International Cultural Agreements: Departmental briefing

Arts and Culture

24 May 2011
Chairperson: Mr T Sunduza (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Department of Arts and Culture briefed the Committee on the international cultural agreements signed by South Africa, and highlighted the various programmes and projects that had been created under the agreements. It was stressed that projects linked to various international cultural agreements could contribute economic growth, as well as job creation and skills development, but the translation international agreements into tangible benefits was highlighted as an ongoing challenge.

A number of questions from the Committee related to the ways in which international cultural agreements produced tangible benefits for the people of South Africa. Committee members also raised issues around the organisation of councils and sectors within the DAC’s International Relations Unit. They questioned how this Department had been conducting its international relations, given that the White Paper on Foreign Policy was only now being considered. A number of questions were also asked around the selection process for cultural exchanges, and how the Department would ensure that there was equitable provincial representation, as well as ensuring that the many facets of South African culture were highlighted. Members noted that topics to be discussed at a cultural diplomacy conference at the end of 2011 would include the possibility of having cultural institutions based in other countries, the balance between South African arts and culture taken out of the country with skills and benefits brought in. Other matters raised included how the Department would assist in accessing National Arts and Council funding, the library built in Mali, how foreign nationals would be included in the social cohesion public hearings and initiatives, the role of public libraries in assisting school libraries, and how diplomats could promote culture.  

The new Director-General was asked to report back to the Committee on the filling of vacancies, the past issues of corruption and to try to improve the relationship between the Department and Committee, in particular by ensuring that Parliamentary protocol was followed.

The Committee adopted its report on the budget, and the minutes of previous meetings.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed, in particular, the newly appointed Director-General of the Department of Arts and Culture, Mr Sibusiso Xaba. She noted that international cultural agreements were very important in the context of assisting with the generation of economic growth.

Mr Xaba responded that he looked forward to working with Committee in generating visible benefits for the people of South Africa, particularly in relation to economic growth and job creation.

International Cultural Agreements: Briefing by the Department of Arts and Culture
Ms Louise Graham, Chief Director: International Relations, Department of Arts and Culture, outlined where the Department of Arts and Culture (the Department or DAC) International Relations Unit within the framework and context of Government’s foreign policy, programme of action and its outcomes-based programme.

International cultural agreements were located in the DAC’s overall strategic objective to foster “mutually beneficial partnerships” that facilitated economic and other development opportunities for South African arts, culture and heritage, both nationally and globally. She noted that there were economic and development benefits to be derived from international cultural agreements and marketing of South Africa abroad. International recognition, such as for the Oscar winning film ‘Totsi’, would grow and develop the South African film industry.

She listed the key programmes and projects that had been established under the umbrella of international cultural agreements (see attached presentation for details). The DAC was considering hosting a workshop to discuss the benefits of hosting and developing carnivals and “carnival economies”.

Ms Graham noted that translating the outcomes of international cultural agreements into concrete benefits for all South Africans would be an ongoing challenge for the DAC, as also assessing their value-add to the Department’s strategic objectives. Other challenges included the need to integrate international agreements into the DAC’s domestic mandate, and positioning agreements as an integral part of South Africa’s foreign policy. However, the vision for 2011-2014 spoke to the challenges, and there were initiatives to assess the value-add, and to consider how cultural industries could be positioned to contribute to job creation.

Dr A Lotriet (DA) asked what process was followed when selecting artists to participate in international cultural exchanges.

The Chairperson asked how the DAC selected people for cultural exchanges so that everyone received the chance to participate.

Ms Graham answered that the selection process was in part determined by the nature of the particular cultural event. She gave examples of exhibitions and projects where the type of event dictated who should participate. Selections were made across a spectrum of artists of different ages and genres. Artists were also selected so as to
maximise geographical representation across the country. The Department selected artists who had not had international exposure but who showed strong potential and were recommended by the industry. The Biennal Arts Exhibition was an exception, because the Department was approached with a proposal for the Exhibition which it then approved. The initiative was therefore exclusively sector-driven.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) asked if programmes targeting job creation, as well as social cohesion, extended to all provinces.

