South African Cultural Observatory

SA Cultural Observatory Conference gives youth platform

BY 12.05.17

YOUNG creatives will be one of the primary beneficiaries of the South African Cultural Observatory’s (SACO) National Conference in Johannesburg this month.

This after the SACO – a Department of Arts & Culture (DAC) research project, hosted by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in partnership with the universities of Rhodes and Fort Hare – moved to collaborate with the Market Theatre Foundation – a DAC entity.

The organisations have worked together to create a seamless conference ‘precinct experience’ in Newtown that favours the students at the Market Theatre Laboratory and the Market Photo Workshop, and other creative youth.

“Young people are the future of South Africa’s creative and cultural industries and it is critical they have the exposure and support that will see them develop lasting and productive careers,” said Prof Richard Haines, SACO chief executive officer.

“We wanted to make sure that young people participated in and benefitted from the SACO National Conference in a meaningful and positive way. It made sense that we partner with the Market Theatre Foundation which is doing ground-breaking work in developing young talent. Their presence in the Newtown Precinct – which links with the Turbine Hall where we will host our conference – was a bonus and will go a long way in creating a vibrant atmosphere in the area.”

The SACO and Market Theatre Foundation sought to provide opportunity to the institution’s students. Four photography students will be paid to capture the conference proceedings, adding to their portfolios and client experience.

Two groups of 25 theatre performance students promise conference goers a surprise cameo performance; and other students will work with the SACO Conference team to manage the conference over the two days gaining invaluable insight into how to run an event.

“The partnership strategies between the Market Theatre Foundation and the South African Cultural Observatory were bound to happen. It is virtually impossible for any national organisation to contemplate holding a cultural conference in Newtown and not to engage with Newtown’s oldest, most iconic and successful institution, the Market Theatre. We have a rich legacy of experience and skills to offer.

“Added to this our new facilities at Market Square are a positive indicator of what is possible when institutions are governed with vision and accountability,” said Market Theatre chief executive Ismail Mahomed, adding both the Market Theatre Laboratory and the Market Photo Workshop have impressive track records of training artists and accelerating their careers in the creative economies. 

“We are delighted the South African Cultural Observatory recognises the importance of our institution and believes in creating opportunities for artists-in-training to be part of a conference that will essentially be engaging about the cultural economies.”

The youth flavour extends past the Market Theatre Foundation collaboration to include the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company which will perform at the conference. Bokani Dyer will play with his trio and guests – including Zoe Modiga – also form part of the overall bill and will wow delegates at the conference evening cocktail function at the Market Theatre.

Dyer is a top young South African jazz maestro, a South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) Scholarship Award winner and Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year 2011, and a prolific collaborator.

The cocktail function on the evening of May 24 keeps with the youth theme, as guests move from jazz to theatre with a choice of either Can Themba’s The Suit, directed by James Ngcobo, or Wits School of Art’s performance of Kgafela oa Magogodi’s satirical play Chilahaebolae.

Topping the youth focus of the conference is a special session on youth perspectives on the creative economy. Mary Duker from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University will present five case studies on ‘Facilitating young artist participation in the emergent creative economy in Nelson Mandela Bay’.

Thobile Chittenden from Room 13 interrogates the youth’s role in a tech-dominated world in his paper, ‘The fourth industrial revolution: How it impacts our youth and the importance of art’. Dr Elizabeth Vale from the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection looks at ‘The Creative Economy After Dark: Youth Power and Creativity in Johannesburg Nightclubs.’ Lastly, Botswana-based Calvin Boasilong from Ideas Expo Botswana will talk about creativity as the new frontier for African economic activity.

The SACO’s second National Conference explores the relationship between the creative economy and development and takes place on May 24 and 25 at the Turbine Hall in Newtown, Johannesburg. Registration is open until May 15. For more information and registration information visit: SACO 2017 National Conference Website.

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