Archive: Issue No. 54, Februray 2002

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The way forward
by Doreen Nteta

One of the issues that I'm keenly aware of is the lack of debate on issues such as creativity, development and promotion of our artistic heritage.

Serious debate seems to have come to a stop with the creation of the National Arts Council, the South African Heritage and Resources Agency and the National Heritage Council. These organisations, rightly, are expected to lead in their respective areas of responsibility.

As far as the NAC is concerned, now that the important section responsible for the funding of projects has been established and is functioning, the time has come to debate and establish other aspects such as broader art policies, and how to integrate the various cultural sections that comprise the heritage of our country.

A debate on the relationship between the creative artist and the curator of a museum and monuments is one that intrigues me. One cannot exist without the other. In government organograms they are shown as distinct from each other. In other words the arts council is not shown alongside a museum. Yet the ultimate aim of an artist and that of a curator is to exhibit, interpret and incorporate the work into the people's heritage. Therefore, they both need audiences. Both are concerned with the artistic and movable heritage. I do not confine myself to visual arts only. I include literature and the performing arts.

It is the audience and the curator that determine the crossing of a work of art into the realm of heritage. It seems unfair that this crossing should happen without many debates. It also seems to me to be unfair that the institution which should stimulate debate, the National Arts Council, is in no way equipped to do so. You might ask, why is it so? The truth is, we now need to develop stage two of the NAC plan of action. This is advocacy, international relations, broad policy development and debate of key issues.

South Africa needs to forge links with experts, and intellectuals working in the various art fields. Failure to do so will result in frustration of the artists and failure of the NAC to deliver on its mandate of promoting and developing policies that are progressive. Researching the various aspects of art is important because it is through research and affirming our beliefs that we can express our values as manifested in our art and heritage.

The journey is just beginning. For many years most of our arts and culture was dormant. We need to take the steps towards turning our art into heritage. To be regarded as a heritage, the art must remain in the country, and the people themselves give it that status. It must therefore be recorded. There is no distinct line from art to heritage. The convergence is a juncture all at once. -

Next: In this together

Doreen Nteta is the CEO of the National Arts Council (NAC). The views expressed in this column are her own, and are not necessarily those of the NAC or of