Ms Graham answered that projects aimed at job creation were targeted at all provinces, although with cultural exchanges it was not always possible to have every province represented. There was a rotational system with cultural exchanges, to ensure that all provinces were included. She said that when South African artists visited Shanghai in 2010, the DAC specifically engaged with the heads of department and MECs, as well as the International Relations Unit in the provinces, to try to include artists from across all provinces. Projects aimed at social cohesion were also targeted at all provinces.

Ms Mushwana said the Department must be careful of using Madiba (former President Nelson Mandela) as a “business” icon, because he was really a moral icon.

Ms Graham noted the point that the Madiba icon also came with values and morals that should not be abused.

Ms Mushwana asked if international links established with national libraries could be extended to school libraries, particularly in the rural areas.

Ms Graham stated that it was the task of the national libraries to devolve the benefits they derived from international agreements to school libraries. School libraries would not themselves be targeted by international agreements. The Department did have a separate programme for school libraries that included the refurbishing and reestablishment of school libraries.

Ms Mushwana asked how other provinces could be assisted in carrying out projects similar to those that had been implemented in Gauteng.

Ms Graham stated that the Department was aware that in Gauteng the arts and culture sector was very strong and did not necessarily require assistance from the Department, although this did not mean that the Department could ignore it. Wherever possible, the Department tried to become involved in regions.

Mr Xaba added that the DAC was working to develop nationally supported arts and culture festivals in every province. It was also looking at the possibility of hosting “carnivals” in cities other than Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Ms Mushwana asked if the “best” candidates for cultural exchanges were drawn from outside of Gauteng.

Ms Graham said that the Department was dependent on each sector, but unfortunately not all of the arts, heritage and culture sectors in the various provinces were well organized, which gave rise to some problems.

Ms Mushwana asked if cultural exchanges involving dances other than ballet were considered.

Ms Graham stated that ballet was not the only dance form included in the Cuban exchange programme. While these dancers were classically trained, they also performed a whole spectrum of other dances.

Ms Mushwana asked how the DAC would bring small-scale photographers on board.

Ms Graham answered that small scale photographers were difficult to contact directly. The Department tried to engage with sectors and genre representatives to source them.

Mr P Ntshiqela (COPE) commented that community-based cultural development initiatives were lacking, and asked how the Department would build links for them.

Ms Graham responded that the Department, as required by the 2005 Convention, would prepare a report on this in 2012 and 2013. The Department was currently hosting workshops to obtain feedback from communities, including rural communities, to assess how the 2005 Convention had impacted on them.

Mr Ntshiqela asked for more information about “People to People” contact as a benefit of programmes, particularly in relation to the example of the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and asked how this differed from other institutions.

Ms Graham stated that the Department wanted to foster and encourage the “people to people” contact that took place during the World Cup, as this contributed to building social cohesion and nation-building.

Mr Ntshiqela asked if enough had been done to partner with civil society in the implementation of arts and culture. He wondered if the workshops mentioned earlier were sufficient, whether efforts were continuing and how far they could be taken.

Ms T Nwamitwa-Shilubana (ANC) asked how selections for cultural exchange groups would showcase the multi-faceted culture.

Ms Graham said that showcasing all facets was a challenge. She reiterated that participants were chosen across age groups, different genres and all provinces. However, often the host nations of events would request specific genres, and even specific artists, for their events.

Ms Nwamitwa-Shilubana asked why the White Paper was only being developed now, and what had guided the DAC to date.

Ms Graham responded that the Department had to take its cue from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco). While waiting for the White Paper on Foreign Policy to be approved, the DAC acted in accordance with its own draft International Relations policy. Once the White Paper had been approved, the DAC would adjust its own policy to bring it fully in line with that White Paper.

Ms Nwamitwa-Shilubana asked if South Africa had institutions teaching German people to speak South African languages, similar to German institutions teaching South Africans to speak German.

