Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Lekgotla 2019
Theme: Entrepreneurship through the arts

Artists must aspire to commercialise their work

Artists often do not see the value of their work; they view themselves as second-class citizens in the commercial world and frequently resort to placing their immediate needs before the true worth of their art.

This was one of the key observations shared during a discussion on entrepreneurship development through the arts at the four-day EDHE Lekgotla 2019 that concluded in Durban last Friday. The session had brought together artists, lecturers and investors to examine the reality of entrepreneurship in artists.

Mr Karabo Che Mokoape

Speaking at the event, Mr Karabo Che Mokoape, author of the book Seven Things Every Black Entrepreneur Should Know and founder of Home Cloud, an internet service, said that an artist's talent should assist them in running a successful business. He compared the artist's creative process to the process used when developing a business idea. Mokoape admitted that the impulses he had had, as an artist and entrepreneur, had not all been successful. However, the passion to bring new concepts to life had benefited him in this regard.

"We understand the odds are against us and our chances are slim but the single reason we do it is because we are artists who bring products to life," he asserted.

Mr Kojo Parris, Chair of KBA Africa, a business incubation entity, observed that society sometimes had a misconception of entrepreneurs. They viewed the latter as people who focused on wealth and had big companies, but in reality they were more focused on solving problems. He believed that there was a need to prepare young people to solve problems as this was the core of entrepreneurship.

He noted that many people with great ideas came to him looking for investments, and he asked them what problems they were trying to solve. Parris firmly believed that this should be the focus, and that students should use this to their advantage as solving problems is of common interest to the country.

Mr Kojo Parris
"The great creators of wealth and art focused on looking at the dysfunctions within society and examined how to create solutions to them," Mr Kojo Parris shared in the plenary.

Work with the state, Parris suggests

In addition, Parris suggested that artists' work could be commercialised more if they worked with the state. He asserted that the relationship between artists and the state needed to change, as artists seem to distance themselves from the state when creating their work.

"There is no country, no society, no community which has created great art, that managed to do it without a strong state supporting it," Parris stated.

He said that the two parties needed to find a way to coexist, as traditional corporate companies were not all that interested in art, which meant that students would not be able to get support from them.

Focus on your market

Mrs Sunthra Moodley, Head of the Fashion Department at the Durban University of Technology, said that she encouraged her students to focus on what the market wanted in order to sustain themselves after their graduation.

Mrs Sunthra Moodley
"At the end of the day if you want to survive you have to be commercially orientated," said Moodley. She noted that students could focus on making their designs unique once they had identified what the market was demanding.

Fellow panellist Ms Lyrene Botma, Lecturer in Fine Arts at the University of the Free State, said she wished she had had more entrepreneurial skills before she left university, as she was unable to promote her skills.

"When I obtained my degree I did not have the entrepreneurial mindset I needed. Yet as an artist I create the product that I need to sell," said Botma.

Moodley said that one of the ways her department aimed to combat this was through an incubator. Her fashion students have the space, equipment, tables and motivation to start their own businesses. The facility is open to students and graduates to work on projects and get a feel for entrepreneurship.

Despite the call to adhere to the demands of the market, Mr Togo Langa, Curator and Artist Manager at the mmArt House, believes that artists should still have some room for individuality. Langa said that artists needed to be free and not cluttered by logistics when creating their work.

"When an artist makes an art piece, they are not thinking of you the buyer. It's a thought created on a canvas," said Langa.

Art and entrepreneurship may seem like opposites, but with a change of mindset artists may find it easier than they feared to commercialise their work.

The purpose of the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Lekgotla 2019 was to share best practice, learn of latest trends and developments, and foster collaboration with regard to entrepreneurship in Higher Education - all for the benefit of students, academics, the entire higher education sector and the economy. Stakeholders in the EDHE ecosystem gathered to share their learning and experience, while working on identifying and addressing challenges in the space of entrepreneurship development.

Hosted by Universities South Africa (USAf) in collaboration with the Department Higher Education and Science and Technology, and the Durban University of Technology (DUT), this year's Lekgotla was carried out under the theme of entrepreneurship through the arts. The event was curated by Durban University of Technology's Faculty of Arts and Design, with the support of the South African Humanities Deans' Association (SAHUDA).

Carissa Marnce, the writer, is a 3rd year student in the Department of Media, Language and Communication in DUT's Faculty of Arts and Design.

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