Last week I was fortunate to have attended the ACT/UJ Conference looking at ways of stimulating the art trade. The content this year was certainly richer and perhaps more relevant than that of last year but one mustn't be too critical after all this is only the second conference in the series. In terms of sort of coming away with useful and actionable information, the first and second days were much more productive for me personally. In particular, the presentation by Ravi Naidoo on Design Indaba. I thought that was a great model for starting a project with long-term targets and most importantly being able to quantify both in monetary and creative terms the benefits derived from staging this annual design fair that has become a benchmark for design products not only on the African continent but internationally as well. It has also put South African designers/designs and crafts on a world class platform.
In terms of personal gains, it was great to reconnect with people in the creative sector that I have worked with but also to make new contacts. Particularly within this period that I am looking for new employment opportunities. But I also strongly feel that South Africa needs to forge more sustained connections with the rest of the continent and not continue to instinctively align themselves with the West. In my opinion there is a huge market that is as yet for the most part untapped for cultural goods and services that needs to be developed across regions on the continent. I believe that as cultural entrepreneurs of creative goods and services, we need to tap into this market. We need to begin to build more sustained networks and collaborations between regions. It is really a shame that as a continent we keep looking to the West as our main source of trade for cultural goods and services when we can build on and develop a massive commercial enterprise within the continent.
Yes I am aware of all the challenges including the very high cost of transportation of goods and people around the continent. But I think the onus lies on our governments to create easy and cheap access and to support cultural entrepreneurship and the creative industries to enable free trade across borders and regions. What is the AU's mandate and how is it tackling these issues? Is it actually tackling these issues and if so what is on its agenda and what are the targeted results in the next 5 to 10 years? We have the ingredients to stimulate a robust trade of creative goods and services on the African continent and we should begin to address the challenges in practical ways to enable us achieve our collective and individual goals.
So, yes it is important to have these kinds of platforms where everyone meets to deliberate but at the end we need to have actionable objectives. For me, it was not a bad outing although some of the presentations were not particularly useful in my view but generally they were helpful in terms of refreshing information on where we are as a sector and also re-activating my own ideas and objectives. And it's good to be seen at these things even though as a networking tool it generally works for people who already have projects that they are working on together so this gives them a great opportunity to meet and work. Having said that I believe you create opportunities for yourself you don't wait for things to happen you make them happen.