A fab ConFab with Ashraf Johaardien and our amazing guests

Ashraf Johaardien in “performer mode” at CNCO ConFab

ConFabs are networking events that bring together like-minded and diverse groups of people for a thought-provoking dialogue. Building relationships among individuals is at the core of our ConFabs; the gatherings give attendees opportunities to engage with a diversity of people who would normally not be within the same circle.

Ashraf Johaardien has been selected to lead Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) as CEO. His experience in business and art combined, as well as his vision for the future of BASA, make it obvious that the organisation is in exceptional and capable hands.

After acting as the head of arts and culture at the University of Johannesburg and working in a number of arts institutions such as the Arts & Culture Trust and the Wits Theatre, Ashraf joined the National Arts Festival (still known to many as the “Grahamstown Festival”) as executive producer in 2015. He ends his journey with the National Arts Festival and opens a new door as the CEO of BASA on the 1 March 2019.

CN&CO was fortunate enough to host Ashraf as guest speaker at our ConFab gathering on 4 February 2019. All CN&CO team members and guests were immediately captured by Ashraf’s energetic charisma as well as the passion he expressed for art and the business world.

Ashraf spoke about his life in Cape Town and his life in the bustling city of Johannesburg. He highlighted the friendliness of Jozi people, the business of the city, the quickened pace of life as well as the roads of the city (which, he says, took him a little while to learn).

Responding to a question around his thoughts on the merging of the arts and business worlds, he replied, “It is true that, even in the present day, people tend to think in boxes. Society has completely separated the business world and the arts world. It occurred to me that this ideology begins in schools; perhaps even with the activity of colouring inside the lines”. Perhaps it is indeed time for a change.

Ashraf on the edge of his seat in full ConFab mode

In the words of the IISA’s Thokozile Mahlangu the “inspirational talk touched on ‘stepping into big shoes’ and effecting much needed changes.”

Actress Shannyn Fourie says she appreciated the opportunity to lean into what Ashraf had to say.

“I’ve had the opportunity to take a few shows to the Grahamstown Festival and audiences have always been warm and receptive to the stories that leave them with a happy ending,” she says. “I feel they long for pure escapism and a moment to leave their own reality living vicariously through the stories they watch, which ultimately give them a high. It’s the deeper text and cultural messages that perhaps are harder to swallow and sometimes get overlooked for that ‘feel good factor’.

“However, we live in challenging and exciting times. What resonated most with me was when Ashraf intimated that we should be doing work as performers, directors and artists that is meaningful and that will move our generation forward together. Perhaps this will be a bridge between our worlds as we navigate our cultural diversity and help shine a light onto the unseen.

“To make someone laugh is wonderful and truly a gift as laughter is a balm of relief to a society hustling along. However, to educate through theatre and to elevate necessary conversations through this medium is perhaps our purpose and our true calling.”

Rikus and Allan share a laugh with Claire from Innosys

Gianluca and Colin with Thokozile and Solani from the IISA

“CN&CO delivered yet another outstanding ConFab”, says CN&COs Colin Ford. “I loved Ashraf’s commentary on Johannesburg – its boundless energy and friendliness. I also enjoyed solving the problems of the world with Nox and Desmond, hearing about Lucy’s engagement, talking AIO and AIE with Thokozile and all things Shakespeare with Chris.”

Another very close friend of CN&CO, RMB’s Lucy Lightfoot (referred to above by Colin), reflects on her second time at a CN&CO ConFab: “I love the warm, welcoming, casual approach to the ConFab sessions. It was lovely to have an opportunity to come and say hello to Ashraf, to hear his story and to get a sense of the person behind the role he will take on at BASA. We wish him every success in his new role.”

We look forward to many new partners and guest speakers joining us in the next ConFab evenings to come.

Having conversations is what ConFab is all about…