For the past 30 years, the artlink office in Bern has been promoting professional artists from countries of the South and East in Switzerland. The aim is to give these artists access to Swiss and European cultural events and professional networks. Support for artlink is a part of the SDC's cultural activities. The SDC made its first financial contribution to Artlink in 1991.
Art and culture foster social change
The SDC believes that independent artists have a special role to play in society. Their work contributes to the quality of life, creates identity and diversity, but can also spark discussion, tackle taboo subjects, trigger thought processes or even strengthen resistance against unfair authorities. Culture thus has a key role to play in social change and in the development of societies.
Switzerland promotes artists from the South and East with the aim of enabling them to contribute to development processes and social change. The SDC supports the cultural sector in partner countries on the one hand and establishes links between artists and cultural productions from the South and East, as well as with Switzerland's cultural scene, on the other.
Providing access to the Swiss market
Since 2010 artlink has been mandated by the SDC to manage its Südkulturfonds. With a budget of CHF 725,000, every year some 450 productions and performances by artists from the South and East are made possible in Switzerland. A professional jury selects the productions that are to receive support. For artists, the external market is often vitally important, as the cultural sector receives hardly any government support in many of the SDC's partner countries. "We work with professional organisers in Switzerland who have built up a reputation and a following over many years," says Mauro Abbühl, joint head of artlink.
The orientation of artlink has changed since its inception. In 1985 six Swiss relief organisations founded the Institute for Culture and Development. "The idea was to use culture and crafts to show the Swiss people what was then known as the 'Third World' from a different angle," says Mauro Abbühl. Artlink also wanted to promote the integration of foreign artists who lived in Switzerland into the local cultural scene.
In today's multicultural society, the focus is no longer on raising awareness. Rather, it is on the cultural scene of the countries of the South and East from which the artists come. The aim of the SDC's Südkulturfonds is to support this in a targeted manner: the artists should be able to establish themselves as professionals and make a living from their work. More and more projects by artists from the priority countries of the SDC are currently being supported. In 2014 the professional committee of experts of the Südkulturfonds approved 88 projects. Two thirds of the artists receiving support came from an SDC priority country.
Anniversary celebration with Senegalese music
To mark the 30th anniversary of artlink there was be a concert by musician Kara Sylla Ka in the PROGR centre in Bern on 22 February 2015. His urban Senegalese music is a mix of blues, folk and Afrobeat. Among other things, Artlink supported concerts by Kara Sylla Ka in the German-speaking part of Switzerland in 2005.