Josine Backus
Advisor - Focal Countries | Brazil
j.backus [at] dutchculture.nl

Minke van Schaik, DutchCulture
Minke van Schaik
Advisor - Focal Countries
m.vanschaik [at] dutchculture.nl

Cultural cooperation South Africa-Netherlands 2021-2024

Cultural cooperation South Africa-Netherlands 2021-2024

Looking back: increased outreach and relevance

With Transformation and Identity as the central theme for the cultural cooperation with South Africa, the last few years have provided the opportunity to be bolder in exploring the history between South Africa and the Netherlands, in all aspects. The subject of colonial history was not addressed directly and openly in previous periods, yet there is an increasing need and demand, especially with the born-free generation, to converse and dialogue about the consequences of our shared history, as felt in both South African and Dutch society today. 

Dutch contributions to festivals like KKNK (Klein Karoo National Arts Festival), Open Book Festival (#cocreatePOETICA) and the Free State Arts Festival have been important for the collaboration on performance theatre, spoken word and youth initiatives. They have strengthened Dutch visibility within the South Africa cultural network while touching on the broad spectrum of cultural and social relations shared between the Netherlands and South Africa.

Additionally, projects like Project SEE, initiated by The City Agency in partnership with (among others) Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Research Centre for Material Culture and DutchCulture, have proven to provide a solid platform for researchers, urbanists, designers, institutions, artists and activists to come together and engage, exchange and develop new methodologies to stimulate representational equity in the public life of cities like Cape Town and Amsterdam. 

There has also been a renewed interest in the Audio Visual Treaty between South Africa and the Netherlands. This treaty encourages the Dutch and South African film industries to exchange knowledge and to share markets.  

With regard to heritage, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands has been working with the South African Museums Association (SAMA) to run ‘train the trainer’ workshops on the conservation of museum collections. This was appreciated by the South African government, and many museums and cultural institutions are keen to participate in these workshops.

Programmes that highlight the importance of collaboration include The Pan African Creative Exchange (PACE), linked to the Free State Arts Festival. PACE created an African platform  and increased the accessibility, interconnection and collaboration of artists within the African continent and with the Dutch art sector. Another example is the Afrovibes Festival, which serves as a cultural vehicle to showcase (South) African and Dutch work in the respective countries.  

Main cooperation partners (not exhaustive):
  • in South Africa: KKNK, Free State Arts Festival, The City Agency, SAMA, The Market Theatre, Artscape, museums, other festivals.
  • in the Netherlands: Netherlands Film Fund, Creative Industries Fund NL, Performing Arts Fund, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, National Archives, DutchCulture, Rijksmuseum, Zuid-Afrikahuis, Dutch Design Week, Tropenmuseum.
Looking forward: Transformation and Identity continued

Transformation and Identity continues to be the central theme for cultural cooperation with South Africa and consequently for the support of related projects and activities. The programmes regarding cultural heritage will also be continued. Subthemes will be Climate Change and Sustainability (2021), Economy 4.0 & Innovation (2022), Smart solutions for resilient cities (2023) and Shared norms and values (2024).

Young people are a specific target audience, but cultural activities are also meant to appeal to and focus on the broader society and citizenry. After all, the scope of the content produced and the issues that are addressed have a strong impact on society. This pertains to academia, the business sector and industry, as well as to NGOs and civil society.  

Arts and culture provide a means to reflect on what society looks like and offer the opportunity to alter the status quo without alienating the audience, for example in a business or academic environment. This could entail using theatre, dance or music to highlight climate adaptation or climate ambition for a captivated audience. As an example, a spoken word performance at a reception could convince company representatives to invest in LGBTQI+ policies at work or gender parity in their organisational structures.  

Building sustainable collaborative projects between counterparts in the Netherlands and South Africa will contribute positively to public discourse and dialogue on the theme of transformation and identity in both countries.

Cultural agenda (not exhaustive): 

Design Indaba – February
Klein Karoo National Arts Festival - April
Encounters International Documentary Festival – June  
National Arts Festival – June
Open Book Festival Cape Town - October
Cape Town International Film Festival – October
Free State Arts Festival – October

Information & advice

Would you like to receive more information regarding opportunities for cultural exchange with South Africa? Feel free to contact our Focal Countries Desk with your questions. We can inform you about the latest developments in the country, relevant contacts and other cultural venues.