Speech delivered by Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi at the opening of 2015 National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape

01 July 2015

Programme director
MEC for Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Dr Pemmy Majodina;
CEO of the National Arts Festival, Mr Tony Lankester;
Distinguished guests;
Artists present;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen

Molweni

Tata Madiba once said,

“Artists reach areas far beyond the reach of politicians. Art, especially entertainment and music, is understood by everybody, and it lifts the spirits and the morale of those who hear it.”

Artists live a life of perpetual struggle. From the days of the liberation struggle to the post-apartheid era, artists are always in the coal face of social movements.

Through their music, paintings, storytelling, they reflect the architecture of their society and thus inspire social change.
They capture the painful rhythms, the aspirations, as well as the agonies and the ecstasies of their society.

We have celebrated a great Africa Month this year. For the first time Government had devoted the month of May to Africa Month. Besides music, dance, fashion and food there were Colloquia by renowned and celebrated authors held in different parts of the country. It was a Festival of Ideas, both motivating and inspiration. I would like to quote two of them.

Nuruddin Farah says, “What we need to do as Africans is not necessarily to open the borders or to open any of these things but to open our minds to education. I looked at the syllabi of many of the schools and the universities and if I went to someone sitting here, though I don’t want to point at anyone and I ask him/her where Somalia was, many would not know, some would even put it in the Middle East! The reason is we have not made Africa, a centre of our thinking we have not acknowledged that side of our lives.”

And Ben Okri stated, “We can never truly see our times in our times. It takes a visionary to see clearly what the times may yet yield in time’s weaving.”

What we have battled with as Africans is to nurture our own African identity and to understand that the power is in our own hands. In addressing the need to popularise our African identity, we encourage every South African to learn to sing the African Union anthem.

For the coming eleven days Grahamstown will reverberate with artistic and cultural expressions that transcend time and space.

The National Arts Festival remains a catalyst for promoting social cohesion and nation building as it continues to bring together artists and audiences from different background and cultures.

The Department of Arts and Culture has committed R15 million towards the National Arts Festival for three years, and 2015/16 financial year will be the end of the contract.

Through the support of the department’s strategic economic policy of Mzantsi Golden Economy, the Festival continues draw and develop audiences, thus creating a number of job opportunities and building markets for the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector.

The sector has always produced prophetic voices, pioneers, visionaries and independent thinkers who have been at the forefront of articulating the aspirations and hopes for a united country and free society.

The Department of Arts and Culture is proud to support the National Arts Festival as it continues to promote and develop the sector.

I thank you.

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