Alongside our primary focus on exchange and collaboration between Switzerland and Southern Africa, Pro Helvetia Johannesburg has, for the past two decades, been investing in transnational collaborations, exchanges and joint projects between organisations and creative practitioners spread across the SADC region. This “intra-regional” programming was financed through a series of cooperation agreements with the regional office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) located in Harare, Zimbabwe. Since 2012, the regional arts programme has involved investment of approximately USD 3 million through nearly 400 grants to individuals and organisations across the SADC region.
Between 2015 and 2017 the impact of the programme increased substantially, both in geographical reach and impact, with our office supporting approximately 1 200 arts professionals involved in 135 projects and residencies. These activities traversed all fifteen countries in the SADC region, with an especially significant footprint in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar. This was realised through awarding micro-grants from an annual ANT Mobility Fund open call.
The programme for the 2018 – 2020 period continued in this vein, assisting in the growth of a more connected cultural field in the Southern African region, supporting transnational collaboration, circulation of relevant new work and skills/knowledge exchange. During this period we also supported 10 key regional mobility partners located in major cities across the region. Our investment amplified the ability of these organisations to engage in activities with a transnational dimension, from residencies and the development of new work, through to workshops, master classes and organisational development. This had the important impact of aiding the establishment of a web of connections and relationships between individuals, projects and initiatives in Southern Africa.
From 2021, the focus of the SDC regional office moves towards bilateral engagement with Zimbabwe and Zambia, and from 2022 onwards the cooperation agreement between Pro Helvetia and the SDC regional office in Harare will come to an end, with the regional office managing investments in the cultural field in these two countries directly. 2021 therefore represents a transition year in which we exit from our role in supporting regional mobility, and work with the SDC regional office in conceptualising future investments in Zimbabwe and Zambia, in dialogue with partners in those two countries on needs and priorities.
In line with the move towards bilateral engagement, the current ANT Adaptation Fund call is aimed at supporting sustainability strategies and novel approaches to working for individual artists and arts organisations in Zimbabwe and Zambia.