By Ogova Ondego
Published February 5, 2016
South Africaâ€™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 â€˜funding constraintsâ€™.
Saying â€œRaising money for the Festival is always a 12-month occupationâ€, AC says it hasnâ€™t secured enough resources â€œto hold the Festival in its traditional formatâ€ despite having â€œdone an exhaustive search for fundersâ€ in 2015.
This scenario, the organisers say in a Press statement, has unfolded despite the fact that â€œEvery year since its inception in 2008, audience attendance, artist participation and media attention has increased, as the Festival emerged into one of Cape Townâ€™s signature artistic events.â€
Audience numbers may have â€œpeaked in 2015 with over 38,000 people, but unfortunately this popularity has not translated into fundraising success,â€ AC says.
However, not all is lost for Infecting the City festival. At least not yet.
AC says it plans â€œto launch the Infecting the City seriesâ€, thanks to the support from the City of Cape Town.
The planned series â€œwill include a range of large and small monthly public art interventions that take place in the Cityâ€™s shared spaces. The series will start in March and the full schedule will be released in the next three weeks,â€ 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 â€˜donorsâ€™ are in trouble over â€˜lack of fundsâ€™.
Like South Africaâ€™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 programmesâ€”weekly school outreach, fortnightly mobile cinema, monthly film forum, quarterly internship, annual festivalâ€”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 â€˜lack of operational fundingâ€™, Zanzibarâ€™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 â€œshortage of funding.â€
In a media statement issued on August 20, 2015, Mahmoud had noted that BP had â€œno funds to start working on the next edition [of the music festival].â€
The Cape Town-based CFC says it is closing its doors after 15 years â€œdue 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.â€
CFC, in a lengthy media release, says it is a â€˜not for profit companyâ€™; it is â€˜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)â€™; Denis Lillie, its CEO, is the â€˜only officially qualified film commissioner in Africa (as recognised by the AFCI)â€™; yet CFC is closing down due to â€œlack of operational fundingâ€.
Coming hot on the heels of CFCâ€™s winding up, the cancellation of the Infesting the City festival drove me into mourning. I work full time in the â€ªâ€Žcreative and cultural sectorâ€¬ of Africa. I am disturbed when artistic initiatives close shop or suspend programmes citing things like ‘â€ªâ€Žlack of fundingâ€¬’, ‘â€ªâ€Žfunding constraintsâ€¬’, ‘â€ªâ€Žlack of supportâ€¬’, â€˜inadequate resourcesâ€™ and ‘â€ªâ€Žlack of operational fundingâ€¬’. Many creative initiatives I know arenâ€™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, professionalsâ€¬ and social transformers across Africaâ€¬?
CFC says its â€˜core mandateâ€™ was â€œto promote Cape Town and the Western Cape for local and international filmingâ€ and that this role was served â€œthrough 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.â€
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.