Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Art for Humanity, AFH, is a “Non-Profit, Public Benefit Organisation which engages with multidisciplinary arts practice and a wide variety of creative practice within the context of the pressing need for the centering of social justice in our contemporary moment”, says its Director Ismail Farouk. “The project is one of DUT’s Faculty of Art and Design’s community engagement projects and is governed by an independent board of trustees, most of whom are senior staff members at DUT,” he continues. In an email interview with Farouk, he answered several questions regarding the Artist Solidarity Fund and the work of AFH.
With the COVID-19 pandemic having a substantial effect on the arts globally and locally, “artists, art students, creative practitioners and the families they support are now facing a severe loss of income, resulting in a variety of difficulties and an inability to even purchase basic needs for survival”.
Farouk gives an overview of the role of AFH, saying that the primary vision for the organisation is to help stimulate the intersection between the arts and questions of history, social transformation and social justice.“AFH does this through aiming to create a vibrant public programme for DUT students and the broader public in Durban, that stimulates contemporary art discourse and is also a source of support to the local arts community. Over the last year we have hosted artist talks, conversations, public seminars, residencies, exhibitions, and workshops,” he said.
With the plight of the local arts community in mind, “a short-term intervention was set up on 21 April 2020, to provide immediate cash relief to artists, art students and creative practitioners based in the Durban area in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.” Farouk explains, “The concept behind the fund is to centralise efforts in collaboration with other arts based organisations in Durban, towards raising and eventually disbursing funds to local creatives and artists, which aim to lessen the burden of various financial insecurities caused or aggravated by the current crisis. In this process we aim to create a database of working artists and creatives, as well as arts-based students and graduates based in the wider Durban area, so as to work towards having a solid art community database to work with for ongoing and future solidarity work”.
He added that the fundraising project was initiated as part of the Arts Lives Project (ALP), which is spearheaded by DUT’s Faculty of Arts and Design. “This is only a very small initiative, but we hope it can be consolidated and continue to be a source of support for Durban based artists. Importantly, there exist several similar solidarity initiatives in various other cities around the country, as well as globally, and we are one among several others which provides support and solidarity for artists around South Africa,” said Farouk.
Besides driving an online campaign to raise funds via direct donation, AFH continues various fundraising efforts collaborating with their partners. “We are working on an art auction with the KZNSA gallery, who also are facing closure and loss of crucial income for running costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will also be posting general well-being and fitness videos aimed at but not limited to students in the context of the ongoing lockdown. This work is being led in collaboration with a community-centred non-profit, Gym in a Box Foundation. Finally, we are embarking on an online artist talk series with our partners Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) based at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), as well as US-based partners in order to create more financial opportunities for artists as well as a community of support, and relevant, new online content accessible to all since we are unable to carry out our public programme during lockdown,” stressed Farouk.
Farouk confirmed that, to date, the AFH Artist Solidarity Fund committee has successfully paid out the first round of disbursements for the month of April. AFH raised a total of R43085.35 in nine days and paid 77 verified applicants a total of R559.55 each by 1 May 2020.
“People in need are asked to fill out a basic survey, and send copies of their ID and CV. AFH has established a Working Committee that ensures the applicant information captured through the online application is processed with urgency and transparency. Applicants must reside in the EThekwini municipal area, and only one application per individual is allowed. Finally, no organisations are allowed to apply. This is for individual artists and creatives who need immediate cash relief,” he said.
Farouk said that AFH is extremely grateful to those who have donated funds. The aim is for more people to donate, as no amount is too small. “The crisis we presently face existed before COVID-19, and generally this lockdown has only worsened pre-existing conditions. However, we are hopeful that the donations will continue to come in and the various other fundraising initiatives will also be of immense importance, so that we are able to make another set of direct cash payments to artists at the end of May,” he said.
To donate to the AFH Artist Solidarity Fund, go to: https://www.payfast.co.za/donate/go/artforhumanity.
Or alternatively, you can make a direct deposit to the following account:
Account Name: Art For Humanity
Account Number: 1301289353
Account Type: Cheque/Transmission