Thembinkosi Philemon Wakashe

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(Themba) (1960-) Theatre researcher, writer and cultural organiser. Born in Cape Town. Studied at the School of Dramatic Art at the University of the Witwatersrand from 1980-82. During the closing years of the anti-apartheid movement, he moved to New York where he studied, wrote on theatre and was a cultural attache for the ANC. On his return he became a prominent figure in the arts and culture segment, later Deputy Director Arts and Culture responsible for film and later Director of Heritage. In 2007 he became Director-General for the Department of Arts and Culture. As a boy, he showed a passionate interest in the arts that won him a scholarship that saw him pursue a BA (Drama) at Wits University which he completed in 1984. Soon after that he went to New York University to read for a master's degree in performance studies. He later enrolled at Columbia University where he also completed a graduate programme in arts administration. It was while he was studying in the United States that he was appointed manager for self-exiled piano maestro Abdullah Ibrahim in 1986. Soon after that he was employed as research assistant and associate in various American institutions, including Arts International, African Arts Fund and the Harlem School of the Arts. Having completed his studies, Wakashe returned to the country to function as national Co-ordinator for Arts and Culture South Africa, an umbrella body for formulating policies for the new society. He also worked as a lecturer in the School of Dramatic Arts at Witwatersrand University. Significantly, he was appointed Chief Director for Arts, Culture and Heritage in the department where he was responsible for relations with bodies like United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), South African Development Community (SADC), European Union (EU) and former Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Prior to that, Wakashe was part of the team that developed the Arts, Culture and Heritage White Paper which was the framework for the democratisation of the arts sector. Also, he was credited with driving the development for the film industry. It was in recognition of his arts focus; discipline and hard work that he was appointed Deputy Director-General in 2001, a job that saw him champion policy development, strategic planning, and oversight of statutory bodies. It was during his tenure as Deputy Director-General in 2005 that the Unesco World Heritage Committee appointed him Chairperson for the year to lead the body in its 29th Session which took place in Durban. Under his Chairpersonship the Africa Heritage Fund was set up to assist countries on the continent to maintain World Heritage Sites. Throughout his life and career, Wakashe has made arts and culture central to his passions. His conviction that arts and culture is an instrumental of national unity and economic self-reliance is what makes him a natural choice to the position of Director-General. Mr Wakashe is the second Director-General since the department became independent and autonomous in 2004. He succeeds Professor Itumeleng Mosala who served in the position for four years until March 2007.

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