BY BILLY SUTER
IT COULD not have happened to more hard-working and loved Durban personalities – arts doyenne, Caroline Smart, is the 2020 recipient of the Arts and Culture Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Arts Advocacy, while Durban Ballroom and Latin American dance icon, Neville Letard, receives the trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Dance.
The 2020 ACT Awards, continuing a 21-year tradition of recognising excellence in the South African arts, culture and creative sector, are being presented tonight at the luxurious boutique hotel and venue, River Meadow Manor, in Irene, Gauteng.
Smart, a voice coach, reviewer, broadcaster, newspaper columnist, television presenter, actress and producer for well over 30 years, said today that she was “hugely honoured” by the trust’s recognition of her wide body of work promoting the arts in South Africa.
Her previous awards include the Durban Critics’ Circle Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the now-halted Durban Theatre Awards, which she helped to design and which she helped to launch.
Smart has also received Lifetime Achievement awards from Tape Aids for the Blind, The Indian Academy and the Womandla literary group. The D’Arts Magazine that she long edited, which led to her launching her current, popular ArtSmart blog, became the first recipient of ACT’s print publication award, in 1998. D’Arts Magazine was produced by the Durban Arts Association.
In September 2012, Smart was awarded the Ethekwini Municipality’s Living Legend Award for Arts and Culture, recognising her contribution to the arts in Durban. She is also the KwaZulu-Natal Ambassador for the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day.
Smart has many radio and stage credits, but a career highlight, she says, was performing in the movie Wah Wah, alongside Julie Walters, Nicholas Hoult and Gabriel Byrne. The film marked the directing debut of actor Richard E Grant, and dealt with his childhood in Swaziland.
Neville Letard is a former Ballroom and Latin American Dancer, based in Durban, who is chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal branch of the South African Dance Teachers’ Association. He is also one of the founders/directors of the annual Shall We Dance Ballroom and Latin American dance showcase at Durban’s Playhouse Opera theatre
At tonight’s awards ceremony, recipients of the ACT Lifetime Achievement Awards as well as the ImpACT Award winner and runners-up will be recognised and given an opportunity to share their experiences in the sector.
The 2020 ACT Awards are divided into two segments: the Lifetime Achievement Awards and the ImpACT Awards for Young Professionals, with the former honouring legends and stalwarts in the sector and the latter recognising young trailblazers who show promise of having impactful careers.
A salient element of the ACT Awards is the presentation of Lifetime Achievement Awards. These prestigious awards honour arts professionals whose lifelong achievements have contributed significantly to the enrichment of cultural life in South Africa, and whose extraordinary careers have had a profound and lasting impact on arts, culture and creativity.
The ACT Lifetime Achievement Awards recognise contributions in arts advocacy, dance, literature, music, theatre and visual arts.
The second and equally important segment of the ACT Awards are the ImpACT Awards for Young Professionals. These recognise young professionals in the early stages of their careers who show promise of making meaningful contributions to the sector in the future. The ImpACT Awards recognise contributions in arts administration, design, music and singing, theatre and visual arts.
In their history spanning 21 years, the ACT Awards have honoured the likes of Madosini, Esther Mahlangu, Miriam Makeba, Gibson Kente, David Goldblatt, the Field Band Foundation, Moving into Dance Mophatong and many others.
The 2020 ACT Awards are being made possible by partnerships and sponsorships from a number of private and public organisations committed to providing funding for the sustainable development and growth of arts, culture and heritage in South Africa.
This year, the City of Johannesburg has partnered with ACT in making the Lifetime Achievement Award in Arts Advocacy possible. Tthe Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (Dalro) sponsors the Lifetime Achievement Award in Literature, while the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro) sponsors the Lifetime Achievement Award in Music.
Nedbank sponsors the Lifetime Achievement Award in Visual Art. ACT will this year sponsor the Lifetime Achievement Awards in Theatre and in Dance. Sun International sponsors the ImpACT Awards for Young Professionals.