Standard Bank young artists get booked

At this year’s National Arts Festival sponsor Standard Bank celebrates 25 years of its Young Artist Awards with an exhibition and a panel discussion about the awards happening on the Think Fest platform.

Chaired by past festival chairman and current committee member Mannie Manim, the audience is invited, on July 3, to “engage with the thinking and artistic processes” of Janice Honeyman (drama, 1982), Andrew Buckland (drama, 1986), Sibongile Khumalo (music, 1993), Acty Tang (dance, 2007) and Kesivan Naidoo (music, 2009).

In practice there is nothing binding these artists together bar the fact that, like 95 others, they have been celebrated by one of the country’s biggest banks. As past sole sponsor and now part sponsor of the National Arts Festival, Standard Bank must continually promote its role as promoter.
To this end the bank has published a corporate-looking souvenir book, simply titled Standard Bank Young Artist Awards 25 Years. 

In the foreword group chief executive Jacko Maree writes about the benefits for the brand of promoting individuals whose profiles may not be entirely congruous with the profile of the bank.

It is interesting to note that Maree sees the role of corporate sponsor of the arts as midway between the sponsorship of sport and charity. In other words, the bank’s investment in the arts satisfies an aspect of its marketing mix while showing the broader public that banking can have a “softer side”, to quote Maree. He calls each environment, be it the Standard Bank Gallery, the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival or the Young Artist Awards, “sponsorship properties”.

This idea of the bank’s outright ownership of certain platforms may not sit comfortably with artists who see their role as critics of the society. The idea of such a domineering arts sponsorship, in the first place, brings forth the issue of how more extreme voices may find support in the corporate art sponsored network, and whether they belong in the system at all.

In this book we have biographies of the 100-plus artists who’ve been brought into the fold since the inception of the awards in 1984.

Resident specialists have contributed individual chapters: Adrienne Sichel on dance, Trevor Steele Taylor on film, Mannie Manim on drama, Sibongile Khumalo on music, and so on.

An essay introducing the changing political climate, in which the visual arts awards have been disbursed, has not been attributed to a writer. There is, however, a suggestion that the words reflect some of the thinking of the late Alan Crump, who died of cancer at the age of 60 in May this year. Crump was festival chairman in the 1990s and curator of the awards exhibit.

The essay describes how the National Arts Festival became a reluctant victim of the anti-apartheid cultural boycott in the Eighties. It describes how some politicised artists sought to reject the stigmatised festival and how others used it as a platform for political expression.

The essay concludes that the festival “should retain its identity as an instrument for reflecting the times”. And so, as the times dictate, a book about the country’s premiere art awards must have a nice, hyper-corporate, glossy veneer.

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse

Client Media Releases

Durban team reaches Enactus World Cup semi-finals
IIE Rosebank College opens campus in Cape Town
Pharmacen makes strides in 3D research for a better life for all
UKZN neurosurgeon on a mission to treat movement disorders
Teraco achieves global top 3 data centre ranking
ContinuitySA's Willem Olivier scoops BCI award
MBDA to host first Eastern Cape Fashion and Design Council
Sanral puts out N2/N3 tenders worth billions
EPBCS lives up to expectations
The benefit of unpacking your payslip