Africa must preserve history for future generations

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pretoria - Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana says Africa must preserve its history so that future generations can understand and appreciate the essence of being an African.

Speaking at the commemoration of Africa Day in Pretoria on Monday, Minister Xingwana said there was a need to write popular histories for the future generation to understand the painful, long journey suffered by the continent's previous generations.

"Research and documentation of Africa's history, culture and heritage must be supported and promoted. The full story of slavery in South Africa has yet to be told and this must be documented and contextualised with slavery on the continent and in the Diaspora," she said.

Africa Day is annually commemorated on 25 May, the day in which the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established in 1963.

The OAU was replaced by the present African Union in 2002, while amalgamating with the African Economic Community (AEC), but kept the date and name of Africa Day.

Ms Xingwana said the contribution Africa has made in the fields of Mathematics, Science, Philosophy, Astronomy, Religion and the Arts must also be documented and promoted by African scholars and intellectuals.

"We need all this to be passed to our youth and to future generations in Africa through education and cultural programmes.

"Previously we were blessed with men and women of practical wisdom who would impart their knowledge to others.

"Today, our focus must be to integrate this indigenous knowledge within our schooling system and the way in which we share knowledge in the past should also find a place in our modern life," she said.

The minister said the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) should also play a key role in coming up with the best possible ways to attain sustainable development through education and culture.

Regarding the reprinting of classics in African languages by the South African National Library, Ms Xingwana said the initiative will also impact positively on the school curriculum.

While South Africa has projects that seek to empower women's writing and documentation of oral histories by women and for women, she said there was a need to look at the possibility of a NEPAD cultural project that focuses on women's contribution.

"We need a project or study that places women's role in culture and education at the forefront, a project that seeks to document women's history and culture as part of what has sustained us throughout history and what continues to sustain us in our daily lives," the minister said.

Africa Day is a call to African countries to recommit themselves to the goals of achieving and deepening democracy, good governance and accountability as espoused by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

It is a day by which Africa pauses and takes stock of its achievements and celebrates its efforts towards peace, prosperity and unity in diversity.

This year's theme is "Unifying Africa through education and culture" which aims to probe among other things the extent into which African heritage issues have been given enough consideration by governments and citizens of the continent.

It is also seeks to define the linkages between education, cultural heritage and development.

The theme also poses a question about the importance of cultural heritage as a vehicle for creating job opportunities and fighting poverty.

This brings into focus the need to strive for social justice, reconstruction and development as well as further strengthen the African Union's endeavor to consolidate the African Agenda and millennium development goals.