have recognised more than 140 individuals and organisations for their contribution to art, culture and heritage in South Africa.

Jacobs said: “The Impact Awards for Young Professionals highlight exceptional talent in the industry. This spotlight creates a platform for these young individuals who might not otherwise receive this kind of recognition – recognition that has the potential to powerfully propel sustainable careers in a highly competitive industry.”

Finalists in this year’s Impact Awards include a variety of talented creatives including graphic and interior designers, visual artists, curators, entrepreneurs, singers, songwriters, musicians, playwrights, actors, directors and dancers.

Winners of the various categories will each receive a cash prize of R2 000 as well as support from ACT and various opportunities for publicity including a feature article in Creative Feel magazine worth more than R30 000.

The selection process focuses on artistic excellence, experience in the industry and the impact work has had on communities and the creative industry as a whole. The judges for this year’s competition include the musician Sibongile Khumalo, Fine Arts Professor David Andrew, choreographer Jayesperi Moopen, actress Warona Seane and arts and culture development expert David Thatanelo April.

The 2015 Impact Awards are presented in partnership with the Distell Foundation and Sun International, and the ACT Lifetime Achievement Awards are presented in partnership with JTI, Nedbank Arts Affinity, Media24 Books, the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Organisation, Creative Feel magazine and the Southern African Music Rights Organisation.