Reorientation of Visual Arts Education in RSA

The Visual Arts in our country needs an overhaul in terms of the behavior of state apparatuses (Educational Structures) specific to foster their continuance. Today the war that is being fought at the political level fetters down to the important structures that have been put in place to guarantee the smooth running of the country.

The war at play is that of opposing ideals in terms dealing with socio-economic challenges, with education as a point of departure. Cohesion is implied not practice. These attitudes, which are indexical to the opposing political parties in South Africa, erect an iron curtain between systems which should be working together for the country’s development. In institutions and government departments each is concerned only with specific area that they are expert in. Lack of acknowledgement of interrelatedness of our varied structures achieves nothing except a growing cynicism. Should the various systems involved in the same area adopt a more positive role and acknowledge their interrelatedness the results will be tremendous in terms of a positive development of our country.

For example, in the visual arts the formal institutions should see their role not limited to the students during their years of study only but extending beyond their graduation.  In the visual arts today we know that the public schools continue to suffer a lack of arts education. The OBE arts and culture approach has acute problems

1) It has not been able to teach the arts adequately through its existing educators; except in a few cases with educators fortunate enough to have studied art.

2) The present Arts and Culture system of teaching has not been able to wake up to the fact that it is unfair for one educator to teach all the arts disciplines but rather they should have educators focusing on specific Art Discipline.

This reorientation of teaching Art will posit positive results in the long run in that those learners who, for example, will like to concentrate on visual art will spend enough time focusing on that aspect of their education and be in a position to perform at maximum level when they reach metric level. Their entry into arts department at university level will be smoother. In addition such a specialization opportunity will remove the stereo type attached to the arts; this revamping will bring the visual arts in our country on the same bar with the other forms of training and knowledge since it will be taught simultaneously with the other areas of learning.

The Arts role in any Nation is crucial, the arts remind us of who we are: Through writing, performance and the Visual Arts. Without the Arts societies will lead an existence banal of the aesthetic. The arts alongside scientific discoveries narrated by historical accounts explain who we are from a creativity perspective. We would be soulless without them. The Arts have played a major role in liberating this country and continue to define it in the now.

In order to begin to address the kind of artist who graduates from the colleges and Universities the Ideological State Apparatuses specific to Education needs to be rethought: One way is to be supportive to educators in terms of their skills and start sourcing trained art educators to teach the arts rather than forcing it on existing educators who might not even be interested in teaching art. This will create employment to the arts graduates and simultaneously make the education sector attractive.

The overall results of this reorientation of Arts Education will see better trained artists emerging as professional art practitioners. Here the pushing of boundaries that constitutes contemporary art can be engaged with adequately and on equal footing. Should the inception of arts education at the basic education level take hold, a viable art consumer is bound to emerge and be sustained. It is foreseeable that those students who may not pursue practical arts education at a tertiary level to become professional artists will exit basic education with a thorough knowledge of the visual arts and an appreciation for the Arts in general.

As far as the future is concerned those who might take the visual arts at University level but not concentrate on production can fill the roles of art writers, art theoreticians, art historians as well its administration in the various State Apparatuses specific to the arts such as DAC or NAC some may pioneer privately run agencies for the Visual Arts.

24 May 2010

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2010

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