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Monday, March 23, 2020


Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, which forms part of the Swiss Arts Council and is based in Johannesburg reports on how they are dealing with COVID-19 and its impact on their work in supporting the arts.

Dear friends in the arts community

During the course of the last month, the global dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic have become manifest in alarming and sudden ways, not all of which can be fully grasped at the present moment.  While Switzerland moves into a critical phase of the human impact of the pandemic, the coming couple of weeks will be fundamental for mitigating the impact in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa more generally. Some of the effects in our field are being immediately and painfully felt on the livelihoods of a wide spectrum of arts professionals in both contexts, with the cancellation of festivals and events and the closure of venues. Other more systemic effects for the cultural field in both Southern Africa and Switzerland will only become evident in the weeks and months to come.

Pro Helvetia is committed to supporting our global network of artists, partners and organisations in finding new and relevant means of connecting, collaborating, creating, presenting and responding in these unprecedented circumstances. In the coming weeks our office will be working closely with artists and partners towards the reconfiguration and/or postponement of planned projects, tours and residencies. Cancellation will be a last resort. We are also open to ideas and proposals from the field for sustaining exchange and collaboration between our region and Switzerland during this period of extreme constraint on mobility and physical proximity.

"The very term 'support' has gained a new dimension for the Swiss Arts Council over the past few weeks. We are listening, we are looking very carefully, and we are taking our responsibility seriously", our Director Philippe Bischof said in a statement last week.

Our Zurich office has set up an informational hub aimed particularly at the Swiss cultural scene, also providing information about measures that the Swiss government is taking to provide emergency relief to individuals and organisations and compensate for losses in the Swiss context.

On a practical level, our Johannesburg team will be operating remotely until such time as the situation stabilises. Our phone line has been redirected, so you can still get in touch with us via phone at 011 403 1880 and/or email (see below).

For programme/currently funded project queries contact Joseph Gaylard ( and Germaine Gamiet (

For more information visit