The South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) has awarded seven scholarships and bursaries for the 2017 academic year allocating over half a million Rand to supporting young academics conducting research across the creative and cultural industries (CCIs).
The SACO awarded three honours bursaries, and three masters and one doctoral scholarship to students from the Universities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Rhodes and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
The students are collectively elated, with many saying it has eased a major financial burden, allowing them to focus on producing both exploratory and cutting-edge research.
“Scholarships are critical for the arts, culture and heritage sectors and the CCIs, which are chronically under-funded but increasingly fundamental for the growth and development of the knowledge economy,” said Prof Richard Haines, SACO chief executive.
The SACO is a project of the Department of Arts & Culture (DAC), hosted by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in partnership with Rhodes and Fort Hare Universities. This is its third round of scholarship awards.
Boitumelo Rampya is analysing how different notions of ‘culture’ are mobilised in an attempt to solve disputes in the succession of the Rain Queen for her honours at the University of Johannesburg.
“I think the SACO scholarship is really going to help students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to pursue their studies in the cultural sector, as the sector requires high levels of quite expensive education. I am overwhelmed with joy and very grateful to SACO for giving me this opportunity to pursue my studies.
“The funding is going to help me tremendously as it will allow me to study harder knowing all my financial stress is over and focus more on my studies to pave a way for my academic journey toward a masters degree,” Rampya said.
Zama Malusi Zwane, who is looking at cultural and social development through urban design at the University of Johannesburg for her Masters, said she had anxiety about her financial situation, but now that was eased. “This funding will greatly help me through my studies, as I almost de-registered because of financial difficulties. The scholarship has given me hope for a good year,” she said.
“I am researching about urban design from the bottom up instead of the top down. In other words, I want to what happens at human or street level – and how design can be approached by communicating with the end user around how they want to use space, as a starting point for all urban design.”
Jean-Pierre Lesch, who is completing a masters at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is looking at prioritising arts and culture activities within the Saldanha Bay Municipality as his research topic.
“The Saldanha Bay Municipality is experiencing an exodus of young people and difficulty in keeping inhabitants interested in pursuing careers and endeavours in arts and culture, due a lack of government prioritisation.
“As a resident of the Saldanha Bay Municipality and a performing artist myself, this research will explore how government can prioritise arts and culture within small municipalities. Pressure from interest groups and organisations, may compel government to invest more resources and funding in arts and culture development. My research will provide information that will inspire small municipalities lobby for more support from government for arts and culture development.
“I am extremely happy and grateful to SACO for the opportunity – for funding my research and believing in my objectives. This funding will help me reach my research population and produce quality research, allowing me access better job opportunities,” Lesch said.
Michelle de la Harpe, from the University of Pretoria, is completing her honours in heritage and cultural tourism. She is looking at whether cell phone applications are making the tourist guide redundant.
“My research will be looking at the disruptive, but innovative development of new technologies in South African museums. These technologies can change the way that tourists perceive culture in our country, and it will be necessary to examine this impact,” said de la Harpe.
“I am very thankful for the SACO’s support. I've noticed that there are not many bursaries awarded in my field of studies – so I am very relieved and excited to be part of this bursary initiative. Bursaries such as this one, can really motivate students in our country to study cultural sciences at higher education institutions, and to take their studies to postgraduate level.”
Other winners include Jane Thandi Mampane from the University of Pretoria who is looking at Black South African-American beauty culture, 1950-1960 for her honours project; Lihle Mancoba from the University of Pretoria who is analysing the role of cultural diplomacy as an instrument of foreign policy; and PhD student Nonkululeko Mabaso from Rhodes University, who is researching the development of context specific cultural policy at the municipal level looking at the case of Newcastle.