David April. Picture: Supplied

The Tunkie Award was created in remembrance of Xolani Nettleton Dyusha and his commitment to the development of the arts in South Africa. As marketing manager of the Nedbank Arts and Culture Affinity products, Dyusha was pointedly involved with the establishment of the Arts and Culture Trust of the President. 

This year marks the 15th anniversary of when David April was bestowed the honour of being the first recipient of the prestigious Tunkie Memorial Award for Outstanding Dedication and Leadership in Dance. Two years later, after a rigorous selection process, April reached the semi-final stage as a nominee of Amstel’s Salute to Success where individuals are honoured for dedication and achievements in their field of excellence.

In 2003, the same year in which April was honoured with the Tunkie Award, he was in his 10th year in the performing arts industry in the capacities of performer, project manager, fundraiser, cultural activist, developer of education through dance and movement, dance adjudicator, motivational speaker and reviewer. 

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“Upon deep reflection, I gravitated towards that role which held the most significance to me, being a cultural activist,” said April. The Oxford English dictionary describes activism as “the use of vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change”. April ascribes to the thinking of Eiko Otake, a Japanese choreographer and artist who captures the heart of cultural activism in her Manifesto of an Artist as a Cultural Activist.  

Otake firmly believes that one should give art as a gift and receive art as a gift. Furthermore, that one should be available for others and be with others. “The one thing that she stresses in her manifesto which resonates with me, is to wear no title. If you happen to have a title, make nothing of it, or do much more than what is required by the title. This has essentially been part of my journey, being a case of doing necessary things well, but more importantly, doing unnecessary things passionately with no expectation of fame and glory”, April said.

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This year bears great significance for April as an independent consultant. His consultancy, David April Arts Consultancy, celebrates its 10th year and has been a provider of individualised, hands-on consulting services for arts organisations, both the public and corporate sector and educational institutions. What does this mean in the bigger scheme of things?

April says that former artistic director of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Ismail Mahomed, captures what his arts consultancy has stood for in the past decade. 

Mohamed said that leadership in the arts needed to be an integral part of leadership development for the economy, for nation-building and for social cohesion; most importantly leadership training in the arts needs to be visionary. 

These have been central to what April’s arts consultancy stands for, in that it has been focusing on improving clarity of purpose, management and financial sustainability of cultural organisations, exploring partnerships between the private, public and non-profit sectors, which in turn, allow the development of creative industries. 

In addition, it has been providing business training to cultural workers to have the necessary skills to manage and develop their enterprises.
“All of that did not fall from the sky when I entered the leadership space,” April exclaims. 

He needed the wisdom, care and guidance of industries leaders who have shaped, and continue to shape, his thinking. “And who are my role models and figures of inspiration that I will forever be grateful to? They are too many to mention. I have always used both their collective strengths and weakness as a guide to raise the stature and awareness of the importance that art plays in the larger societal conversation,” April said.