Address by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha opening the Arts and Culture Fashion seminar at the Sanlam SA Fashion Week

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14 Mar 2008

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is indeed a pleasure to be invited, once again, to open the 5th Annual Arts and Culture Fashion Seminar. This is the fourth year that the Department of Arts and Culture is supporting this initiative. I am delighted to see the tremendous progress we have made, in both the quality and scope of the content of the seminar programme as well as the marked increase in the number of delegates.

I hope that the knowledge and experience you have gained by attending this seminar has been valuable in enhancing your careers. But, I would actually love to hear from each of the participants themselves- those of you who have been attending this seminar for the past three or four years. What difference has it actually made in YOUR life and your career? I would appreciate it if you could please drop me an e-mail at deputym@dac.gov.za.

Before I go into the 'business of fashion', I would like to welcome all the delegates who are attending this seminar and also extend a special word of welcome to our international guests - our sisters and brothers from the African continent and beyond. This is your other home. Thank you for coming to share with us your ideas, your wisdom and your experiences and I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country.

The theme for this year's Sanlam SA Fashion Week is "The Business of Fashion". I understand that, amongst other topics, you will be discussing how to start a fashion business, fashion trends, branding, etc.

Whilst I do understand and appreciate the importance of focusing on these issues, I am also aware that you will be touching on another aspect which I consider as being equally important and that is the presentation by the UNESCO representative, Mojisola Okuribido-Seriki. I understand that she will speak on "cultural heritage and diversity". This issue is particularly relevant to us in South Africa.

Fashion in South Africa is more than just an art and a business. Fashion has actually revitalised our rich cultural diversity. It has made a huge contribution towards shaping, not only individual identity, but also our national identity in diversity. It has served as a catalyst for restoring the pride and dignity of our people. s a country of many diverse cultures, languages and traditions. It is amongst the richest countries in the developing world in terms of mineral resources, indigenous knowledge, heritage and culture. Rich cultural traditions like dress, crafts, art and design are integral to our way of life. However, we do also recognise that cultural pride, individual identity and the need to belong is a global phenomenon.

Sometimes I ask myself this question: What makes us SoSometimes I ask myself this question: What makes us South African? Is it the diversity of our cultures and traditions that gives us our identity? Is it our national symbols like the protea, the springbok or our national flag or our many different languages, dress and traditions? What makes us unique? South African contemporary fashion is a combination of all these - a synthesis of indigenous, colonial, western and modern ideas. Many designers get their inspiration for their designs from these strands. The Tsonga community, for example, have liberalised the shibhelana, which is a traditional gathered skirt that is made of cloth which historically had symbolism attached to it. It is worn with two coloured cloths that criss-cross each other and with a colourful décor of beads and appliqué. It is interesting to note that a variation of the shibhelana has, in recent years, been made fashionable by designers. This is a typical example of the fusion of culture and modern dress. The younger South African generation, however, seem to embrace the funky look which takes its inspiration from the rap and hip-hop culture.

Fashion in SA has come to incorporate a significant expression of cultural identity inspired by African culture and heritage. South Africans are proud of their heritage and are increasingly preferring to wear African clothes to the European fashions or American sportswear brands with which they compete in the global market. l that we preserve and incorporate our heritage in all aspects of our lives, including fashion, so as to instill a sense of pride and patriotism in our people and especially the youth of our country.

Our Department of Arts and Culture has, therefore, committed itself to create an enabling environment for designers to unleash their creativity. We would like designers to recognise the role of fashion in the promotion of our culture and we would encourage them to effectively use this space to showcase their products and their creativity.

Design is a powerful tool that can be harnessed to meet the social and economic needs of our people and thus bring about change for a better life. This is a unique industry which is artistic and creative but also very demanding.

One of the most reassuring things about the fashion industry is that one designer can go it alone. There is always that space to experiment and perfect your designs and become a successful entrepreneur in your own right. I know it has been the dream of many of you to establish your own fashion design businesses and I do believe that, if you have the passion, you will live out your dream and be counted among the great designers in the world. We are confident that this platform created through the Arts and Culture Seminar will continue to increase awareness and offer opportunities for new entries of designers into the industry, and crafters and product developers and skills development in the sector.

The creativity of our people needs to be developed and harnessed. Our nation is endowed with a wealth of diverse cultural tradition and our artistic talent is phenomenal. Development programmes and projects like the fusion concept must utilise the diversity of talents and maximise these artistic assets to create jobs and create access to the sector.

Our collaboration with the Sanlam SA Fashion Week is also yielding positive results and it offers a viable platform for aspirant Fashion Designers to pursue this exciting and exhilarating career. The Ministry and the Department of Arts and Culture would like to convey our thanks and appreciation to Sanlam and the organisers and sponsors of this event for their continued support and for this rewarding partnership.

We hope that all the delegates will be inspired by the speakers and by their presentations and that you will leave here with lots of ideas and inspiration for your exquisite designs. Fashion, as you know, has no rules. It is diverse, it is dynamic. It only demands creativity and innovation. Only dreamers flourish in this business. So, I encourage you to keep on dreaming.

This seminar is now duly opened and I wish you all very successful and fruitful deliberations. Enjoy the glitz and the glamour of Fashion Week.

I thank you.