Keynote Address by the Acting President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, on the occasion of Heritage Day Celebrations, Limpopo

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Premier of Limpopo, Cassel Mathale;
Minister for Arts and Culture, Lulu Xingwana;
Ministers and MECs;
Executive Mayor of Sekhukhune District Municipality, Mogobo Magabe;
Executive Mayor of Fetakgomo Local Municipality, Colman Marota;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Ladies and gentlemen; and
Fellow South Africans;

Dumelang!
Lotshani!
Avuxeni!

I am honoured to address you on this important day when multitudes of South Africans are gathered in various areas to celebrate Heritage Day, a day which carries a great deal of symbolism for our nation.

As we proudly celebrate this occasion, it is fitting that we do so in a land that gave birth to the heroic warrior, Kgoshi Sekhukhune.

This area of Sekhukhune is a symbolically important for many other reasons too.

It is a place where Jan Gerard Sekoto, one of the greatest artists to have come out of our land, was born.

Gerard Sekoto is an esteemed member of the National Orders, bestowed on him by our democratic state.

He has also received many other honours around the world in recognition of his matchless talent in the arts.

As a nation we should tip our hats to the memory of such artistic luminaries and not only strive to produce many like Sekoto, like Professor Eskia Mphahlele, like Alex La Guma, like Ezrom Legae, like Sidney Khumalo, like Cecil Skotnes, like James Matthews and many others around the country but to also keep up the standards they have set.

Chairperson,

We are fortunate to be living on the most ancient continent that has over the years given unsparingly to the world, including in the field of art.

Therefore when we celebrate South African craft, our proud heritage, we are, in actual fact, celebrating thousands of years of broader context of art as reflected in the Khoisan arts, among others.

In a way, today, Heritage Day, resonates with this remarkable history of the arts, a day which also reflects our recent past and our dynamic present.

Since crafts are an aspect of culture, we are in a way celebrating our culture as South Africans, a culture steeped in our collective experiences and peculiar conditions that imbue us with our character as a people, as a nation.

That we are celebrating this day is in itself a symbolic expression of how far we have come in our history.

Based on this common history that defines us, we can affirm this day as a day that seeks to remind us that as a people, diverse in our cultural outlook, we are all South Africans with a common heritage.

Our crafts constitute a foundation upon which we are building social cohesion in society, brick by brick, aware that through crafts and related aspects of our culture, we are able to supersede our difference, defined by this universal appeal of our crafts, our culture.

Crafts speak a universal language and are appreciated across class, gender, race, and all other social barriers that keep us apart.

We should therefore be mindful of and appreciate these powers of crafts to transcend artificial barriers and contribute towards the building of a truly united society.

This year's theme "Celebrating South African Craft, Our Heritage", calls upon us to focus our attention on the richness of South Africa's cultural heritage while mindful of how our arts and crafts can be maximised to improve livelihoods.

For very good reasons government therefore fully endorses and supports the strategic objectives of Heritage Day Celebrations which include:

To showcase the contribution of crafts to economic development of South Africa;
To promote the use of indigenous knowledge to design and produce;
To create an environment for the promotion of South Africa's cultural expressions in South Africa and internationally;
To demonstrate the potential and role of crafts in creating jobs, alleviating poverty and forging of a national identity;
To forge cohesion among crafters and other stakeholders; and
To showcase unique South African crafts products in preparation for 2010 and beyond.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the same time that we focus on matters of providing basic services like housing, water and electricity, it is of lasting benefit to cherish the positive story of our rich cultural heritage.

As you would recall, it was our songs, our poetry and through the arts that we marshalled the struggle for the liberation of our country.

This is why it is so urgent that we resuscitate projects aimed at giving meaning to Ubuntu/ Botho, especially amongst the youth.

A basic principle implied in Ubuntu/Botho urges us to be compassionate to those without food and to be kind to the elderly and infirm.

