Archive: Issue No. 67, March 2003

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VANSA in the Western Cape

The Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA) is to be launched this month in the Western Cape. All visual artists, arts organisations and businesses will be eligible to join this organisation which sets itself up to make the voices of visual art practitioners heard and to promote their practice at every level. Nationally, it is modelled, to some extent, on the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA) which has been a very effective body in lobbying government, as a discussion forum, and, has run a number of programmes including, for example, workshops for radio drama scriptwriters.

VANSA set out some potential strategies in a recent press release: to bring to the attention of the city and the state the enormous importance to the national economy of cultural tourism, and the necessity for funding the visual arts; to lobby government for programmes whereby corporate buyers get tax breaks; to lobby for a 1% For Art� plan for all new buildings at planning stage. The latter two are standard practice in many countries in the world, notably in the US where the 1% For Art� has been tremendously successful (this policy stipulates that 1% of the total budget for all new public buildings must be allocated for art). Closer to home and more particular to the South African situation, VANSA could also help provide access to tools, technology and skills for artists to distribute their work, locally and internationally. Constructive critical forums could also be set up to debate matters of interest to artists.

Nationally, VANSA is chaired by Frank Ledimo. Clive van den Berg is Gauteng convenor and Storm van Rensburg (of Durban�s NSA Gallery) occupies that role in KwaZulu-Natal. Other members include Stephen Hobbs and Conrad Theuys. Cultural activist Zayd Minty and director of the AVA Estelle Jacobs are co-convenors of the Western Cape branch. Other members here include gallery director Suzette Bell-Roberts, head of Cape Technikon's Design department Mel Hagan, co-curator of the recent YDESIRE Kim Stern and artist Pro Sobopha

Typically, although this process started out smoothly and got going very promptly, there are a few noses out of joint. The South African National Association of Visual Arts (SANAVA, formerly the South African Association of the Arts) was at first happy with the formation and existence of VANSA (the above-mentioned Conrad Theuys is an active member of SANAVA) but have apparently subsequently banned their members from affiliation with VANSA. Minty insists that the two organisations can easily co-exist and share members. He suggests that SANAVA has historically acted as a network mainly for smaller towns like George and they have enjoyed association with art galleries all over the country.

Both the AVA and NSA are former affiliates and SANAVA still maintains its connection to an apartment at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, which they make available for winners of the ABSA l�Atelier Award. They are, Minty adds, traditionally a 'fairly conservative body� with no history of lobbying government at all'. Minty adds that despite the fact that they are run 'fairly autocratically', they have a definite role to play - 'Together we can be stronger'. It is, he says, 'VANSA's wish to help support the work of members and members� institutions not to duplicate their role'.

VANSA may eventually run a national office and here in the Western Cape may share resources with other networks. The organisation will be funded both by subscription and additional funding, which will be sought. Membership is free for the moment until later in the year when the organisation is launched nationally and members will receive regular newsletters.

Enquiries can be addressed to Zayd Minty at 083 530-1912 or Estelle Jacobs at (021) 424- 7436. Email: