The last hosting of the annual costly Mapungubwe Arts Festival proved to have been a dismal loss for the Limpopo taxpayer, who is expected to repeatedly foot the bill for the annual hosting of a multi-million Rand celebration. Revenue collection from an event that has become a fixture on the provincial calendar the past decade has seemingly drastically dropped by 75% the past two years.
All eyes will be on the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture when it is due to host what has become somewhat of the black sheep of Limpopo festivals, when it attempts another hosting in three months’ time. Often the occasion has invited criticism in the past, whether for the sake of noise levels disturbing the peace for residents in the area of the venue, for the line-up not including local talent or for participation by artists not being socially inclusive and representative of South Africa’s cultural make-up. This time a comparative analysis of revenue generation over the past decade is cause for raised eyebrows.
A sharp fluctuation in annual figures shows a rapid drop from R350 000 in revenue collection generated in 2013 to R197 500 in 2014. It was a drastic decrease in revenue from R822 000 in 2012. The year before the picture was also rather bleak with the figures indicating a margin of R392 459, as opposed to the total of R852 000 in revenue generated in 2010. An all-time high in revenue collection of R1,3 million was experienced in 2006.
Recently opposition party politicians and artists respectively started raising questions about the viability of an annual event that is costly to keep going if the revenue doesn’t justify the hosting of a party. An estimated R4,5 million was set aside for the 2014 celebration that ran over six days.
DA Legislature Member Katlego Phala, who initially pointed out the inconsistency, said it was disappointing that the revenue generation kept decreasing, yet the bill continued to increase yearly. Siding with the Limpopo Arts and Culture Youth Forum (Lacyf) which demanded that local artists did not get excluded from performances on the festival programme in the past, she insisted that the department had to ensure that it created fair opportunities for Limpopo’s musicians. “Our youth is talented, but the department fails them by not providing support such as enabling them to showcase their talent in high numbers. It is us as a province that should be growing them into superstars.” Another failure by the department was lack of establishing a theatre where the youth could nurture their artistic talents, she reckoned.
For various reasons Lacyf, a non-governmental organisation based in Polokwane, continues to dish out harsh criticism against the leadership of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture. Lacyf Chairperson Romeo Ramuada referred to their intention to air their frustrations with President Jacob Zuma soonest after following all protocols and called for the immediate removal of MEC Nandi Ndalane and her acting Head of Department (HOD), Mabakane Mangena for their failure to create opportunities for struggling artists in the province. Among others the forum remains concerned about the lack of commitment from the provincial government to support Limpopo’s artists. Ramuada, who is also the interim President of the South African Arts and Culture Youth Forum (Saacyf) which was established in June this year, indicated that numerous attempts to engage Premier Stan Mathabatha, MECs Ndalane and Seaparo Sekoati of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism as well as Legislature Speaker Merriam Ramadwa – in her erstwhile capacity as Sport, Arts and Culture MEC – had drawn to a blank.
Ramuada threatened that the artists of Limpopo would join ranks for a march before or during this year’s Mapungubwe Arts Festival, which is generally held in the first week of December every year, if the provincial government did not meet them on the issues they endeavoured to raise. He further stressed the point that the provincial government was responsible for providing the people of the province with an explanation on how their tax money was being allocated. “The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture is not taking the artists of Limpopo seriously. They are sabotaging us and the people voting for them.”
Due to the persistent disregard for Lacyf efforts, Limpopo had been robbed of the hosting of the proposed Limpopo Music Conference which was planned for commencement on 24 August, claimed Ramuada. According to him the event was expected to bring together nationally acclaimed and local musicians in a 12-month empowerment programme targeting all districts of the province. The collaboration would have resulted in skills-sharing and could have assisted with a selection of artists prior to the Mapungubwe Arts Festival, he suggested. He expressed the hope that something would come of proposals for funding of the conference that had been made to national decision-makers, including the Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture and the National Lotteries Commission through Saacyf.
In commenting on the matters raised, Department of Sport, Arts and Culture Spokesperson Malesela Ramaoka said R2 million has been set aside for this year’s event, which would run from 4 to 13 December. According to him the line-up of participating artists would be finalised once the service provider had been appointed, but like all other years they would try to appeal to all genres of music. The tender was advertised and the department is in the process of appointing a credible service provider, it was learnt.
On the issue of a steep decline in revenue generation, Ramaoka said the Mapungubwe Festival was all about national identity and social cohesion, responding to the key prescripts of the National Development Plan. “Its intention has never been about generation of revenue. There are social and cultural issues bigger than revenue and awareness of such is very important as the mandate of the department. Whilst we are not about revenue, we are glad that around that time there is business booming in the city of Polokwane. The entire stall will be hired. So in a way we are contributing to small business in a big way. So the festival is about awareness, about celebrating our cultural awareness and diversity.”
With reference to a question why the MEC had not availed herself as yet to meet with disgruntled artists, he responded saying there were various ways and means of attending to artists’ grievances. “We have just appointed men and women in the Limpopo Arts and Culture Council whose immediate task is to ensure that artists of all works (walks), performing and creative alike are taken care of.” He stressed that last year they had called all artists to an Arts and Culture Indaba to state their case and out of that resolutions were made, a milestone resolution being the 80/20 rule determining that 80% of the artists performing at the festival should be from Limpopo. “We are elated to say that in 2014, 90% of the artists came from Limpopo.” He encouraged artists outside umbrella bodies to make themselves available to forward their concerns to such councils and participate meaningfully in such structures.
Story: YOLANDE NEL