Our indigenous cultures are tools we can use to heal our broken spirit as a nation and bring back social stability that is threatened by crime, violence against women and children and xenophobic tendencies.

I make this plea at the present time when our people, especially the poorest of the poor, are facing the negative consequences of the global recession.

As government we have put in place, measures and mechanisms to assist those who are struggling to cope with food security, crop failure, high prices and job losses.

Back to the land! Till the Land!

We call on the people to organise themselves and creatively use the craft skills as a measure for self-employment or enterprise development in our effort to counter the job losses under the current economic situation.

Among others, this response seeks to protect the poor, the unemployed and low-income earners from the effects of the recession.

As part of this process, we encourage our people to use their own skills for income generation to minimise the effect of the global recession.

Programme Director,

I am encouraged that one of the strategic objectives of this years' heritage month is 'to showcase the contribution of crafts to economic development' and demonstrate the potential of arts and crafts to in 'creating jobs, alleviating poverty'.

I have a firm belief in the untapped potential of thousands of crafters who can benefit from exposure to buyers locally and internationally.

These are crafters who possess skills that have been handed down from generation to generation, skills such as basket-weaving, pottery, dress-making and instruments- making.

These are directly meant as income generators to improve the livelihood of rural and peri-urban communities especially in the light of international events such as the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Programme director,

Support given by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) to small entrepreneurs in the arts and culture area, especially the craft sector reflects appreciation for the potential and possibilities that resort in this sector.

The Department has been involved in a number of projects in the area of craft, mainly through the Investing in Culture Programme, which was started as part of the Reconstruction and Development Programme's (RDP) Poverty Alleviation Programme of government.

Between 2005 and 2009, a total of 409 projects have been supported to the tune of R255 million through the Investing in Culture Programme.

At least 77 percent of these projects are in the craft area, 7 percent in music, another 7 percent in design, with 8 percent in the performing arts and only 1 percent in film.

The programme has created jobs for 45 percent of the women, 39 percent for the youth, 12 percent for men and 4 percent for the disabled.

We encourage the Department to continue investing in the second economy and use our intangible cultural heritage to derive income and wealth for our nation.

Chairperson I also wish to congratulate David Tlale, a prolific South African designer for the opportunity he received to showcase his clothing range at the New York Fashion Week.

His illustrious designs have earned him a great respect as a fashion designer and role model both at home and abroad.
Once again, his achievements, point to the countless new opportunities opened for our talented artists.

Programme Director,

A lot will be expected from us as the host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

We must take advantage of this soccer spectacle to showcase our rich heritage through our craft, music and dance.

Re tshwanetse go bontsha lefase gore rona re batho bao ba ratago setso sa rena, gomme re rata le baeng ba rena.

We must show the world that we love our culture and that South Africans are indeed hospitable.

Therefore, I urge you all not to underestimate the world's expectation on us.

We are not going to be judged only on the field of play but even on the richness of our cultural heritage.

In your respective homes and communities you need ask yourselves what is it that you are proud of and want to share with the rest of the world during 2010.

Our artists must see this as an opportunity to showcase South Africa's talent and creativity to the world.

In this regard, we should teach the next generation the importance of craft and ensure that we do not lose this talent to amnesia induced by time.

Our appreciation of this aspect of our lives must permeate our daily lives both at the material and conscious level as a people.

Chairperson,

As we celebrate our achievements in this beautiful area of human activity, let us do so knowing that craft, as art, is to human history as precious as the air we breathe.

As the great poet of our people Don Mattera said:

" Afrika, Afrique
Beautiful mother, beloved Continent,
This is your time, your moment, your century
Etched on the golden scroll of history

Afrika, this is your time,
your century, your right
Afrikans arise, unite!

You are the architects of your fate
the victims of self-hate;
bring enlightment, renewal and dignity
no more "sorrow songs' but anthems of victory
astound, confound with unconquerable might,"

May we have an enjoyable Heritage Day...!

I thank you

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