FACEBOOK GROUP, Im4theArts
FACEBOOK PAGE, @Iam4theArts
action @ iam4theArts .org .za
email@example.comUpdated 20 June 2020
Artists take to the streets, first ever National #Im4theArts Call to Action!
Press ReleaseThursday 27 February 2020
In a groundbreaking development, a #Im4theArts #ArtistsLivesMatter Call-to-Action document that lists, for the first time, the crux of what is crippling the local arts industry, in particular the longevity and prosperity of performing artists, is brought to the fore.
The bottom line is that funding is the wind in the sails of artists. Without proper funding the arts industry is going nowhere. But before funding is secured there has to be well defined policies put in place that has given due consideration to the opinions of the public and the artists. These policies need to be framed in a way that blocks out fraud and corruption and when it surfaces, it is dealt with decisively. Perhaps an office for a “Funding Ombudsman/ Watchdog” could be created to handle key aspects, including monies owed to artists and other disputes. Another vital aspect that this document delves into is the area of promoting local artists and content. There should be no compromise when it comes to giving local priority. How else is the industry expected to flourish now and in the future if we were not proactive now.
While lamenting the desperate state of his “Homelessness”, our humble hero Joseph Tshabalala sings about how ‘strong winds’ break the spirit of his brothers and sisters and the children. These words are probably the most poignant reminder that South Africans have faced too many strong winds for too long a time. As an artist, Joseph faced many difficult struggles in his life as do most of the artists in our country. Artists have now reached breaking point and on Martin Luther King Day this year, our indigenous jazz doyenne Sibongile Mngoma courageously stood up and said “NO MORE!” It was a clarion call to all artists in our country and signalled the birth of a powerful new assembly of artists, lovers of the arts, well-wishers and anyone else. What started as a shout out against wanton theft committed by the so called custodians of the arts, turned into a vibrant and irresistible force that has struck many raw nerves, most notably amongst the GUILTY!
Thousands of the true custodians of the arts have since stood up and said – “we are here now and we are staying here to breathe new life into the dying soul of arts in our country”. We will no longer accept that the ministry of arts continue to be the dumping ground for people that our government cannot find jobs for elsewhere! We want those who have been stealing money from arts and culture to be held to account. We want all our artists who are struggling presently to become the biggest beneficiaries of these funds so that they may feed the starving soul of our nation with their magic.
With our diversity, inspiration, critical discernment and passion, we are building a formidable movement to ensure that we can never fail. The stories that have been shared from every corner of our country have been breath-taking in their honesty, pain and intensity. It has become agonizingly clear that artists have been abused and neglected for too long now and have had enough. Every story has been woven into a new tapestry that we hope will form the new blueprint to resuscitate the arts in its entirety. We are mindful also that we are up against unscrupulous individuals but … WE ARE READY!
We invite all media on March 15th to engage with our Artists who will be taking to the streets in what we call the “#Im4theArts #ArtistsLivesMatter Call To Action” expressing our frustrations in a creative non violent manner. Artists from all over SA will be participating.
For further info on the list of Provinces, Towns and Cities participating contact : action@iam4theArts.org.za
- Website: http://iam4thearts.org.za/call-to-action/
- Public facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Im4theArts/
- Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Iam4theArts/ @Iam4theArts
- Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/im4thearts @im4thearts
- Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- #Iam4theArts_15 March 2020_CALL-TO-ACTION_19-02-2020.pdf
- #Iam4theArts_Points Raised for the DSAC_19-02-2020.pdf
Press Images & Captions:
Press Release: Kgauhelo Dube06 FEBRUARY 2020
Introducing #Im4theArts : Artists challenge the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to fix the industry.
South Africa’s artists have always been at the forefront of people-centric social justice movements. The voices of artists have a huge impact when advocating for fellow citizens.
A painful reminder is Miriam Makeba’s 1963 speech to the UN General Assembly where she she called on the world to recognise and vilify the crimes against humanity committed by the apartheid Nationalist government, a brave action that led to South Africa revoking her citizenship. She became a woman of no nation, singing globally for her country’s freedom.
