Thursday, 26 March 2015

ARTS & POLITICS: How the Arts Community was violated this week at the CCIFSA conference in Bloemfontein.

How the Arts Community was Violated this week at the CCIFSA Conference in Bloemfontein.

by Francis Doherty-Bigara Honours Finance, Masters Quality Management, currently completing Doctorate in Arts Policy & Administration.

Monday 22nd March at UFS 1000 delegates convened

By 23rd March a large number were no longer 'needed' and were left to wander aimlessly outside.
As you can see in the photo above from this morning 23rd March there are a lot less people in the audience compared to yesterday, most having been made redundant. After rushing votes for their represents of the General Council there is no more use for approximately 800 people who will basically just hang around for the rest of the day left to their own devices. The General Council will then elect the Board of CCIFSA (Culture & Creative Industries Federation of South Africa) that will represent the different provinces and the different arts and culture sectors within these provinces. (Please note: that as far as I can tell there was no representation from any Creative Organisations outside of the Arts, no Architects, no Graphic Designers, no Print Media, no Advertising Agencies... etc)

The fact that all we are doing here is establishing a Non Profit Company, the process has been absolutely absurd and one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. The Interim Committee had 2 jobs - only 2 jobs - a whole year to do it and R5 million to do it with.

The one job was to produce a draft Memorandum of Incorporation. This was the most shoddy work I have ever seen. Conceptually and strategically it is poor and completely uninspiring. I have seen better vision and intention coming from community organisations and I have reviewed 100s of MOI's. A good document can be produced in 3 weekends, the Arts and Culture Council KZN did it in this time, it was more inspiring, better presented, more complete. Why did CCIFSA's MOI take so long - and why so shoddy? Spelling mistakes, concept mistakes, gaping holes in process and concepts, duplicate objectives (which they strangely call 'Objects'), inconsistent formatting, and the list goes on. Did they not have experts to assist them? Lawyers, a strategist? There are 1000's of NPOs in South Africa, an MOI document is a standard document which simply needs to be tweaked. In 1 year with R5 million at their disposal they couldn't get this right? I have 3 letters - WTF! They deserved the verbal beating they received by the audience yesterday. Personally they should also have been whipped and sent to confinement for their shoddy work, like in the in the old days when corporal punishment was still part of the school system. On the other hand, my hat off to the Minister who skillfully dealt with the meeting, even though it was the job of the Interim Committee Facilitators to do so.

Job number two was to get 'people' that represent their province to this conference so as to hand over the company to the public for further design and execution. People - it seems to be a bunch of random (ad hoc) arts practitioners (myself included) who generally had no idea why they were there, why they were selected, or generally what was going on. At least 6 hours of CCIFSA
Yesterday's 13 hour meeting was full of arguing, venting, unnecessary 'rallying' - all for us to end (in the 12th hour) at the same point we were in at 10am that day! And we were still following the original plan which so many were bickering about! Why the Interim Committee felt the need to transport and accommodate over 1000 random people to Bloemfontein to ratify the formation of the CCIFSA as a company to me smacks of naivety, insecurity or just plain stupidity. I understand the need for public involvement but their plans and processes have been absurd, extremely poorly executed and blatantly rude and disrespectful. For example, all delegates are volunteers who have taken time off work and come as guests. The delegates were all bussed up in ordinary municipal busses to Bloemfontein, one of which had no ablutions available on the bus. This was an uncomfortable 9 hour journey from Durban, they arrived in Bloemfontein around 10pm, and the delegates had to then be transported to their accommodation, of which many still didn't have accommodation booked for them – Themi Venturas was without accommodation on the first night after driving all the way from Durban!

Today the buss will leave at best at 4pm, which means it will arrive in Durban at best at 1am and the passengers still have to get home somehow. How I wonder? I find these arrangements exceptionally rude and inconsiderate, blatantly disrespectful! How can you treat your guests like this? Volunteer guests! I can't believe the blatant disrespect of the CCIFSA. Especially as their sole focus is to "protect the Arts Community" I am livid at their blatant disrespect and inconsideration. This is NOT how we as South Africans do things. As South Africans we respect one another, show friendship, camaraderie and love to one another, look after and are considerate of one another (at least that has been my personal experience of practitioners in the Arts community in Durban) As for CCIFSA and its Interim Committee, I am appalled, disgusted and ashamed by your association already. I hope your new leaders will do it completely differently to you. My first year business students and my arts interns could've done a better job with less resources and less time.

This conference has surely been the most excruciating experience of my life in the arts this far. Lord help us from here on!
Today we were all expecting the conference to end at 3:30pm, which is when the buses were supposed to leave. So everybody had their luggage with them, brought through with them to the meeting hall. At around 2pm the meeting adjourned, for the newly elected General Committee (100 people/representatives from each province) and National Committee to vote on a Board of Directors for CCIFSA. The new Board would then take control of the newly formed company, and the federation would thus be born, and ready for further design.

The 100 reps left the meeting hall, to vote somewhere else, under tighter security and close observation by the IEC. What should have taken an hour, took a lot longer. In the meantime, none of the other 900 or so delegates were informed as to the process thereafter. So we just waited. And waited. And waited... 5pm came and went, 6pm... 7pm... 8pm... At 10pm with no explanation we waited, still inside the hall. No food or refreshment was made available to us in this time period. Eventually the performers in the audience took to the stage and started performing on stage - in solidarity, it helped somewhat. Unfortunately, by storming the stage and helping themselves to mics and equipment without permission, they also were displaying disrespect for the organizers of the event. By 10pm we were all notified by the University (UFS Security) that we had to evacuate the hall as it was time to lock up. Rental was only until 10pm.

We had to take all of our luggage and equipment, and evacuate the hall. We were left to stand outdoors in the cold and rain. Temperatures in Bloem at night this week were very low, and most were not dressed for this, unprepared. No blankets, no ablutions, no food or refreshment, no power source and no communication! Nowhere to sit: except inside the busses. At the same time, we were then informed that the voting process for the Board would take another FIVE HOURS. That would bring us to 3am in the morning! I can say that 'stressed and frustrated' doesn't cover it! We were literally stranded outside until that time. We were stuck there until 3:30am in the morning, outdoors, hungry, wet and exhausted, after working from 9am that morning. By this point in the process, we were on our second consecutive day of working well in excess of 12 hours per day, with minimal sleep. Including the Sunday's travel and accommodation fiasco it was actually our THIRD disrupted day. This must be in violation of the industrial relations act.

This was a human rights violation. People that I spoke too have used the words 'traumatised' a across the board. A 16 hour day. For free. We were their invited guests. By 11pm a small group of delegates began toyi-toying, there was an undercurrent of violent response in the crowd, but thankfully nothing untoward happened. Perhaps violence would have been appropriate...since no one was listening to us.

If this is the start of their treatment style? Then we need to start up an opposition company. This is completely intolerable, unacceptable - abusive. They showed no empathy or respect towards the sick and elderly arts community members who attended at their invitation. 

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