Biography

Mike van Graan was born in Cape Town where he currently resides. He matriculated at Harold Cressy High School (1977), after which he completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in English and Drama at the University of Cape Town (UCT) (1980) and a Higher Diploma in Education (UCT) (1981). A few years later he returned to UCT where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in Drama (UCT) (1986). He is currently registered for an MA Degree in Drama at UCT, exploring the theme (or the absence thereof) of HIV/AIDS in mainstream South African theatre since 1994.

Chronology of working life

Intern with the Student Christian Association (SCA) (1982).

Organiser for the Student Union of Christian Action (SUCA) (1983/84).

Awarded a scholarship by the Theology Exchange Programme to travel to the USA, Nicaragua and Brazil for a total of eleven months to learn about liberation theology, popular culture, international relations and forms of popular culture (1985).

Organising Secretary for the Kairos Document at the Johannesburg-based Institute for Contextual Theology, headed by Rev Frank Chikane, former Director General in the Office of the Presidency. (Jan-June 1986).

A state of emergency of was declared in June 1986, and due to the attentions of the security police in Johannesburg, Van Graan returned to Cape Town. This turn of events led to a greater involvement in arts-related activities.

Organiser of the Towards a People’s Culture Festival (August-December 1986). (This Festival was banned a few days before it was due to take place as it was deemed to constitute a “threat to national security”).

Post-graduate student in drama and satirical columnist for community newspaper, South. (1987).

Theatre Coordinator and subsequently Director of the Community Arts Project (CAP) (1988-1991).

National Projects Officer of the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW) (1991-1992).

General Secretary of the National Arts Coalition, the country’s largest arts and culture lobby (1993-1996).

Special Adviser on arts and culture to Dr Ben Ngubane, the new Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, after the country’s first democratic elections (1994-1996).

Director of the Bartel Arts Trust (BAT) Centre in Durban (1994-1995).

Article 27 Arts and Culture Consultants

“Everyone shall have the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts…”. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Launched Article 27 Arts and Culture Consultants in January 1996 and provided services to a range of clients in the cultural field.

Administered the Arts and Culture Trust (1996-2000), a private sector initiative (Nedbank, Vodacom and Sun International were initial partners) to provide funding for the arts.

Produced and distributed The Cultural Weapon, a monthly publication monitoring the development of the post-apartheid arts and culture dispensation (1997/8).

Researched, co-edited (with Nicky du Plessis) and published the first post-apartheid arts directory, The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture (1998).

Coordinated the One City, Many Cultures Festival, an initiative of Ryland Fisher, editor of the Cape Times and the City of Cape Town (1999).

Commissioned to do a feasibility study for the establishment of a Pro Helvetia (Swiss Arts Council) office in Cape Town; subsequently undertook annual evaluations of the office and their funded projects (1999-2003).

Managed the marketing department of ARTSCAPE Theatre Complex (2000/2001).

Researched and co-edited (with Tammy Ballantyne) the second edition of The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture (2002).

Organised the international conference for, and then appointed as the Southern African Coordinator of the International Network for Cultural Diversity (INCD) (2003-2004).

Cape Town Regional Representative for Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) (2004-2006).

Micro-Economic Development Strategy Researcher for the Western Cape government into the creative industries (2005).

Other Article 27 projects included drafting aspects of cultural policy for the Gauteng and Kwa Zulu Natal departments of culture, producing a booklet on South African arts and culture for the International Arts Bureau, coordinating the production of a textbook on arts and culture, helping to draft the cultural component of SunWest’s casino licence bid, helping to draft the cultural component of Cape Town’s Olympic bid, coordinating the UKUZA conference programme for the British Council, facilitating month-long cultural studies programmes for students from New York, and coordinating a research project into the theatre industry for the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA).
Appointed as the Secretariat of the Arterial Network, a continent-wide body dedicated to the African creative sector, in 2007.
Appointed Executive Director of the Africa Centre in 2008.
Appointed Executive Director of the African Arts Institute in 2009.
Appointed Programme Director of the World Summit on Arts and Culture to be hosted by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA).

Voluntary positions in Arts and Culture

In addition to the above areas of remunerated work, there were other voluntary positions that carried their own responsibilities.

Elected Western Cape representative on the National Steering Committee of the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW) at its founding conference (1987).

Elected Chairperson of the Theatre Action Group (TAG), Cape Town (1990).

Elected General Secretary for the National Arts Policy Plenary initiated by the Arts for All Campaign (1992).

Elected General Secretary of the National Arts Initiative (1992).

Served as the COSAW representative on the Joint Working Group to restructure the board and programmes of the Johannesburg Civic Theatre (1992).

Served as the COSAW representative on the Joint Working Group to advise on the transformation of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown(1992).

Appointed to a panel to advise on the restructuring of the Natal Performing Arts Council (NAPAC) (1992).

Appointed as a Trustee of the Curriculum Development Project (CDP) which focused on developing the arts component of the school curriculum (1992).

Elected General Secretary of the National Arts Coalition (1993).

Appointed by the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology as one of twelve members of the “mothballed” State Theatre Board to work towards reopening it, and to devise a new performing arts policy and plan for the country (2000).

Elected General Secretary of the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (2002-2006).

Elected to the Steering Committee of the International Network for Cultural Diversity (INCD) (2002-3).

Elected to the National Steering Committee of the Network for Arts and Culture South Africa (NACSA) (2003).

Appointed to the Cultural Reference Task Group by the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport to evaluate cultural policies of the first decade of democracy and to propose new policies where appropriate (2004).

Appointed chairperson of a committee to devise a cultural strategy as part of the Western Cape’s 2010 plans by the Western Cape Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism (2005).

Columnist

Weekly columnist for Artslink.co.za, providing commentary on the unfolding arts and culture scene through The Cultural Weapon. (1999-2001).

Produced a weekly, subscriber-based internet arts column, Artwatch, monitoring and commenting on South African arts and culture (2002-2003).

Weekly arts columnist for the Mail and Guardian, (Artwit) (2003-2005).

Other

Served as a Trustee on the Phutuma Trust, M-NET’s groundbreaking black empowerment scheme (1998-2004).

Plays

The Dogs Must Be Crazy (1991)
Some of our Best Friends are Cultural Workers (1992)
Dinner Talk (1996)
Not Exactly PC! (1996)
The Tables Trilogy (1999)
Green Man Flashing (2003)
Hostile Takeover (2004)
Mixed Metaphors (2005)
Some Mothers’ Sons (2005)
Two to Tango (2005)
Mirror, Mirror (2006)
The General (Die Generaal) (2007)
Bafana Republic (2007)
Bafana Republic 2: Extra Time (2008)
Odysseus van Holland (2008)
Ramiz and Julio (2008)
Brothers in Blood (2009)
Bafana Republic 3: Penalty Shootout (2009)
Iago's Last Dance (2009)
 

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