It’s poignant that in 2020 – a whole 57 years after Makeba’s UN speech, a movement called #Im4theArts was started by another priestess of song – acclaimed opera singer Sibongile Mngoma. Through open letters to both the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) Nathi Mthethwa and President, Mngoma highlighted the current shambolic state of the arts in South Africa, this after artists had been successful, non-violent, key messengers of the liberation movement. Her main contention was the state of economic helplessness that most of South Africa’s creative community find themselves in. Mngoma’s personal framing of the letter resonated with thousands artists across all creative disciples and a Facebook movement called #Im4theArts was born.
Sibongile Mngoma’s open letters let loose a flood of responses and the #Im4theArts Facebook page grew exponentially. Artists from all over the country and abroad painfully recounted haunting indignities they’ve endured for little or no pay: all in the name of entertaining and stimulating South African audiences culturally.
The page soon showed that the weakest link in this story of a demoralised creative sector was the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture – the bona fide custodian of art and culture in SA.
“Setting up the Facebook group was a revelation,” said Mngoma. “As an artist, I wasn’t alone. I still cannot believe some of the stories I got in my inbox. What artists go through is unthinkable!”
To date, in just over 2 weeks, the #Im4theArts Facebook page has attracted a following of over 9 900 active arts, culture and heritage practitioners who have “had it” with the status quo and are demanding tangible interventions. The group’s energy is positive, infectious and proactive. Grassroots community engagement and action interventions are being planned.
DSAC responded to Mngoma, asking for a meeting with DAC Director-General Vusumuzi Mkhize, which happened on 4 February 2020, at the DSAC offices in Tshwane.
The small #Im4theArts delegation, led by Mngoma highlighted the elephant in the room to the DG: The arts community has lost faith in the department. DSAC must function properly, and reform itself if it is to regain the lost trust of South Africa’s creative sector.
The #Im4theArts collective live-streamed the entire DSAC meeting – an innovation in transparent public engagement.
David ForbesPRESS RELEASE, facebook wall post
28 JANUARY 2020, 20h00
It took a courageous and talented woman with integrity to call out the failures of the South African government in the arts and culture sector.
Sowetan-born natural diva Sibongile Mngoma, who began her career as an OK Bazaars cashier in Hillbrow, is a singer of prodigious talent, ranging from opera to jazz and gospel.
But, having studied in the global arena, and performed at prestigious international venues, such as London’s Royal Albert Hall, she could not understand why the Department of Sport, Arts & Culture (DSAC) treated her and her many fellow artists with such disrespect.
After much agonising, she took a brave decision and put her career on the line. She wrote an open letter to Nkosinathi “Nathi” Mthethwa, the relevant minister since 2014. Then, on 19 January, having had no response, she put it on facebook, starting a group called Im4theArts, which exploded to more than 5 000 members in a week. The resonances within the group’s posts, and its rapid growth have surprised her.
“After my letter was ignored, I got a brainwave to find out if there were other Artists who had similar issues. Within 3 hours we hit 500 members and I was blocked,” said Mngoma.
“Immediately after setting up the page, I shared my letter to the Minister again. That is when things changed and suddenly I was blocked from inviting more people until the 4th of February. The reason being I was ‘a menace’.”
Sibongile’s Open Letter to Mthethwa followed two separate public complaints published some time earlier by other prominent SA actresses. Vatiswa Ndara had written an Open Letter setting out her grievances against film production companies. Rami Chuene had posted on twitter about conditions on film sets.
“Both addressed issues concerning actors and their working conditions,” said Mngoma, “I have no contact with either lady. I started my group . . . (and) . . . (W)ithin three hours we hit 500 members.”
Posts on the page reflect a deep anger that has been simmering in the arts and culture sectors for decades. The former Minister of Safety and Security during the time of the Marikana Massacre, Nathi Mthethwa, is not generally liked by the artistic community. Some of the stories on the page detailing their abuse are heartbreaking.
Although Mthethwa holds only three certificates and no other tertiary qualifications, he has failed to bring highly qualified people on board to unify and develop the sector. The DSAC staff often do not even answer the phone or e-mails. Complaints take a long time to be resolved, often unsatisfactorily. People are ignored. Others have accused Mthethwa and others in the sector of corruption, looting, mismanagement, nepotism and criminal behaviour, although none of these allegations have been proved yet. There is also pushback against the term “social cohesion”, viewed as retrogressive.
