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THE CULTURAL POLICY PROJECT (article first published : 2003-10-24)

South Africa and the Flemish Government in Belgium have an extensive cultural agreement which includes the Cultural Policy Project. This Policy Project deals broadly with a local understanding of culture in six targeted areas, developing tools for the promotion of Cultural Citizenship and Cultural Policy within a South African context. This particular project emerged through discussions that identified local arts and culture policy planning and development as an area of mutual interest and cooperation between both countries.

In South Africa the roots of the project go back to the cultural activism of the late 1980ís and early 90ís. It falls within the broad national framework for arts and culture policy found in the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage (1996), which was informed by the policy development process led by the Ministerís Arts and Culture Task Group (ACTAG).

ACTAG was a comprehensive consultative art and culture policy process in SA, initiated by the National Department in consultation with civil society building upon the foundations laid by the National Arts Initiative (NAI, 1991) and the National Arts Coalition (NAC, 1993). The NAI and NAC were active arts campaigns lobbying for arts and culture as integral to government delivery through the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). The Cultural Policy project aims to revitalise networks built on these foundations, renewing the involvement of activists and ordinary citizens in community cultural life and assisting government to plan for arts and culture at a local level.

The White Paper as a broad policy document guides arts and culture practice in South Africa, but is less effective in assisting provincial and local government on how to address culture at a grassroots level. This results in a lack of co-ordination and consistency with regard to Arts and Culture policy and implementation. This situation reinforces the need for planning and development of cultural policy to inform implementation at provincial and local levels and develop local identities addressing integration and cultural diversity.

As a country we will be celebrating a decade of democracy next year, but our government is pressed for capacitating and co-ordinating a joined-up approach to delivery. However, delivery concerns the translation of policy into practice which depends on the context and capacities of key role-players. Therefore this project is crucial to culture and governance as it will focus on the practical tools and models needed at a local level for the implementation of cultural policy mapping, planning and policy development, and to enable co-ordination for the cultural sector across government.

The project further aims to stimulate social responsibility and active citizenship through the involvement of communities in the development of the models and instruments. This experience and expertise developed in targeted local authorities should result in practical instruments which can be replicated to support policy development in other areas. Through the project and with the active involvement of local government and civil society we aim to gain a real understanding of arts and culture at the level where people live, breathe and actively participate in cultural life.

The project takes place over three years in the following sites: Free State (Mangauang Municipality and Metsimaholo District Council), KwaZulu Natal (Ethekwini Municipality and Ulundi District Council) and Limpopo (Polokwane Town Council and Thulamela District Council). The project team consisting of National Project Manager and three provincial managers will be hosted by the National Arts Council and the designated localities.




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