Since the advent of democracy, ground breaking work of a renewal nature has been occurring in many areas of life in South Africa. In education, for example, enabling legislation was passed, such as the 1997 South African Schools Act, and a new framework for education introduced. The new curriculum framework defines various learning areas that include science and technology; arts, culture and heritage; etc. Reclamation scholarship is taking place, alongside other nation building measures, to reintegrate all South Africans to their culture, history and heritage. In many learning fields, reference materials are being developed all the time. In a period of national regeneration and restoration, however, it is disconcerting that one of the fields that is lagging behind is arts, culture and heritage studies. There is a serious dearth of reference material, similar to historical material being developed under the auspices of the South African Democracy Education Trust, in arts, culture and heritage studies.
A major need in cultural studies, to reflect the importance accorded it by the national departments of Arts and Culture as well as Education, is a work of â€˜encyclopaedicâ€™ scope on arts, culture and heritage in South Africa to provide reference material otherwise lacking on the subject, which could also be of use in schools. In addition to its value in education, cultural industry and cultural diplomacy will benefit from the availability of user-friendly information the Encyclopaedia will supply, in its electronic and print forms.
The Encyclopaedia of South African Arts and Culture herein proposed thus aims to provide South Africans and others interested in the field comprehensive reference material to understanding (a) aspects of South African arts and culture from antiquity to the present, and (b) the rich cultural diversity characteristic of South African society.
The encyclopaedia is divided into four broad research areas:
The verbal arts (orature, poetry, drama, prose fiction, biography, childrenâ€™s literature etc.);
The performing arts (music, dance, theatre, film, video etc.);
The visual arts (painting, sculpture, graphic art, photography, drawing, mural painting, paper works, tapestry, fibre art, installation works, computer graphics, fashion design, crafts, etc.); and
Heritage (including rites of passage, indigenous knowledge systems, belief systems, value systems such as ubuntu, customs and traditions, various other cultural practices).