Ms Graham said that this was a difficult issue. Other countries had cultural institutions based in South Africa, such as France’s Alliance Francais. However, South Africa did not have similar cultural institutions based in other countries, to teach South African languages and culture. This would be one of the issues discussed during the cultural diplomacy conference at the end of 2011. It would, however, have huge financial implications.

The Chairperson asked about the DAC’s relationship with Dirco in relation to cultural attachés, commenting that they often seemed to have little idea of what was happening in the arts sector, and it would be ideal if DAC could recommend people to take up these positions.

Ms Graham stated that South Africa had about half a dozen cultural attachés, who were appointed by Dirco some years ago, but after their terms of office the practice was discontinued, for financial reasons. This would be another topic for discussion during the national cultural diplomacy conference. She agreed that diplomats generally did not have the necessary skills and expertise to speak with authority on South African arts, culture and heritage.

Mr J Smalle (DA) asked if the Department had agreements with various performing agencies, to identify and assess people co-opted for skills development. He also asked what such individuals would contribute back to the market when returning to their performing agencies.

Mr Xaba responded that there were two particular challenges with the selection of candidates for cultural exchanges. The first lay in organising sectors so that they spoke to each other to identify suitable candidates for the skills development programmes, and the second was ensuring that the right candidates were selected who would share experiences and skills with others.

Mr Smalle asked for elaboration on the notion of “mixed reporting” on bilateral agreements.

Ms Graham answered that, in general, South Africa did not show consistency in reporting back on its international agreements. However, the challenge currently lay not with the reporting, but having the conventions ratified, and there were a number of instances where the time-delay caused a problem for the Department, and agreements were lying dormant. The Committee may be asked to assist on this.

The Chairperson asked who benefited from international cultural agreements and in which areas jobs were created.

Ms Graham responded that it was difficult to find a balance between South African arts and culture taken out of the country with skills and benefits brought in. This would be raised at the cultural diplomacy conference. When agreements with other countries were made, South Africa tried to ensure that they were mutually beneficial.

Mr Xaba addressed how agreements were linked to job creation, and listed a number of ways in which the creative industry could drive growth. Films made in South Africa, which were then showcased internationally, marketed South Africa, its expertise and facilities for film-making, which then would grow the industry and create jobs. Additionally, major cultural events could create a large number of sustainable jobs. The Department was currently developing business plans and creating enterprises to
popularise arts and culture in various areas, and would brief the Committee further towards the end of June.

The Chairperson stated that there was a concern over provinces signing their own international agreements, and asked what the Department’s view was on this.

Ms Graham said that provinces were not supposed to sign international agreements without involving the national Department. However, the issue was primarily being driven by Dirco. The Department was engaged in a number of projects in the provinces, which were the result of international agreements, but were being directed now by the national Department.

The Chairperson referred to economic and strategic partnerships such as the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) partnership, and asked how this and other agreements were being handled.

Ms Graham said that the IBSA partnership was the most established, and the Department was trying to elevate the profile of arts and culture with other economic partners by following a similar approach.

The Chairperson mentioned the diplomatic restrictions on Taiwan and other countries with whom South Africa did not have economic relations.

Ms Graham responded that South Africa would engage with Taiwan at the level of senior officials, but the Department would take its cue from the State’s international policy on Taiwan.

Mr Smalle asked if the Department had a plan to deal with the problem of aligning the different sectors and getting information from various genres.

Dr Lotriet asked how successful the Department was in facilitating the process of obtaining funding from the National Arts Council (NAC).

Ms Graham said that there were two ways in which funding assistance was provided. Funding was allocated to NAC on an annual basis. Linkages would be created between the NAC and similar institutions in other countries, such as the links to the programme in Norway.

Dr Lotriet asked for the presenters to elaborate on the Rock Art project, asking if it formed part of the Department’s projects.

Ms Graham said that the implementing agencies for the Rock Art project were primarily universities and research centres for rock art studies, who would also handle the training programmes on the project.

Ms Mushwana asked about links between the arts and culture sectors, and Further Education and Training institutions.

