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Thursday, February 15, 2024


(Right: Thami aka Mbongo)

(Article courtesy of artslink)

Thami aka Mbongo: Navigating the dog-eat-dog nature of the cultural and creative industries in South Africa.

The Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) in South Africa are emblematic of a competitive landscape marked by entrenched hierarchies, gatekeeping, and favouritism within established institutions. 

Despite being touted as bastions of creativity and innovation, these spaces often perpetuate a system that stifles dissent and marginalizes emerging voices.

In this context, the rise of Alternative Performance Spaces (APS) emerges as a crucial antidote, offering a platform for marginalized practitioners to thrive on their own terms. This article delves into the challenges plaguing the CCI, the significance of APS, and the imperative for reform to foster a more inclusive and equitable industry.


Challenges in Established Institutions:

Within universities, state-funded institutions, and established cultural entities, the prevalence of red tape, nepotism, and cliques presents formidable barriers to entry for aspiring artists. Speaking truth to power is met with isolation, and challenging the status quo often results in marginalization and labelling. Even accomplished practitioners face systemic obstacles designed to undermine their credibility and restrict their access to platforms for showcasing their work. This toxic environment not only stifles creativity but also perpetuates a culture of conformity, where dissent is punished rather than celebrated.


The Role of Alternative Performance Spaces:

In contrast to the stifling confines of established institutions, APS emerge as havens of artistic freedom and inclusivity. These grassroots initiatives provide a platform for rejected and side-lined practitioners to express themselves authentically, free from the constraints of mainstream gatekeepers. By democratizing access to performance spaces and funding opportunities, APS empower artists to create work that resonates with their values and experiences. Moreover, they serve as incubators for emerging talents, nurturing a diverse ecosystem of voices that enriches the cultural landscape.


Addressing Systemic Inequities:

The prevalence of favouritism and exclusionary practices within the CCI underscores the urgent need for systemic reform. A comprehensive review of the Cultural Institutions Act is imperative to dismantle entrenched power structures and promote greater transparency and accountability. By instituting fair and equitable policies for funding allocation and programming, policymakers can ensure that resources are distributed equitably among practitioners, regardless of their affiliation or background. Additionally, efforts to destigmatize dissent and celebrate artistic innovation are essential to fostering a culture of inclusivity and creativity within the industry.



As South Africa grapples with the pervasive challenges facing its cultural and creative industries, the proliferation of Alternative Performance Spaces emerges as a beacon of hope. By providing a platform for marginalized voices and challenging the status quo, APS represent a vital catalyst for change within the industry. However, true transformation can only be achieved through concerted efforts to address the systemic inequities that perpetuate the dog-eat-dog nature of the CCI. By embracing inclusivity, transparency, and accountability, policymakers and practitioners alike can pave the way for a more equitable and vibrant cultural landscape in South Africa.


Thami aka Mbongo:

akaMbongo Foundation Pty Ltd



Disclaimer: encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views published do not necessarily represent the views of Thami aka Mbongo writes in his personal capacity.