To facilitate both the “coming out” of stories about how badly artists have been treated, and also to prevent litigation, the group created a private “Members Only” page to ensure that whistleblowers were protected. People can vent on the Members page and share documents and other evidence.
Lawyers are now scrutinising these documents with a view to one or more class actions against the DSAC to force a review of how the arts and culture sector is run. “We have had enough,” is a common cry on the page.
Despite the rancour expressed on the page, people are very positive about the movement that Mngoma and other brave artists are creating to ensure a proper growth and development of the arts in South Africa.
Solutions being discussed are private arts funding initiatives (with private business support), a comprehensive database, formation of unions, new provincial representatives independent of DSAC, and the dissolution of the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of SA (CCIFSA). This official DSAC-sponsored “official voice” of the sector, has been widely discredited after a funding scandal within CCIFSA to the tune of R100m broke in July 2019.(1) There have also been allegations of suspensions, and other rumblings in the DSAC, but the department is tight-lipped and appears to deny everything.
A senior arts administrator who did not want to be named said: “Putting the more than 5k members who joined Im4theArts in one week (!) into perspective … the facebook page for CCIFSA (last post March 2015) records 1.9k likes; the page for Arterial Network SA (last post May 2019) records 3.3k likes. CCIFSA is of course funded by the DAC as the self-declared ‘controlling body’ for arts and culture . . . (T)his is clear evidence that Im4theArts enjoys an unprecedented level of support and should be taken seriously.”
Mthethwa himself responded to Mngoma’s Open Letter almost immediately with a press release on 22 January 2020 which “noted” the Open Letters and claimed that many of the issues had been “patiently responded to in great deal”. While refusing to address any issues specifically, he claimed to have “fulfilled his obligation”, and referred remuneration and other issues to the Department of Employment and Labour. He asked Mngoma to report her allegations directly to the ministry and asked for details. Mthethwa also expressed “sympathy and understanding” to members of the creative and cultural industries, and assured them of his commitment to bring about change.
Mthethwa’s response drew an angry and dismayed response from Chuene and Ndara, according to an article in The Star. Chuene, who was axed from a television production, said Mthethwa’s statement left them with more questions than answers. She tweeted: “Did you just pass the artists onto the Dept of Employment & Labour? With all due respect sir, you’re heading OUR department. This is still in your jurisdiction before it even gets to DEL. Do better Sir.” (sic). Ndara said she was disappointed: “It’s almost as if the minister does not want to be accountable. Minister the industry is falling apart please act.”
Mngoma said: “The Minister’s response putting us all together reflects his own character and how he views women in the space, in general.”
Mngoma then addressed a new Open Letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, asking him to step in because there was clearly a problem with the DSAC: “You are the highest power in South Africa. The top executive. We have a big problem.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, we responded to the call to serve South Africa and liberate our country. When utata uMadiba asked us to stay and help him reconstruct and develop, we did. When you told us to Thuma Mina, we believed you and responded positively.
“Our problem is this: we are struggling to help you rebuild a Capable State. Our way is currently blocked and frustrated at every turn by DSAC. All our routes to recourse are exhausted.
“Malum’ uMatamela, please help us to help you rebuild this beautiful vibrant, country. I, Sibongile Mngoma, and currently around 4 000 arts and culture practitioners and allies, are at a total dead-end with the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture. They disrespect us. They ignore us. They talk down to us, the creators of meaning for arts, culture and music.
“Today many of us are hungry, homeless, and wordless to the questioning eyes of our children. Our work has been interrupted, sabotaged and blocked, and the resources allocated for it stolen and consumed by others. Many others have died penniless.
“What was fought for, and built lovingly in the 1990s, authoring the missions of the NAC, has transformed into a bureaucratic nightmare, out of touch with the country’s artists, creators and cultural practitioners. We have become victims of faceless box-ticking bureaucrats, many of whom don’t even answer the telephone nor our e-mails. The Freedom Charter instructed “The Doors of Learning and Of Culture to be open for ALL, including us. Yet cadre deployment has turned the DSAC into a patronage machine.”
