During the months of May and June, the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) team have been working remotely to ensure a continuation of services for their stakeholders all over South Africa. The lockdown has been a challenging time for all but especially for the creative sector which saw all live events being cancelled and forcing the move to digital platforms. From their homes the operations team have stayed in touch with its ACT family and created new ways of working together digitally. To stay motivated and inspired the team, all artists in their own right, participated in a short profile activity to share what they have been working on during lockdown and how they have stayed sane during the pandemic.

 

Marcus Tebogo Desando | Opera Singer, ACT CEO

In addition: Administrator (Arts & NGO) |Director | Producer | PhD Candidate

Originally from Pretoria, Marcus (a Naledi awards nominee for best Actor in a Musical) started his Career with PACT in 1989 as a singer and moved to Cape Town Opera (CAPAB) in 1994 where his career as a director and principal singer started. As a singer Marcus sang in over 75 Operas, Musical Theatre productions and Concerts in South Africa and abroad. He travelled the world singing and directing with New York Harlem Productions, Really Useful Company, Pieter Toerien Productions and Cape Town Opera.

Marcus has had the honour of being invited by University of Stellenbosch, Tshwane University of Technology, and UCT: college of music and UKZN OCSA (opera school) as a guest lecturer. He has over 40 productions, ranging from opera to concerts, under his belt and his production of Rigoletto was recorded and televised by SABC 2. As a proponent for change within the performing arts Marcus has become a driving force in development and training of young South African artists and aspiring arts administrators. His passion for the arts has shown in his leadership of Gauteng Opera and now as CEO of The Arts & Culture Trust.

What are you currently working on to stay sane and inspired during lockdown?

It truly has been a very interesting time to be living. The COVID – 19 certainly made us all rethink how we function and operate, on a personal and professional level. The Trust started working remotely a week or so before the lockdown so I should now be a pro. There were quite a number of lessons working from home and one that was very eye opening was how to run an organisation remotely especially for me as I have always believed that I thrive best with human contact. So, besides ACT related stuff, I am currently preparing my ethical clearance application as part of my PhD studies.

For the Trust, this is our audit and reporting season, so I am preparing all relevant documents for our financial audit to be initiated with the accountant and auditors. I am also in the process of compiling all documents for our Annual report that needs to be ready for final approval in August and we just completed a proposal presentation to one of our funders for a very exciting project which we hope to roll out in a few months’ time.

My PhD research is seeking to investigate the ways through which the creative arts industries could be integrated into the socio-economic landscape, to reach a more independent and self-sufficient state as a sector, that can compete meaningfully in the business landscape of South Africa.

This pandemic and the reaction to it by our industry will make it even more interesting as we will now be looking at how we can also use digital spaces for our own ways of revenue generation and business plans. So, I am curious to see how arts practitioners are to respond and turn this time to find our place within the global business space.

Oh, I also learnt how to bake and made my first bread and hopefully will develop this into a serious hobby.

What do you miss most under lockdown?

I come from a very big extended family so I am used to being around them. I miss visiting with friends that always reminds one of the important things in life and letting your hair down. I miss gym, especially my spinning classes and the people I interact with there. And I miss travelling, especially just getting into the car and driving to a picnic spot or just relaxing in a park.

What do you appreciate most about how your life has changes since lockdown?

I really think that the lockdown and seeing how the global reaction has been to the COVID – 19 has made me appreciate the notion of human contact and how to not take it for granted. No number of gadgets and accumulation of things will and do matter at the end. People are the most important accumulation you need.

I also hope that we will all come out of this pandemic with a better sense of our responsibilities towards the betterment of our fellow human and that we become a better people for a greater good.

 

Profile Photo by: Thando Mpushe

 

 

 

Katlego Modiri | Fine Artist, ACT Administrator

Katlego is a figurative conceptual Fine Artist, who has been practicing for ten years without any plans of stopping. Katlego graduated in Fine Art in the practice of Printmaking and Glass at the Tshwane University of Technology. He is currently holding the position of Administrator for the Arts and Culture Trust which he has been in for 2 years. Additionally, Katlego works on the Trust’s Building Blocks Programme as co-project manager.  If not at the office, he goes back to his practice as a Fine Artist creating works that introduce thought-provoking and personally moving artworks about self-introspection.

 

What is he currently working on during lockdown?

I am currently one of the selected artists for the 2020 RMB Talent Unlocked Alumni Programme, for the second time, leading up to the Turbine Art Fair 2020 (TAF20).

Exhibition Statement: Katlego studies the emotional journey of youth through line. Expressing the pressures felt by our youngsters today; all their frustrations, fears, hopes, dreams and joy. By stripping the subjects of any recognisable identity, he also strips us the viewer of the constraints of preconceived ideas and subjectivity, allowing us to see and experience only the emotion contained within the line. The immediate transfer of Katlego’s emotions onto paper.

What do you miss most under lockdown?

Like most people I miss the social interactions.  Being part of the active art spaces, whether is going to an exhibition or artist studio spaces or hubs.

What do you appreciate most about how your life has changes since lockdown?

