BLAC Bows Out
by Zayd Minty
When a group of arts practitioners got together in 1998 and started what would eventually become BLAC, a self-styled "discourse building" project, there was no clear sense what an impact it would make for a number of people in Cape Town. Judging from the variety of responses, it has clearly made some impact in the city while providing a channel for a range of diverse black cultural workers to make themselves visible. It's now four years later and the project is due to close at the end of February 2003 - its assets are being transferred into the trust of a new conglomerate consisting of two NGO's (MediaWorks and Community Arts Project).
The BLAC project was deliberately established to have a short life span and functioned as a loose network of cultural workers, more especially artists (from poets to playwrights, film makers to fashion designers, amongst others), academics, journalists and heritage workers. A group of these professionals (but often not the same ones) met regularly to discuss issues of arts, culture, race and identity in Cape Town. While BLAC stood for the 'Black Arts Collective' it would be more correct to have said that the project contested all terms that it identified itself with.
The blackness it identified with was that of the old Black Consciousness movement, i.e. everyone not white. The projects uniqueness was its focus on power, identity and culture seen through the prism of race politics and it was unashamedly a space for black cultural professionals primarily. In its first year it was provocatively only open to black cultural workers, which led to a number of white artists begging to be allowed in on the basis of being 'tokens'.
To read more, go to: www.artthrob.co.za/03feb/reviews/blac.html