The Open Letter told the President the artistic community felt DSAC had lost legitimacy, and asked him to “clearly, explicitly and visibly answer our question: What is the mandate of the DSAC? The lack of transparency, plainly written rules and processes and of accountability, and of engagement at any level, is appalling, intolerable and, at worst, illegal,” the letter said.
“Rather than discovering, developing and encouraging national talent, the DSAC is concerned with Social Cohesion, an empty term reminiscent of the apartheid era,” said the letter, pointing out that “(W)e are a community of people, not a collection of objects to be ‘glued together’. It is the artistic community that is responsible for highlighting the diversity of our nation. We continue to achieve globally, attracting millions of visitors to interact with our artists, musicians, crafters and cultural creators.
“We are now organizing from ground up, once more, to take back our power as creative people who can contribute meaningly to our country and the health and well-being of our people and communities. We are for the country. FINISH ‘n KLAAR!
“We are mobilising. We will march in every corner of our beautiful Mzansi, the Azanian shores, onse Suid-Afrika, Afrika Borwa yarona, Izwe lethu. . . . (W)e will force more accountability and transparency, bring thieves to account, end the culture of impunity and the careless disrespect for the artistic community. Most of us have more integrity in our little fingers than entire floors of the DSAC.
“We have given up on DSAC. We call on you to dissolve the DSAC immediately. Work with us to create an authentic, new structure that speaks for and represents all sectors and areas of South African Arts, Culture and Heritage. A society without culture is a society without soul.”
The letter exhorted Ramaphosa: “Mr President. Hear our call. Answer our key question. Engage us. Listen to us. Our lives and livelihoods are at stake. Our nation’s soul is in the balance. Call us! Artists have always been in the frontlines of battle. Raising the battle cry. We are the nation’s torchbearers and carriers of the national banner, and the creative solution. . . . We call on you to start by answering our key question and replacing the Minister with a person of integrity – and an Arts administrator who understands us and what we can contribute to the country if we all work together. We are asking you to accelerate the process of . . . action. If not, then you will be failing us even as we say “yes, call us!”
Almost immediately after Mngoma formed the page, fake accounts began to appear with news and posts designed to divide and confuse, but were quickly shut down by administrators. By Tuesday 28 January, Mngoma reported that her phone was being “jammed”. She later said it may have been cloned, because a drone had “visited” her during the night, and she had lost all her data, airtime and signal.
To date neither the President nor the Presidency has responded. The DSAC has remained silent. More than 5000 people from the arts, culture and heritage sectors are growing more vocal by the hour. “We are not going to stop until we have changed this thing,” said Mngoma. She has assumed a humble position within the group, which has a flat leadership structure, and is planning its next campaign.
“They can do their worst,” said Mngoma tonight, “I’m ready for them.”
Open Letter: Sibongile Mngomafacebook profile wall post
26 JANUARY at 09:53
Dear Mr President
You are the highest power in South Africa. The top executive.
We have a big problem.
In the ’80s and ’90s, we responded to the call to serve South Africa and liberate our country. When utata uMadiba asked us to stay and help him reconstruct and develop, we did. When you told us to “Thuma Mina”, we believed you and responded positively. Our problem is this: we are struggling to help you rebuild a Capable State. Our way is currently blocked and frustrated at every turn by DSAC. All our routes to recourse are exhausted.
Malum’ uMatamela, please help us to help you rebuild this beautiful and vibrant country. I, Sibongile Mngoma, and currently around 4 000 arts and culture practitioners and allies, are at a total dead-end with the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture. They disrespect us. They ignore us. They talk down to us, the creators of meaning for arts, culture and music.
Today many of us are hungry, homeless, and wordless to the questioning eyes of our children. Our work has been interrupted, sabotaged and blocked – the resources allocated for it stolen and consumed by others. Many have died penniless. What was fought for and built lovingly in the ’90s, authoring the missions of the NAC, has been transformed into a bureaucratic nightmare, out of touch with the country’s artists, creators and cultural practitioners. We have become victims of faceless box-ticking bureaucrats, many of whom don’t even answer the telephone, nor our e-mails.