The lockdown has put me into a different gear, that it’s made me look at alternative ways to engage with the public. Whether it’s my job or my art as a business. It’s made me look at different avenues, which I’m enthusiastic about exploring.

 

Profile Photo by: Ramón Mellett

Work in Progress: Untitled

Materials: Mixed Media

 

 

 

Jessica Glendinning | Writer, ACT Project Manager

Jessica Glendinning grew up in Gaborone, Botswana as part of a large artistic family. She has a honours degrees in Drama and Creative Writing and has recently submitted her MA in Cultural Policy and Management. She worked as a freelance stage manager before joining the Arts & Culture Trust in 2015, where she is currently the Programme Manager for the Scholarships and Development Programmes.

 

What are you currently working on during lockdown?

Having just submitted my Masters in Cultural Policy and Management I am looking forward to getting back to my creative writing. The ideas and doodles have been piling up for the last few years with no time for any serious application, so having taken a few months off I’m looking forward to getting back to a writing routine. I have a children’s book on its sixth draft and a number of other projects which I’m excited to get reacquainted with.

I’m spending most of my free time reading and in my garden. There is a lot to do at this time of year. Gardening is a great way to stay sane and feel productive when the world outside feels so beyond our control. My ballet class, which we’ve had to move online, has also helped to keep me focussed on health and fitness, which is so important.

What do you miss most under lockdown?

I really miss sharing meals with my friends, and my family who have had to cancel trips to South Africa.

What do you appreciate most about how your life has changes since lockdown?

Not having to sit in traffic every day is fantastic. I’m sure it is having an impact on our beautiful urban forest too. I’ve really loved seeing how nature has bounced back with the lower levels of pollution around the world.

 

Book in progress: Angelfish

Profile Photo by: Themba Vilakazi

 

 

 

Jessica Denyschen | Writer, ACT Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator

Jessica Denyschen (33), born in Pongola KZN and raised in Jozi, is a queer writer and creative and cultural arts entrepreneur. Since the age of four she has always had an intimate relationship with the arts and has been performing, creating and writing since she could stand. She completed her BADA and MADA at WITS University, where she currently holds the position of Associate Researcher through her dance research company, The Ar(t)chive NPC, the continent’s only South African Contemporary Dance Archive. In 2018 she published her debut poetry collection; The magic, the madness and the loss through Poetree Publications. She lives with her soon to be wife and three huskies in Westdene.

 

What are you currently working on to stay sane and inspired during lockdown?

I recently started my new post as Communications and Marketing Co-ordinator at the Arts & Culture Trust at the beginning of May (Yes, right in the middle of lockdown level 5) after 12 years of freelancing as an arts entrepreneur, filmmaker and producer. Apart from my daily duties for the Trust, I manage research and technical activities, with colleague and friend Tammy Ballantyne, at The Ar(t)chive NPC where I am the company Director.

Other current projects:

QueerShorts:

I am managing and producing, with fellow writers and editors, a queer short story writing project I dreamt up in January titled QueerShorts. The aim was to inspire more writers (emerging and professional) to generate more local queer literature. The first iteration of this project is now in the final editing phase and the website and first four stories will launch in June just in time for Pride month on www.queershorts.co.za

 

UJ Pandemic Project:

I own a video production company (www.phoenixandowl.co.za) and I am working on the University of Johannesburg’s Pandemic Project (https://arts.uj.ac.za/news/#news) as the video editor for the dance segment (Link). This project was created to support artists during this crazy time where there is little to no funding relief or work available due to the lockdown.

 

FATC ANGEL Project:

Though The Ar(t)chive NPC (www.theartchive.co.za) and Phoenix and Owl Pty LTD I am collaborating with The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative on the FACT ANGEL Project by producing a video to inspire people around SA to donate to a dedicated fund in support families in deep distress in rural Mpumalanga during the Covid pandemic. You can support the campaign through BackaBuddy (https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/fatcs-angel-project), or by scanning their BUSQR code in the images attached to this post.

 

What do you miss most under lockdown?

I miss my family and friends, I haven’t been able to visit my mom for two months, she lives in North West and hopping provinces isn’t allowed yet. I am missing hikes and travelling and sampling the local beer wherever I go.

What do you appreciate most about how your life has changes since lockdown?

Lockdown and the rise of Covid19 globally has really pulled things into perspective, I feel really grateful for the incredible support system in my life and I am lucky enough to form part of a group of amazing friends doing incredible things for people in need. I am also in awe of nature, as I always have been, to take control, to say stop, listen. We need to take personal and collective responsibility for our future by respecting nature and each other.

 

On a serious note:

GBV is real in this country and it breaks my heart, turning on the news in triggering. I stand with women and children and all people on the margins who are grossly affected by the actions of violent men and violent people. Your time is up abusers. Responsibility is coming.

BLACK LIVES MATTER. Now more than ever we see the inequality and disparity deeply rooted in our society, here at home and all over the world. We cannot look away from the injustice. We have to demand better from our government, and we HAVE to hold them accountable. We also have to demand better of ourselves and each other. My prayers go out to Sibusiso Amos, Collins Khoza, Petrus Miggels and Adane Emmanuel and all the people whose lives are destroyed daily by injustice. POC, I see you.