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South African Local Government Association (SALGA) – Tshwane University of Technology: Virtual Seminar | Arts, Culture and Heritage for Sustainable Local Development | Day Three Closing

 

 

 

 


Posted: 02 October 2020

How the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the socio-economic and spatial inequities of life in contemporary South Africa, was one of the topics that were unpacked during the closing day for the three-day long South African Local Government Association (SALGA) – Tshwane University of Technology, seminar on Arts, Culture and Heritage for Sustainable Local Development.

The seminar, which concluded on Wednesday, 30 September 2020, was hosted on a virtual platform in response to COVID-19.

It brought together cultural heritage professionals and experts from the three spheres of government and their entities, and leaders from research institutions and NGOs, who shared their insights on how cultural heritage and the arts can be key catalysts for sustainable local development.

Gugu Nyoni, a post-graduate Developmental Economics researcher and academic, spoke on how COVID-19 lockdown measures unraveled the impact of spatial inequality in South Africa- circumstances that did not originate with the pandemic but which it magnified.

Nyoni, in his presentation, revealed how the pandemic disproportionately affected groups that were already in a situation of acute vulnerability. 

He said vulnerable groups living in urban areas with poor infrastructure and housing, found it nearly impossible to adhere to coronavirus physical distancing and hygiene guidelines.
“South Africans had to trade off health for food, they had to choose between infection and hunger. COVID-19 exposed the spatial injustices this country has. During the lockdown, the essential services you needed to access were dependent on where you stay and where you stay can be an outcome of spatial injustice,” Nyoni said.

Nyoni, arguing that urban green spaces remained unequally distributed across income and race geographies in South Africa, pointed to research that unpacked the concept of green apartheid.

“Using publically available satellite images in combination with the 2011 census data, we found that virtually all (96%) of South African cities remain under a form of green apartheid. White cities tend to live in areas with many trees, greener vegetation, and easier access to public parks than areas with predominantly black African, Indian and coloured residents. The same is true for high income relative to low income areas,” he said.

Mxolisi Mchunu, SALGA Programme Manager for Economic Development, gave a presentation on the links between arts, culture and local economic development.

He said the cultural and arts industries contributed more to the economy than just growth and jobs.
“Though the arts and culture economy makes up a sizeable share of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it’s true value has been largely based on assumptions resulting in a higher error margin,” said Mchunu

Presenting on innovation, cultural planning and the digital Revolution, Margaret Molefe, a Public Management Governance Local Economic Development scholar, said: “South African public spaces (urban, informal settlements and rural areas) face many challenges due to rapid population growth, spatial fragmentation, urbanization, neglected rural areas, poverty, badly maintained roads, poor public transport, unemployment and many other social challenges, and recently the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

Molefe said that it was possible for cities and rural communities to be revitalized through arts and culture.
“When the city or town ceases to be a symbol of art and order, culture again provides many exciting possibilities. Culture is in fact viewed as a driver and on an enabler for sustained development,” she said.

Day two of the seminar, on Tuesday, 29 September 2020 saw Zayd Minty, Director of Creative City South and research associate for Wits University’s Cultural Policy and Management Department, give a presentation on cultural policy and creative cities.
He spoke on the role of culture in the economy and culture’s role in providing key attractions, amenities and atmospheres in cities.

“In mobilizing resources, both tangible and intangible, there is much valuable material in cultural mapping thinking a local level building on the valuable cultural planning work,” said Minty

Ishmael Mbhokodo, a Director of Libraries, Arts and Culture; and Heritage Resources Management in the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, gave a presentation titled, Arts Culture and Library Services post Covid-19.

He spoke on how the lockdown inspired the sector to find innovative ways to maintain society’s well being through the arts and heritage amid the lockdown, which saw many services including library services temporarily shut down operations.

“Cities and local governments, with their workers, actors and institutions, are making tremendous efforts to maintain activities to ease people’s feeling of isolation: creating new possibilities to access heritage and knowledge and to participate in online cultural events, providing new training and capacity-building programs to support the cultural circles (example: fund-raising),” said Mbhokodo.

“Supporting the presence of cultural institutions in internet and social media, exploring new ways to organize the cultural work and advocating to protect the cultural life, the sectors and the actors with special funds.”

Seana Nkhahle, Portfolio Head in Built Environment portfolio and Acting Provincial Director of Operations at the SALGA Gauteng office, shared his perspectives on the concept of Small Town Regeneration.
He spoke about Halle, the largest city in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt, and how the city’s architecture became the centre of commerce and culture.

He added that valuable lessons could be learned from Germany on how it transformed Halle into a catalyst for economic, social and cultural regeneration.



 
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