The Freedom Charter instructed the Doors of Learning and Culture to be open for ALL, including us. Yet cadre deployment has turned the DSAC into a patronage machine. That seminal document envisioned that the “government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life. All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all. By free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands. Educators shall teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace”.
Legitimacy is the foundation of trust.
We feel the DSAC has lost legitimacy. We implore you, as a first response, to clearly, explicitly and visibly answer our question: What is the mandate of the DSAC?
When we query anything, the DSAC, a faceless author of rules and requirements, patronisingly tells us “relevant officials have responded” and we must respect “internal processes”. The lack of transparency, plainly written rules and processes and of accountability and engagement at any level is appalling, intolerable and, at worst, illegal.
Baba. President. When you took the reins we celebrated. We believed rationality, sanity and integrity would return to governance. We begged you to put an artist in charge of the arts, and we did this with good reason. We realise that you can’t please everyone.
We also understand the current climate of paralysis. Our department is failing us. The collective soul of our nation is being robbed of our gifts, of our particular powers to bring real one-ness and unity through the fusion of the heritages of the People of the South.
The DSAC refers us to the Department of Labour or the DTI to resolve our concerns and grievances, instead of responding directly.
Rather than discovering, developing and encouraging national talent, the DSAC is concerned with Social Cohesion, an empty term reminiscent of the apartheid era. We are a community of people, not a collection of objects to be “glued together”.
It is the artistic community that is responsible for highliting the diversity of our nation. We continue to achieve globally, attracting millions of visitors to interact with our artists, musicians, crafters, and cultural creators.
Samora Machel said: “The question of people’s power is the essential question of our revolution.” We are taking that seriously. We are now organizing from ground up, once more, to take back our power as creative people who can contribute meaningfully to our country and the health and well-being of our people and communities.
We are for the country. FINISH ‘n KLAAR!
We are mobilising. We will march in every corner of our beautiful Mzansi, the Azanian shores, onse Suid-Afrika, Afrika Borwa yarona, Izwe lethu. We have learned our lessons. We will not stop at the behest of the media, the police, or the government.
We will march for social justice, marching with everyone who is increasingly fed up with outdated colonialised presentations of power and selfish interest protection agendas.
We will march to the civil justice system, where we will mobilise legal class actions with the help of our legal allies. We will force more accountability and transparency, bring thieves to account, end the culture of impunity and careless disrespect of the artistic community. Most of us have more integrity in our little fingers than entire floors of the DSAC. We have given up on DSAC.
We call on you to dissolve the DSAC immediately. Work with us to create an authentic, new structure that speaks for and represents all sectors and areas of South African Arts, Culture and Heritage.
A society without culture is a society without soul. Artists cannot continue to exist in a space that doesn’t embrace their existence. A culture that takes food out of our mouths and tears down the roof over our heads.
Mr President, help us to help you. Meet us half way. Come down from the top as we rise up from the roots. Let us respect and honour the heritage and legacies of Miriam Makeba, Gerard Sekoto, Hugh Masekela, Ernest Cole, Todd Matshikiza and the many other Sons and Daughters of South Africa.
Mr President. Hear our call. Answer our key question. Engage us. Listen to us.
Our lives and livelihoods are at stake. The nation’s soul is in the balance. Call us!
Artists have always been in the frontlines of battle. Raising the battle cry. We are the nation’s torchbearers and carriers of the national banner, and the creative solution. We will give you everything we have to help you provide tangible structural intervention. We trust we will hear from you soon?
We call on you to start by answering our key question and replacing the Minister with a person of integrity – and an Art administrator who understands us and what we can contribute to the country if we all work together. We are asking you to accelerate the process of bringing about change and transparency to communication and action. If not, then you will be failing us even as we say “yes, call us!”
Sibongile Mngoma and #Im4TheArts
Open Letter: Sibongile Mngomafacebook profile wall post
20 JANUARY at 20:57
Dear Min Nathi Mthethwa
Artists are not prioritized in your department. As a result we are falling victim to those who have an advantage over us. We are constantly looking for financial backers and sponsors and yet your department has a budget that is supposed to cater for the arts. Some of these “funders”/ “mentors”/ “patrons”, look for funding on our “behalf” and then run away with the funds when the funds come through.
