Around 80 performers from across Cape Town creatively protested in solidarity with artists occupying the National Arts Council offices in Johannesburg, at the Artscape Plaza on Saturday. Picture: Shakirah Thebus/Cape Argus
Around 80 performers from across Cape Town creatively protested in solidarity with artists occupying the National Arts Council offices in Johannesburg, at the Artscape Plaza on Saturday. Picture: Shakirah Thebus/Cape Argus

Cape artists bring creative flair to protest the mismanagement of R300 million

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Mar 29, 2021

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Cape Town - The spirited nature of the arts was exhibited by protesting artists in solidarity with artists occupying the National Arts Council (NAC) offices in Johannesburg.

About 80 performers comprising traditional and contemporary dancers, singers, rappers, marimba and musical bands, creatively demonstrated at the Artscape Plaza on Saturday.

This comes as about 20 artists are entering the 27th day of peaceful occupation of the NAC offices, demanding the NAC account for the mismanagement of a R300 million Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP) meant for artists during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NAC administers the PESP on behalf of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.

Visual artist Dumelang Mel Wright said: “We’re trying to have a semblance of stability and also respect for what we do. We are contributing to society in a very big way but it is seen as something that is not important.”

Mel Wright said the event also served as “solidarity networking”.

“The future of creativity and artists is going to lie in looking to each other for solutions and to see ourselves empowering each other.”

Abavuki marimba player Andile Makubalo said despite the joyful atmosphere, it was a bittersweet moment for artists, in that it was a plea for government assistance.

“It's been a year since they’ve closed the doors for the arts and we’ve had nothing. Some of us have kids, some of us have families. This is how we put food on our plates. Imagine staying without work for a year, it’s been tough.”

Protest organiser Nikki Froneman said artists have reached a point of desperation.

“We have a thriving and incredibly creative arts industry and creative industry, we are recognised worldwide for the quality of our music, dance, actors, writing, film, and we have not been able to work for a year.

“At the best of times, the arts can be a precarious industry, so to be classified as non-essential and then also not essential to receive support is extremely difficult.

“Literally people cannot do their work because it is illegal and people are desperate.”

Cape Argus

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