Q&A with Dr. Patrick Ebewo Jr.

Q&A with Dr. Patrick Ebewo Jr.

We talk to the Mandela Rhodes Scholar about arts entrepreneurship in South Africa.

New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) had the pleasure of introducing Dr. Patrick Ebewo Jr., Mandela Rhodes Scholar and Coordinator of the Arts (Business) Incubator at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), to its Arts Business Incubator program last month. 

Dr. Ebewo was in town after his university received a UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policy and Development focusing on South African Development Community, conducting research on arts incubator models in the United States. The UNESCO Chairs program features a global network of higher education and research institutions that pool their resources to address pressing challenges and contribute to the development of their societies. In many instances, the Chairs serve as think tanks and bridge builders between academia, civil society, local communities, research, and policy-making organizations. Peter Cobb, ABI Program Coordinator, had this to say about Dr. Ebewo’s visit and the cross-cultural exchange that resulted: 

I learned a tremendous amount from Dr. Ebewo’s visit, and it was a privilege to be exposed to TUT’s visionary Arts Incubator program, which is to my knowledge the only arts business incubator on the African continent. I was struck by the scope and depth of the program’s educational offerings and how it leverages the university’s resources in technology and business to serve as a focal point in the area. Dr. Ebewo’s visit emphasizes that demand for entrepreneurial training and assistance in the arts is international, as are the potential economic benefits of such programs. 

We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ebewo about arts entrepreneurship in South Africa, his work, and what’s next for the Arts (Business) Incubator at TUT.

NYFA: What’s the arts entrepreneurship landscape like in South Africa?
Dr. Patrick Ebewo: Whilst the arts and cultural industries sector is one of the fastest growing, the arts entrepreneurship landscape of South Africa is underdeveloped. Government agencies and the private sector have not done enough to empower communities to tap into the arts and cultural industries sector and to create wealth for themselves. There is a need for these agencies and stakeholders to promote, develop, and position arts entrepreneurship as a central pillar of sustainable development.

NYFA: Tell us about the work you’re doing at TUT.
PE: I assisted in the pioneering of the establishment of the Arts (Business) Incubator at TUT, where I am serving as coordinator. The program is aimed at cultivating a passion for entrepreneurship among arts and design students to accelerate the establishment of arts-based and creative start-ups. In addition to developing curriculum for the program, I served as the project manager for the establishment of the TUT/UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policy and Sustainable Development for Southern Africa.

NYFA: What has the establishment of the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policy and Sustainable Development at TUT enabled you to do?
PE: The overall objective of the Chair (in process of establishment) is to enhance capacity-building for cultural policy and development in the South Africa Development Community (SADC), in particular by supporting the growth of cultural and creative industries; providing technical and vocational training for culture professionals; and increasing employment opportunities in the cultural and creative sector. The Chair recognizes the central role of culture in the development, promotion, and protection of cultural diversity; awareness-raising on the cultural contributions of indigenous peoples to sustainable development; and the development of cooperative mechanisms for cultural and creative industries.

NYFA: What’s next for the Arts (Business) Incubator at TUT and for arts entrepreneurship in South Africa?
PE: Investigating the possibilities of integrating student-run venture into our curriculum, developing learning programs on legal and copyright-related matters, and developing a business model for shared co-working spaces.

– Interview conducted by Amy Aronoff, Communications Officer

NYFA is a currently exploring ways in which NYFA and TUT’s respective incubator programs can collaborate on information-sharing and other programming. In the meantime, please visit our website to learn more about NYFA’s Arts Business Incubator program.

Image: Courtesy Dr. Patrick Ebewo Jr.

Amy Aronoff
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