Mr Xaba said that there was a problem with how the training given to people was used. Public schools did not have a strong tradition of teaching arts and culture, partially because of problems employing teachers. However, the teaching of arts and culture at schools encouraged students to choose arts and culture as a viable career path. However, part of the problem at higher education institutions was that the arts were taught too generically, and thus did not equip students with specific skills. The Department would like its training academy to help individuals identify and develop different career choices in arts and culture, many of which were not known.  South Africa had very few people, for instance, who were trained in arts management, since no local universities offered this training.

The Chairperson urged the Department to appoint councils, to create order in the sectors, because communication with individuals, in the absence of such councils, was problematic.

Mr Xaba responded that it was true that there were some councils who ran the sectors, but said that the Department had not been able to get the sectors organised. There was a plan to collect data on the sectors and how they were run, to try to have them better organised.

The Chairperson suggested that the International Relations Unit should also be working with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to combat piracy, as many countries exported pirated products. This was detrimental to artists.

Mr Xaba agreed that the intellectual property rights of artists needed to be protected. The DAC had been invited by the dti to attend a workshop at the end of June 2011, to discuss intellectual property rights.

The Chairperson said that there were advantages to the manner in which China conducted its foreign policy, seeking to benefit itself primarily.

The Chairperson added that South Africa should broaden its cultural agreements to include other African regional bodies, such as the West African economic cooperation body ECOWAS.

Ms Graham said she would take this point on board.

The Chairperson asked who had funded the library that was built in Mali.

Ms Phumzile Simelela, Director for the Ministry, Department of Arts and Culture, answered that the funding for the library came from private South African companies.

Ms Graham added that although the Department did not fund the setting up of the library, it was in charge of using the funding to take the project forward. There was a plan to sign a trilateral agreement with Mali and Tunisia for ongoing training programmes.

The Chairperson asked the presenter to elaborate on the “liberation roots”, as she felt this was an important idea.

Ms Graham said that a number of related initiatives were being developed. The issue of the houses linked to the liberation struggle owned by South Africans internationally would be taken on board.

The Chairperson asked what was going to be done about the challenge of translating international cultural agreements into benefits for all South Africans.

Ms Graham said the Department’s international relations strategy and cultural diplomacy would have a component to address the issue. The strategic planning done for the Department in terms of job creation would also look at how the cultural agreements could contribute to job creation and skills development

Mr Ntshiqela asked for more clarity on what systems were in place for the monitoring and evaluation of international cultural agreements. He also asked what had been learnt about the challenges during the implementation of agreements.

Ms L Moss (ANC) asked if people from outside South Africa, particularly those who were the victims of xenophobia, would be involved in the “social cohesion public hearings” scheduled for July. This would also be important for healing.

Mr Xaba answered that there was a problem with social cohesion hearings in all provinces. The programme was being launched on 2 June 2011. There were no plans to engage specifically with foreign nationals, but this was an important point that would be taken into account.

The Chairperson commented that, in for the Department to grow it activities, it should try to source and use money in other departments that was intended for international matters.

Mr Xaba said he would follow up on this.

Chairperson’s requests to the new Director-General
The Chairperson asked the Director-General to make an effort to fill the vacancies in the DAC as soon as possible.

She noted that unfortunately the DAC had developed some reputation for corruption, which would have to be discussed with the Committee.

She also commented that in the past, the Committee had not had a particularly good relationship with the Department, especially on matters of protocol. She noted that it was necessary for the Department to comply with Parliamentary protocols, which included ensuring that relevant documents were sent to the Committee in good time, and inviting Members to events. For instance, Members were not invited to the consultative forum mentioned earlier. In future, the Committee should be treated better by the DAC.

Adoption of minutes and Reports
The minutes for the meetings held on 16 March 2011, 13 April 2011, and 20 April 2011 were adopted.

The Committee adopted its draft Report on the Budget.

The Chairperson noted that the Oversight Report would be adopted at the next meeting

The meeting was adjourned.


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: