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As South Africa gears up for the games, government funding for arts initiatives dries up.

Government funding for South African arts initiatives has been slashed in the lead up to this month’s Fifa World Cup—despite the fact that planned expenditure on the event is scheduled to reach around R13.7bn ($1.75bn).

Cape Town’s Iziko South African National Gallery scrapped plans to host a football-related art show because of lack of promised funding and is showing a South African art retrospective instead. Above, Cyril Coetzee, Ship of Fools. The culture ministry reduced the National Arts Council’s budget from R28m ($3.7m) to R14m ($1.8m) for the 2010/11 financial year, in addition to ditching a team of cultural programming advisors for the month-long events. Arts Council chairwoman Brenda Madumise said the South African arts community must “prepare for difficult times ahead”. Troubles first emerged in mid-2009 when the culture ministry failed to respond to numerous World Cup applications from local arts and cultural institutions, despite initiating a call for project proposals. This was followed by media reports which revealed that the promised R150m ($19.7m) for World Cup arts initiatives had entirely failed to appear. An inquiry in March this year to locate the missing money was launched by the culture minister, Lulu Xingwana. The findings of the investigation have still not been made public. “The first thing the department did was promise funding for the World Cup but that has not materialised,” said Riason Naidoo, director of Cape Town’s Iziko South African National Gallery. “Artists have had to shelve their plans and feel let down at a crucial time when we should be highlighting the uniqueness of our culture.” “The fear now is that at the very last minute the government will suddenly discover it has found some money and will again turn to its usual suspects to pull together some sort of cultural show,” said South African writer J. Brooks Spector on the Johannesburg news website The Daily Maverick. “But the new, the innovative and the daring will be locked out yet again.” Without the pledged resources, Naidoo scrapped original plans to host a football-related art show and instead turned his attention towards a South African art retrospective, “From Pierneef to Gugulective” (until mid September), which includes artists such as Marlene Dumas and William Kentridge. Similar issues plagued the Johannesburg Art Gallery, said chief curator Antoinette Murdoch: “No one returned our requests for funding. There simply was no budget for the World Cup. Our budget has stayed the same for the past five years.” Yet the publicly funded institutions’ woes extend far beyond this summer. According to Murdoch, there are currently 33 staff vacancies. “When people resigned we were not allowed to rehire,” she said. “We are functioning on a skeleton staff with a lot of passion, but we need to fundraise for everything we do.” The gallery has also decided against a football-related show and will instead feature contemporary Afro-Cuban art. Joseph Gaylard, the director of the Johannesburg office of the Visual Arts Network, blames scarce funding on the government’s poor timing. “The fundamental issue is that the planning for it was hopelessly late,” said Gaylard. “The national department recruited a senior manager to take on the responsibility in July of last year, when they should have been recruiting them two years ago.” According to Steven Sack, the City of Johannesburg’s director of arts, culture and heritage, two art shows have benefited from government funding. “Space: Currencies in Contemporary African Art”, at Johannesburg’s Museum Africa until 11 July, features work from 25 artists of African descent. Despite receiving R5m ($650,000) from the city, according to Thembinkosi Goniwe, the co-curator of “Space”, funding had to be supplemented with sponsorship. “InContext”, a collaboration between the Goodman Gallery, the British Council and other cultural organisations (until 17 July), was also, said Sack, one of the only commercial entities to receive any subsidy from the government. Although the show received an additional R200,000 ($26,500) from the city of Johannesburg, it “would have happened with or without that money”, said a Goodman spokeswoman.

Published online 7 Jun 10 (News)

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