Local arts and culture suffering in South Africa – especially in the rural areas

There is not enough support for local artists – especially in the rural parts of South Africa.

August 23, 2012

There is not enough support for local artists – especially in the rural parts of South Africa – where accessibility is more difficult, and where local councils and communities lack the funds to create interest and awareness, and to assist local artists with talent.

This is according to Helen Gooderson, the founder of the NPO registered under the name of the Rural Arts Development programme (RAD), which recently took over the management of the Montagu Music, Art, Dance and Drama Festival (Renamed M.M.A.D D) in Montagu,  a small village in the Little Karoo about two hours drive from Cape Town. RAD was established by Gooderson in January this year.

The festival, an annual event focusing on the competitive platform for the youth in music, art, dance, literature, drama, photography and poetry, was started in 1995 by the Tourism office,  local teachers and volunteers.

Gooderson said it was the first time that the festival hosted international competitors – a group of young dancers from the Zeynep Okcu Ballet School from Turkey.  “But the problem we faced is that the local council and businesses were unable to assist with funding – and there was limited support from the community – and RAD had to scratch for the money to pay for the transport and meals for the Turkish contingent.”

Their flights and accommodation were sponsored by the TURKISH government.

Gooderson said this is “a sad thing” because there is “generally very little support for rural-based arts and culture” – although local townsfolk generally supported events.

“It seems that sport is where the focus and interest is. Sadly, not all children will continue with sport once they leave school. But once a child takes up art, music or dance this will usually be something they will do for years to come.”

Suzannè Böhme,  the founder and CEO of start-up online art auction platform, ARTbid (www.ARTbid.co.za)  – a world first concept that sees the company offering artists, whether established or emerging, a no-charge platform to display and sell their art to an international audience – said there is not enough support for “South African art and South African artists”.

“Although the Montagu Music, Art, Dance and Drama Festival was a huge success – and was well supported by the locals –  funding remained a primary problem.  The festival was well attended and the performance levels were exceedingly high, but more could be ahicved – and more talent attracted, recognised and discovered – if more funds were made available.”

Gert Lubbe, the chairman of the Breede River Winelands Rotary Club, said the Montagu festival had become an “important event in the annual Montagu calendar”, and said that organizations should be encouraged to assist more with overall funding. Although he pointed out that arts and culture, specifically in the rural areas, often suffered from a lack of  both support and funding, there is a “reservoir of undiscovered talent”.

RAD’s Gooderson, herself of member of the Breede River Winelands Rotary Club, said RAD’s primary focus was to promote arts and culture in the Montagu area, but would also be looking at ways to “assist and interact with other local communities in the Little Karoo”.