Mike van Graan, playwright, cultural activist
“Freedom of creative expression – guaranteed in the Constitution – is permitted in the confines of a commercial gallery; once art that offends the political sensibilities of the ruling elite is placed in the public domain, it appears that the right of the President to dignity – often the mantra of banana republics to prevent criticism of the ruling president – is deemed more important than the rights of an artist to legitimate social commentary.”
Mike van Graan is the executive director of the African Arts Institute (AFAI) in Cape Town. The objective of this non-government organisation is to help develop leadership for Africa's creative sector and to build regional and continental markets for African artists and their creative work. Van Graan became a government advisor after South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994. He played a key role in shaping the post-apartheid cultural landscape.
In 2011, the South African playwright was appointed a UNESCO Technical Expert on the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in African and other under-resourced countries.
Moreover, he provides support to Arterial Network, a pan-African network of artists, creative enterprises and activists committed to human rights and democracy on the African continent.
Van Graan is currently the programme director for the third African Creative Economy Conference being held in Cape Town in October 2013.