By Ogova Ondego
Published February 5, 2016
South Africa’s Mother City, Cape Town, shall not host its annual Infecting the City Festival in 2016.
Africa Centre (AC), the not-for-profit organisation that has presented the event since 2008, says the cancellation is due to ‘funding constraints’.
Saying “Raising money for the Festival is always a 12-month occupation”, AC says it hasn’t secured enough resources “to hold the Festival in its traditional format” despite having “done an exhaustive search for funders” in 2015.
This scenario, the organisers say in a Press statement, has unfolded despite the fact that “Every year since its inception in 2008, audience attendance, artist participation and media attention has increased, as the Festival emerged into one of Cape Town’s signature artistic events.”
Audience numbers may have “peaked in 2015 with over 38,000 people, but unfortunately this popularity has not translated into fundraising success,” AC says.
However, not all is lost for Infecting the City festival. At least not yet.
AC says it plans “to launch the Infecting the City series”, thanks to the support from the City of Cape Town.
The planned series “will include a range of large and small monthly public art interventions that take place in the City’s shared spaces. The series will start in March and the full schedule will be released in the next three weeks,” AC says.
The plight of Infecting the City festival mirrors that of many donor-funded creative and cultural events across Africa. From South Africa in the south to Somalia in the east; and from Senegal in the west to Morocco and Tunisia to the north; and all the other places in between, creative and cultural initiatives that depend on ‘donors’ are in trouble over ‘lack of funds’.
Like South Africa’s Infecting the City, Kenya-based Lola Kenya Screen (LKS) movie festival, skills-development programme and marketing platform for children and youth in eastern Africa has since 2011 had to scale down its programmes; if only to stay afloat.
The not-for-profit organisation began its austerity measures by focusing on its core programmes—weekly school outreach, fortnightly mobile cinema, monthly film forum, quarterly internship, annual festival—while freezing staff allowances (not salaries), reducing the number of staff and then stopping staff allowances altogether. While some staff members left, this enabled LKS to remain alive for a while.
While Cape Film Commission (CFC) of South Africa is closing shop on February 12, 2016 citing ‘lack of operational funding’, Zanzibar’s Sauti za Busara music festival has been cancelled in 2016.
In cancelling the music festival that has run every February over the past 13 years, Yusuf Mahmoud, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Busara Promotions (BP) that presents the event, noted the cancellation was due to “shortage of funding.”
In a media statement issued on August 20, 2015, Mahmoud had noted that BP had “no funds to start working on the next edition [of the music festival].”
The Cape Town-based CFC says it is closing its doors after 15 years “due to the lack of funding and support the organisation has received from local and provincial government in recent years. This lack of operational funding has made it impossible for the business to continue.”
CFC, in a lengthy media release, says it is a ‘not for profit company’; it is ‘the only official film commission in South Africa and one of only three in Africa (as recognised by the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI)’; Denis Lillie, its CEO, is the ‘only officially qualified film commissioner in Africa (as recognised by the AFCI)’; yet CFC is closing down due to “lack of operational funding”.
Coming hot on the heels of CFC’s winding up, the cancellation of the Infesting the City festival drove me into mourning. I work full time in the creative and cultural sector of Africa. I am disturbed when artistic initiatives close shop or suspend programmes citing things like ‘lack of funding’, ‘funding constraints’, ‘lack of support’, ‘inadequate resources’ and ‘lack of operational funding’. Many creative initiatives I know aren’t even sure if they will still be open for business tomorrow morning. Why is this happening to well meaning, focused and hard-working entrepreneurs, professionals and social transformers across Africa?
CFC says its ‘core mandate’ was “to promote Cape Town and the Western Cape for local and international filming” and that this role was served “through relationships with the Department of Trade and Industry, the International Emmys, the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), the South African Consulates in various territories, the Department of Home Affairs and the film industry.”
Did CFC do a good job? Has Infecting the City lived up to expectation? Just why is South Africa not bailing CFC out of this untimely death? A similar question could be posed to the governments of Tanzania and Kenya over the plight of Sauti za Busara and Lola Kenya Screen, respectively.