We have gathered here today once again to observe the international Mandela Day. A day in which humanity honour his life’s work and to change the world for the better.
It is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy; it is a global movement for a peaceful and better world.
This is an important event as we celebrate the contribution made by a generation that discovered its mission by working to restore the historical contribution made by Africans and change living reality of the African people for the better.
It is also important because it is an integral part of the South African story.
Through today’s event we herald our history and are proud of those who have played a pivotal role in our struggle for freedom.
Our actions today continues with the work of our forebears, that of building a united, non-racial, non –sexist, democratic and prosperous nation.
Nation building and Social Cohesion is our priority. We can grow this nation if we are aware of our history and proud of our culture.
Vision 2030 remains our destination.
In the National Development Plan executive summary, we state:
“Our new story is open ended with temporary destinations, only for new paths to open up once more. It is a story of unfolding learning. Even when we flounder, we remain hopeful. In this story, we always arrive and depart. We have come some way. We know: What we do, and how we do it, is as important as what we want to achieve. What we are, is because of who we have been and what we want to become. We will continue to make it to make us, because we are happy with being who we are. Who are we? We are Africans. We are an African country. We are part of our multi-national region. We are an essential part of our continent. Being Africans, we are acutely aware of the wider world, deeply implicated in our past and present. That wider world carries some of our inheritance.”
Therefore, what the country needs fundamentally is radical transformation of our society that will give a meaning to be a South African. A society that will be proud of itself and be assertive without being arrogant.
This we believe can be achieved through various means including the services and programmes that can be rendered by the museums of our country and those of the continent.
Efforts in our continent are setting the past aside but not ignoring it. Our people everywhere from north to south of the continent are reclaiming their land, their right to participate in government, their dignity as humans, their nationhood.
In the continent and the South in general debate revolves around the role museums must play in national development: museums are challenged to contribute to the finding of solutions of the problems ranging from conflict resolution to poverty reduction.
African Museums are the institutions that must rise to take their rightful place in this process.
Museums serve a public function as institutions which hold their possessions in trust for humanity and for the future welfare of the human race.
In doing this, the institutions must play the role of bridges, safe democratic spaces for dialogue and fountains of dynamic innovations where cultural knowledge stored within their collections are used to re-imagine its peoples’ lives now and into the future.
Museums in Africa must be at the epicentre of this challenge. They must therefore rise to the occasion and deliver their expected contribution.
Presently as Africa continues to trudge on as a theatre of various kinds of conflicts – conflicts of identity; conflicts of nationhood/statehood; conflicts of access to and exploitation of resources – the institution of museums must step in to play their rightful role in helping to create conditions for the resolution of the challenges.
Arguments for the involvement of contemporary African museums in effective handling of these modern social threats and pressures in the continent cannot be gainsaid.
Public programming and community partnership initiatives towards conflict mitigation and resolution should quickly embrace indigenous cultural heritage.
The project aims at creating new relations between the community and the museum, where the museum has designed a programmes to allow the community to discuss the problems that continues to be affected by it.
Through these programmes the museum is not only working towards equal representation in the society but also safeguarding aspects of intangible heritage according to the new UNESCO Convention of 2006.
To function as sites of memory and remembrance, African museums must be in the forefront of initiatives aimed at taking the continent through the journey of reimagining itself. It is a journey of a continent deconstructing its twisted heritage and re-asserting the truth of its own ways.
Through its indigenous cultural heritage, Africa has no choice but to undertake the proverbial difficult journey of confronting ailments in which unending conflicts and wars seems to dominate.
Essentially, it is the process of Africa re-discovering its true nature, coming to terms with the fundamentals therein and asserting its own choices of building a future informed by the best of its lived heritage.
Museums mission must be in concert with the vision of society prevailing at that historic moment, it is meant to be an instrument of community betterment and not a citadel of scholarship or entertainment exclusively for the privileged few.
Let us work together to move this South African story forward.