Arts and Culture

A large proportion of the Department of Arts and Culture’s budget is dedicated to supporting and developing institutional infrastructure to showcase, restore and preserve South Africa’s heritage for future generations.

Arts and culture initiatives

Investing in Culture
Investing in Culture is the department’s flagship programme to eradicate poverty, providing the necessary skills to enable people to assume greater responsibility for their future.

The Investing in Culture Programme aims to provide access to skills and markets as a tool for urban regeneration, rural development and job creation.

Arts and culture organisations
The following organisations play an active role in preserving and promoting South Africa’s arts and culture:

  • National Heritage Council
  • South African Heritage Resources Agency
  • South African Geographical Names Council
  • National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC)
  • Arts institutions such as the State Theatre in Pretoria, Playhouse Company in Durban, Artscape in Cape Town, Market Theatre in Johannesburg, Performing Arts Centre of the Free State in Bloemfontein and the Windybrow Theatre in Johannesburg
  • Business and Arts South Africa
  • Arts and Culture Trust

Cultural industries

The Cultural Industries Growth Strategy capitalises on the economic potential of the craft, music, film, publishing and design industries.

The Department of Arts and Culture provides support in the form of financing, management capacity, advocacy and networking by developing public-private partnerships and other initiatives that use culture as a tool for urban regeneration.

Worldwide, the turnover of cultural industries make this sector the fifth-largest economic sector, comprising design, performing arts, dance, film, television, multimedia, cultural heritage, cultural tourism, visual arts, crafts, music and publishing.

Cultural tourism
Cultural festivals, African-cuisine projects, cultural villages, heritage routes and story-telling are areas that can benefit from South Africa’s booming tourism industry.

Arts festivals
The Department of Arts and Culture provides financial support to various arts and culture festivals.

The National Arts Festival, held annually in July in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, is one of the largest and most diverse arts gatherings in Africa.

Other major festivals are held in Oudtshoorn, Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein.

South African theatre is internationally acclaimed as being unique and of top quality.

The theatre scene in South Africa is vibrant, with many active spaces across the country offering everything from indigenous drama, music, dance, cabaret and satire, to West End and Broadway hits, classical music, opera and ballet.

While local music styles such as South African jazz have influenced African and world music for decades, gospel, house music kwaito are the most popular and most recorded styles today.

The NAC is responsible for funding the KwaZulu-Natal , Cape and Gauteng orchestras as well as the Cape Town Jazz Orchestra.

Contemporary work ranges from normal preconceptions of movement and performance art or performance theatre, to the completely unconventional. Added to this is the African experience, which includes traditional dance inspired by wedding ceremonies, battles, rituals and everyday life.

Visual arts
South Africa has a range of art galleries that showcase collections of indigenous, historical and contemporary works.

Universities also play an important role in acquiring artwork of national interest. These include, among other things, collections housed in the Gertrude Posel Gallery of the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of South Africa Gallery in Pretoria, the Eduardo Villa Museum and other galleries at the University of Pretoria and a collection of contemporary Indian art at the University of Durban-Westville.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa’s craft subsector alone contributes about R2 billion or 0,14% to South Africa’s gross domestic product annually, providing jobs and income for around 38 000 people through at least 7 000 small enterprises.

The South African craft sector is developing in leaps and bounds, clearly defining its positioning as an important second economy. Its growth areas largely create jobs and opportunities for rural and inner-city urban women in South Africa.

Film production is actively supported by government; just one initiative is the Location Film and Television Scheme introduced by the Department of Trade and Industry.

South Africa offers foreign producers world-class film facilitation, logistics, talent and administration-management services.

Television production accounts for more than a third of total film/television revenue, with local-content quotas increasing the demand for programming.

The National Film and Video Foundation develops and promotes the film and video industry in South Africa. It is also involved in the development of projects that appeal to targeted audiences and have greater commercial returns. The foundation disburses grants for developing and producing feature films, short films, television series, documentaries and animation projects, as well as bursaries for students from other countries. This ensures a South African presence at major local and international film markets, festivals and exhibitions.

South Africa has a rich and vibrant literary heritage and its writers are recognised and celebrated over the world. South Africa is the only country in sub-saharan Africa to boast two laureates for literature, namely JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer.

The new pop culture in poetry, often referred to as “spokenword poetry”, is one of the most celebrated art forms throughout the country and beyond. Poets such as Lesego Rampolokeng, Lebogang Mashile, Kgafela oa Magogodi, Blaq Pearl, Jessica Mbangeni and Mark Manaka are household names in the genre.

There are regular platforms created to give these poets opportunities to hone their skills.

The Department of Arts and Culture has launched the Indigenous Literature Publishing Project, aimed at producing a series of publications in different languages, by writers from different backgrounds across South Africa. This project aims to stimulate the growth and development of literature in indigenous languages and generate new readerships.

The National Library of South Africa (NLSA) has been tasked with republishing out-of-print African-language classics by exploring the creation of partnerships with private companies.

More than 300 of the approximately 1 000 museums in Africa are in South Africa. The Department of Arts and Culture subsidises most museums, which are otherwise autonomous.

The department pays an annual subsidy to 13 national museums, ensuring the preservation of artefacts and collections that are important to all South Africans.