President's Report

November 22, 2017

It has been a great four years serving you and the bonsai community and I want to thank everyone for the honour. Firstly I must thank my Exco for all the hard work, time and effort they put in to make it possible. Not many people realise what it takes to run SABA and what a thankless task it is.

I would also like to congratulate Robbie de Witt and his organising committee for this convention. They have done a splendid job and spend hours and hours of hard work behind the scenes to make this all possible. 

 

I would also like to thank all the clubs and chairmen who kept us on our toes, kept us informed of what they were doing and communicated what they expected from us.

 

Looking back over the past four years I am proud of what has been achieved but also humbled by the fact that we did not do more. At the start of my first term I stated that every decision and project will have only one objective yardstick – Is it good for bonsai?

 

I think what we achieved was definitely good for bonsai. Without boring you with a lot of detail I would like to highlight a few of the achievements as I see it.

 

Communication

The communication with clubs improved dramatically. We started off with stars in our eyes and a letter to all clubs and individuals requesting information as well as suggestions on how to improve the workings of SABA.  To say the response was dismal is an understatement.  Since then we’ve learned the hard lesson that communication is a two way street.

 

We started with more newsletters to clubs of plans and decisions after cutting costs to zero by meeting by Skype. A Facebook page was started from scratch and now has more than 1 100 regular and active users. It could have been more but we decided to just allow people who have trees on their profile.

After numerous problems we finally got the website going. From being a stagnant page with just about no visitors it is now very active and often visited also from overseas.

 

Our communication with the African Bonsai Association and the World Bonsai Friendship Federation has improved tremendously. It is also an improvement that ABA reports back to us at every AGM and keeps us informed of what is happening in the wider bonsai world. To that a big thank you is owed to Jonathan Cain who ably represents us in these bodies.

 

We have also done numerous radio and TV interviews, written to newspapers, websites and magazines on our various activities to create interest and market our interesting hobby.

 

Sometimes the communication with different regions were not up to scratch. It is suggested that every region nominate a specific member to communicate with SABA and to distribute news.

 

Membership

When we started there were 17 paid up clubs who were signed up members of SABA.  Together they represented about 600 members. The number of clubs have now increased to 24 clubs with about 800 members.

 

We know there are more clubs outside the fold and have encouraged them to join. An effort must be made to get clubs to join independently even though they are adopted by a bigger club in the region.

It has also been a struggle to get clubs to share their membership lists to SABA. Despite numerous requests clubs seem unwilling to do it. Some say it is because they do not want organisations from outside to communicate and market directly to their members although SABA promised to keep the lists confidential and to respect the autonomy of clubs. 

 

Finances

The financial affairs are sound. The expenses of the EXCO has been cut to zero and clubs have been paying their membership fees on time. We thank you for that.

When we started we had funds of R84 465 in the bank. That has grown now to about R100 000. I will let Terence run you through the latest figures and to answer any questions.

 

Photo competition

This competition has gone from strength to strength after we inherited a dead horse. I now look forward to very month to see what wonderful trees pop up from every part of the country.

 

The SABA yearly calendar is a wonderful offspring from this competition. It has been embraced by clubs and the response has been tremendous. In future years this can be grown even more. A big thank you is owed to Earl who puts in a lot of hard work and time to make it happen.

 

The SABA photo competition was also the foundation of the book Best of SA Bonsai… and a little history. It is hoped that in future this can be updated in a new book with more trees.

 

We tried to get regions more involved to encourage clubs to participate. Not all of them have come to the party. The big culprit is KwaZulu-Natal who despite all my begging has been absent. The best time to take photos is at regional events. If a region coordinates this and encourage people to enter it will do wonders for the competition.

 

Regional judges were also nominated to improve the standard of judging. That lend itself to more problems and some controversial decisions that was heavily discussed. Every time this happened it lead to the improvement of the competition. We should cherish this competition and grow it even more in future.

 

Lifelong achievement awards

We had four nominations from various clubs around the country and a lot of good response on this. The EXCO decided to award two this year. Those nominated who did not get the award will automatically be considered next year.

 

The Lifelong Achievement Award  is one of the improvements we made that I am very proud of. For too long the contributions of people who have done so much for bonsai in this country have gone unrecognised. When I see how much this award means to those people who receive it,  it warms my heart.

 

In future I would like more people to be nominated. We should reward the stalwarts of bonsai in this country and pay tribute to the great artists who has grown this hobby to where we are today. May we in future not have to honour so many that have passed on and reward people while they are still alive and doing bonsai. Thank you so much for the pleasure you have brought us over the years and sharing your knowledge and love for bonsai with us.

 

Penjing show

The first Penjing show in South Africa was organised in January 2017 under the auspices of SABA at the beautiful wine farm Babylonstoren in the Western Cape.  This was an important event and not just because it was a first. The number of visitors was gratifying and the farm would like it to become a yearly event.

 

There were more than 50 penjing from a lot of different exhibitors and some truly impressive work never before seen in public. As is normal there were a few glitzes but overall the event was well received and deemed a success. It would be great if we could explore the development of penjing in South Africa as it seems a natural development for our hobby.

 

Conventions

I think the standard of our conventions have improved since the decision was taken to sponsor them every year.  If more clubs join and more money is generated we will be able to increase the sponsorship even more.

 

The decision to ask regions to tender for conventions for the next two years was taken enthusiastically by all but has not born fruit. As the convention will be rotated around the different regions it is imperative that they step up to the plate. The earlier the decision on a convention is taken the better the organising can be.

 

The next convention should be in KwaZulu-Natal but to this date nothing has been heard from them.

The yearly convention should be the cherry on the cake of bonsai. We need to do more to get clubs to participate and to help make this a really national event where we can market our wonderful hobby.

I thought the standard set by ABC4 in Stellenbosch was excellent. This is what we should aim for if we want to grow bonsai.

 

That said a big thank you must go to everyone who put in a lot of time and effort to organise these events. It is a tough job. When everything runs smoothly no one sees the effort behind the scenes and the blood, sweat and tears shed to make this happen.

 

Constitution

The proposed changes to the constitution has been made and approved by all clubs. This was by no means an easy exercise. I would like to give a special thanks to Terence for all the hard work he put into this to make it happen. The same goes for the clubs who commented or made suggestions on how to improve things.

 

African Bonsai Association

Our relationship and communication with the African Bonsai Association (ABA) has grown and improved tremendously. In this the role of Jonathan Cain, president, should not be underestimated.

He is doing a very good job to make the world aware of  African and especially South African Bonsai . His promotion at the WBFF is a just award for all the hard work he puts in. A lot of people probably think it is fun to travel around the world to see great bonsai but few realise how much it costs an individual and how much personal time and effort goes into that. For that we must thank him profusely.

It is mainly due to his efforts that we had a demonstrator from Africa at the WBFF conference in Japan this year. That event where Hannes Fritz represented and made us proud did a lot to promote South African bonsai.

 

I’ve said before that ABA is our door to the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF) and that it is imperative that we work hard at strengthening the body all the time. I stand by my quote and look forward to hearing from Jonathan.

 

Goodbye:

There is so much to do and so much that can be done. We are a non-profit organisation working with volunteers. That does not make us amateurs.

 

We have enormous talent in our midst from people who can serve a good cup of coffee and a cupcake to others who run their own companies. The challenge is to channel this talent to improve SABA and take bonsai forward in this country.

 

With strong clubs, regions and a national body working together we can grow this art form into something great and attract many more people.

 

It has been my honour to serve you and I wish the next Exco all the best. May the tree be with you.

 

Willem Pretorius

President: SABA.

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