/ 24 September 2003

Creating space for the people

When word got around the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation that its Limpopo Province project had qualified as an Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) Awards finalist, the 12-woman team took to their work with renewed energy.

Now the project has been awarded Cultural Development Project of the Year for 2003. The members of the foundation are in distinguished company, having received their accolade alongside the Creative Inner City Initiative (CICI) in this category.

Situated in the northern part of the Limpopo Province, the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation Centre is based at a private game reserve with an eco-tourist lodge, the Mogalakwena River Lodge, adjoining the tribal trustland where the Pedi community live.

The foundation was established in 1994 and the craft-art centre is situated within walking distance from adjacent villages. Here, skills are nurtured and 12 craft artists are employed to create a variety of beadwork, prints, candles and so on. Regular workshops are held for children from a nearby school.

The craft centre’s artists were represented at the World Summit for Sustainable Development exhibition in 2002 and have created items for galleries and hotels in the Western Cape.

Project marketing executive Elbe Coetsee says that ‘the women were delighted and there was a positive vibe at the centre when we heard the news. Everyone is delighted because we never expected it to happen, and it’s the first time we’ve received an award”.

Although based in Cape Town, Coetsee travels to Limpopo regularly to visit the craft centre.

The ACT Awards, in association with the Mail & Guardian and Nedbank, acknowledges the fine work done by individuals, organisations and agencies that have played an important supportive role in the development of arts, culture and creativity in South Africa.

They are a celebration of excellence in areas often hidden behind the scenes of public events.

The ACT panel of judges boasts some of the most experienced individuals in the industry. Coetsee believes the award will go a long way to creating awareness about the project and employment for women in Limpopo.

She pays tribute to initiatives such as the Arts & Culture Trust Awards, which recognises projects that would otherwise remain unknown to many South Africans.

Elizabeth Venter of the CICI is equally delighted that their project has been named the winner.

The CICI is a poverty-alleviation project focused on uplifting communities in Hillbrow, Berea and Joubert Park in Johannesburg.

Once involved, Venter says, ‘people then take pride in themselves and their neighbourhood”. The CICI contributes to community building through improving arts, crafts, and performance skills; as well as providing business-skills training and income-generating opportunities — particularly for youth and women.

Creative disciplines include magazine production, portraiture, sculpture, sign-writing and video production. The awards have attracted a wide range of entries.

The accolades bestowed on these two grassroots initiatives acknowledge that in their area of work there is a strong inclination towards job creation, management and creative skills.

People involved in arts and culture who meet the criteria are commended for developing awareness and appreciation of our allied arts industries.

‘All the finalists for the 2003 ACT Awards are congratulated for their fine work and participation,” says ACT deputy chairman and awards judge George Mxadana. ‘The finalists represent the highest levels of professionalism, dedication, leadership and achievements in their respective fields”.

MTN: Hello the future of the arts

In 1998 MTN took a decision that its collection, comprising more than 1 000 art works,”would not just decorate the corporate walls but would be used as a core tool in outreach and sustainable social development programmes”.

This year the telecommunications company was nominated by the Arts & Culture Trust as Organisation of the Year in Support of the Arts.

The MTN Foundation was launched in 2001 and has used the collection to hold exhibitions, facilitate rural outreach, train and support teachers and publish art resource material and educational supplements. These include the Voices Creative Arts Therapies Project, the MTN/Imbali Teachers Training Programme, the MTN Young Curators Programme and artist-in-residence programmes.

MTN has also published and sponsored a number of groundbreaking exhibitions such as the HIV/Aids awareness exhibition, Break the Silence.

Their sponsorship of fine art books includes a publication about printmaking at Rorke’s Drift and a study by Elza Miles about the life and work of deceased artist

Gladys Mgudlandlu. — Mail & Guardian reporter