Breathing Space

Pro Helvetia, Johannesburg, South Africa
Deadline: 31 August 2020

Breathing Space

Artists, organisations and networks from across sub-Saharan Africa are invited to submit project proposals​.

For Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, we confront with renewed sharpness the question of the relevance of our central task of international exchange and collaboration in the arts during a time in which many artists on the continent are seeing their livelihoods unravelling, and in which many organisations and businesses are facing collapse. While physical mobility has been massively curtailed during this period, we have found ourselves mining more deeply the creative possibilities that inhere in the digital, not only for bridging physical distance, but also as a medium for the creation and reception of artistic work.

Against this backdrop, the present call looks to enable a modest ‘breathing space’ for arts practitioners, organisations and networks across the sub–continent to rethink ways of working and reimagine the shape and position of cultural and creative work. The call is intended to open up opportunities to experiment with new possibilities and formats for artistic production, exchange, collaboration, presentation and reception, responsive to the complex demands of the present time at both a very local and global level.

Moving beyond our normal funding instruments, the present call both supports entirely new ideas and initiatives, as well as the amplification or extension of what arts practitioners are already doing in response to these changing circumstances. We are also open to proposals that involve the exploration of new formats and approaches as well as projects that use this moment of global rupture to engage more deeply with or interrogate older methods and practices and archives – or indeed to do both. Analogue and digital approaches are equally welcome. It is not expected that proposals should address COVID–19 at the level of theme or content.

While connection to the Swiss arts scene is welcome, it is not a requirement of this call: our interest is more in enabling local possibilities on the subcontinent that could in the future provide a basis for exchange and connection with the Swiss arts scene and cultural field more generally.


  • Clarity of purpose, intended outcome/s and methods? (Is it clear what you want do and why?)
  • Originality in concept and methods, artistic quality and relevance (Will the project contribute something new and significant to the field in concept and approach? Will the project have a life beyond the immediate stage covered by the grant?)
  • Track record and professionalism of the applicant and their network (Will the project be professionally executed?)


  • Open to artists, collectives and organisations from across the African continent, excluding North Africa (which is covered by a parallel call from our Cairo office). Applicants should be actively involved in the professional arts field on the subcontinent.
  • Open to all disciplines that Pro Helvetia is active in – music, performing arts, visual arts, literature, design and interactive media, and inter-disciplinary work. Note that cinematographic film (long form, short form and documentary content for cinematic screening or televisual broadcast) is excluded from Pro Helvetia’s mandate.
  • Activities covered by the grant should be completed and reported on by the end of March 2021.
  • Only one application per individual/organisation.
  • Requests should be between CHF 2 000 and CHF 10 000 in value (circa US$ 2100 – US$10 500). The more precise, specific and clear the budget is in relation to what you are trying to achieve, the better.
  • We are not in a position to cover the general salaries and running costs of organisations and institutions, beyond a reasonable project administrative fee which may be included in the budget proposal (normally not more than 10% of the overall budget). Artist and other project specific specialist fees may however be included as eligible costs.


  • The call is open until 31 August 2020.
  • Applications should be made through our online portal

Your online submission should include:

  • A concept note, of not more than 4 000 characters, summarising the Why? What? How? Who? dimensions of the project.
  • An indicative timeline and budget.
  • Please use downloadable Applicant Budget Template. If your application is successful, this template can also be used for reporting.
  • Information on the applicant, and any other individual or organisational partners involved.
  • If relevant, the applicant should indicate how local COVID-19 related public health and safety measures will be applied.

For inquiries, please email



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