This has left us vulnerable and exposed. We are left with debt we cannot repay because the funding(from your department ) that is supposed to reach us doesn’t reach us. It is not even directed at us.
We have had to go to these lengths because the doors of your department are not open to giving funding to us. Your office will accept a meeting but there’s no follow through.
Some of our ideas are stolen from the proposals we submit to your office.
We apply for funding from your department but your department doesn’t even acknowledge receipt of these applications. Then we are asked why we don’t partner with your department???
Your department’s MO is killing the arts. You have opened the door for exploitation and bullying by being complacent and complicit in the abuse of the artist.
Artists are dying of depression because we cannot take care of ourselves and our families. We need transparency and speed in the processes of your department.
Some of us have lost our homes. I was homeless for most of 2019 because of inaccessibility of funds to do projects that can take my industry in a different and good direction. Because I’m not willing to play the game of kickbacks, I am an artistic outcast. So are some of my colleagues.
I know that writing this open letter is opening myself up to more victimization.
You know what? I have nothing else to lose. I’ve lost too much. I talk, I suffer. I keep quiet, I suffer. So I’ve decided the truth shall set me free.
I don’t want to die on the street like some of my colleagues but I’m prepared to die for the truth. How long shall we suffer because there is no accountability in our industry? Where is the legislation that governs our industry. If there are no laws, there is no sin. That is why your department is in no hurry to make sure there are clear guidelines in the form of legislation to govern this industry.
Why are we still victimized for speaking out against injustices? What does democracy and freedom of speech mean in your department.
Where there’s no crime, there’s no recourse. That is why there is no justice for all the victims in this industry.
Please Nyambose do something about the plight of the artist in this country. Otherwise, if you are not prepared to do something, may the deaths of our depressed artists be on your head.
Be the minister who will go down in history as having made the necessary changes that put the arts back on track and restored the pride and dignity of SA arts and culture on the world stages on our own terms.
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CALLING THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY IN SOUTH AFRICA
On Martin Luther King Day 2020, South African opera and indigenous jazz doyenne Sibongile Mngoma stood up and said “no more!” She created a group and invited friends to come together and organize new possibilities – starting with information sharing towards class actions to bring corrupt arts administrators to account. She struck a nerve! South Africa’s artists have had enough.
So here we are! We want South African Arts to thrive. Driven to the brink of starvation, our nation’s soul robbed of our offerings, we mean business. If we have to take the Minister of Arts and Culture to court, or anyone else, then SO BE IT. It is up to us, the arts-oriented citizenry to bring corrupt administrators to account and ensure access to funding for all – and we mean artists. And if we can come together to take that on, we can do anything! Let’s build! We invite ideas, we celebrate diversity, inspiration and passion. We ARE the creative solution.
Meanwhile we call on all South African artists and arts allies, especially Legal Eagles who feel our pain, to join and contribute to our first mission, in support of our founder Sibongile Mngoma:
(1) To share our stories, experiences and remembrances of our thwarted attempts at proposing for & obtaining funding,
(2) To require organizations and departments to pay attention to what we can offer our nation, back it with moral integrity, operational support and the funding allocated for our work,
(3) collate shared information so we can connect the dots, and build strong cases for successful civil class action law suits where necessary,
(4) and ensure funding access happens the right way going forward.
Tribe, we need the info! We are setting up a private and confidential group where you can share specific details of your experiences with names, dates, e-mail trails, documents etc, and be assured that your info will remain confidential. We must be able to connect the year, to the administrator/s and departments, to what was funded, where the money went, and how it was spent.
THIS COMES WITH AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT FROM THE ADMINS:
The people we want to bring to book will not play nice. To keep ourselves safe against accusations of slander/libel etc, we ask you to join the confidential facebook group, giving us your details, and where you can confidentially share your stories that can be built into sworn affidavits with supporting documents to stand up in court. This page will be a separate but linked page to this one, and will have a closed membership. We need to do this right. And further, let’s play here and be creative! Let’s reconstruct and make Madiba proud. Share your work if you feel like showing and telling.
Let’s inspire each other.