02 July, 2011

“The National Arts Festival is the voice of the Arts”

This is according to the Director of the Arts Festival Ishmael Mohammed.  Each year thousands of artists, business owners, art lovers and locals brace the cold to be a part of this awesome experience. 
Not only is it Africa’s largest Arts Fest but it is also the third largest contributor to the economy of Grahamstown.   The unemployment rate in South Africa has been high on the agenda of the government and Ishmael Mohammed said that the festival is a wonderful opportunities for Grahamstown locals to think creatively about job creation.  The population of the area doubles during Fest which means that there is a great demand for accommodation.  Rhodes University is one of the institutions that offer accommodation to guests in the area.  Schools have offered their sports fields as camping spots and many homes turn their work into B&B’s. 

When asked about the role of government in promoting and investing in the Art industry he acknowledges that South Africa is a very complex state.  People have argued that instead of spending millions of Rands to build an Arts centre it would be much better to build houses for the homeless.  He did however say that he is pleased with the current minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile.  He said that it is great that the art industry in South Africa now have a minister who interacts with people in the Arts and is actively involved in bringing about change in fest and how it can contribute to the people on a larger platform.  

He also challenged artists saying although the arts industry is not as stable; they should get out of their negative state of mind and expose people to their art.  The industry can only be one of the major money spinners if government together with artists work together to promote their work.

Pearl Nicodemus & Thabiso Sihlali

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