Get Sibongile Mngoma back on stage — and sort out the National Arts Council funding shambles

Sibongile Mngoma should be on stage, under lights, singing. Anyone who has heard the current torchbearer of South Africa’s first family of song would agree: it’s where she’s at her best.

Instead, though, she is locked down with a group of artists in the National Arts Council’s (NAC’s) boardroom in Johannesburg, sleeping on the floor, eating from delivered takeaway containers and channelling the triple whip of her name, reputation and talent into protesting against the treatment of artists at the hand of South Africa’s funding agencies.

A household name, sleeping on the floor for a week. Angry, exhausted, frustrated and saddened. How did it come to this?

The NAC funding debacle is well documented and anyone in the sector will have an opinion about what went wrong, how it could have been avoided, who is to blame. In short, R300-million allocated to the arts by the President’s Economic Stimulus Programme, and given to the NAC to disburse, was predictably oversubscribed and hundreds of signed contracts now can’t be honoured as the council scrambles to spread the money further.

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