The South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) is a research institute that was established under the auspices of the Department of Arts and Culture. Its mandate is to chart the socio-economic impact of arts, culture and heritage, and the cultural and creative industries in South Africa.

This year, SACO will be hosting its 2nd national conference and the focus will be the creative economy and development. Through its conference, SACO aims not only to facilitate engaging discussions around South Africa’s creative economy but to also create a platform for young creatives to develop their craft and gain career-enriching experience.

Opening Wider Doors for Young Creatives

It is no secret that South Africa is teeming with brilliant young creatives who are hungry for opportunities to develop their talent and share it with the world. The creative industry in South Africa has massive potential growth and young people are at the heart of this developing creative economy. As noted by Prof Richard Haines, SACO chief executive officer, “Young people are the future of South Africa’s creative and cultural industries and it is critical they have the exposure and support that will see them develop lasting and productive careers”.

In collaboration with The Market Theatre Foundation, which is already doing such phenomenal work in developing and grooming young talent, SACO will be creating a ‘precinct experience” in Newtown for students of the Market Theatre Laboratory and the Market Photo Workshop, and other young creatives.

While attending the conference, attendees will be enchanted by a surprise cameo performance by two groups of 25 performance students. It will be an atmosphere of creative energy that will see young creatives participating in the conference in a valuable way. Not only will the students be performing, they will also be assisting in the running of the conference.  “We are delighted the South African Cultural Observatory recognises the importance of our institution and believes in creating opportunities for artists-in-training to be part of a conference that will essentially be engaging about the cultural economies”, said Market Theatre chief executive Ismail Mohamed.

Delegates at the conference will also get to enjoy the musical excellence of the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company. SAMRO superstars and young South African jazz prodigies, Zoe Modiga and Bokani Dyer, will dazzle audiences at the at the conference evening cocktail function at the Market Theatre.

Moving from jazz to theatre, guests will be presented with a choice of seeing either Can Themba’s seminal play, The Suit, directed by James Ngcobo, or Wits School of Art’s performance of Kgafela oa Magogodi’s satirical play Chilahaebolae.

Harnessing the Youth’s Creative Power

The youth have a critical role to play in the development of South Africa’s creative economy – they have the energy, they have the ideas and they have the talent. In recognition of the creative power that young people have, as part of SACO’s conference, there will be a session on youth perspectives on the creative economy. In this special session, Mary Duker from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University will present five case studies on ‘Facilitating young artist participation in the emergent creative economy in Nelson Mandela Bay’.

Additionally, Thobile Chittenden, from Room 13, will present his paper ‘The fourth industrial revolution: How it impacts our youth and the importance of art’, in which he examines the youth’s role in a tech-dominated world.

To keep the conversation going, Dr Elizabeth Vale from the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection will share her thoughts regarding ‘The Creative Economy After Dark: Youth Power and Creativity in Johannesburg Nightclubs.’ Lastly, Botswana-based Calvin Boasilong from Ideas Expo Botswana will talk about creativity as the new frontier for African economic activity.

With young people at its helm, South Africa’s creative economy is in good hands.

The SACO National Conference will be taking place on May 24 and 25 at the Turbine Hall, Newtown.