Address by Deputy-Minister Ntombazana Botha at the Third Annual South African Literary Awards Ceremony held At Vodaworld, Midrand
08 December 2007
Programme Director, Mr. Makhene
Fellow project partners, the wRite associates
Media Partners – Nutrend Publishing and Sowetan
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Ms Nadine Gordimer
MEC Masuku, MEC for Public Works, Mpumalanga
Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen
I feel extremely privileged to be invited by the Project Director of the South African Literary Awards, Mr Seakhoa, to address you this evening and to hand over the prestigious awards for literary excellence to the winners. This ceremony is usually addressed by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr Pallo Jordan, but he is presently out of the country, so, Raks requested me to perform this task which I humble accepted. Of course, the Department of Arts and Culture is one of the founding partners and we are very proud to be associated with this initiative.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate all those who have been nominated and those who will receive awards tonight. I understand that the literary works are of a very high standard. I would like to assure you that your contribution to our nation is much appreciated as it enhances our efforts as government , of building our nation.
I have been informed that there are five (5) literary award categories to be handed out today are:
- The Literary Lifetime Achievement Awards
- The Literary Posthumous Awards
- The K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award (for young writers)
- The Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award for writing in African languages; and
- The Literary Journalism Award
These awards, I believe, are intended recognise and honour those South Africans who have done and those who are doing excellent work in the field of South African literature.
Of course, the publicity which comes with these awards is also intended to have benefits beyond the immediate recognition of the winner.
It is, indeed, pleasing to learn that in addition to honouring and paying homage to living literary practitioners and legends as well as those who have passed on, this initiative has or should consider other important objectives.
Firstly, it seeks to raise awareness about the death of good literature written in the various African languages which are spoken in our country. The Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award, for example, should encourage more people to write in their own home languages. It should assist us in our search for new writers in the African languages.
These awards, I believe, have generated considerable publicity for new literary works as well as for the writers themselves who write in our African languages.
It is in the interest of all of us to publicise good literature and make it easily available and by so-doing promote the culture of reading amongst our people. In this way, also, the market for literary works will expand.
Another objective should be to improve the literature value chain. When the market for literary works expands, other literary activities, such as proof-reading, translation, editing, book designing, critiquing, printing, publishing, language competence and reading, will also be enhanced and many more job opportunities will be created. All those who have an interest and a stake in our literary culture should benefit.
I think that another objective should be the promotion of excellence and professionalism especially in the designing and printing of books.
South Africans have many stories to tell so there can be no shortage of literature or lack of job opportunities. There are further spin-offs for performing arts and visual arts. The list is endless.
The Department of Arts and Culture initiated a Ga mohle Oral History Project last year which was successfully concluded this year. This year we also launched the Mdantsane Women’s Oral History Project. It is our intention to embark on a nationwide oral history project next year.
These are stories which will be written in the African languages. I am telling this so that you are aware of what is coming. South African Literary Awards must be prepared. Indeed, these stories are part of our heritage and should be preserved. As I have so often said: “it is important to tell our stories to the younger generation while time still permits. Our parents and our grandparents, who are bearers of this memory, may not be around for much longer. Yet, they are the custodians of this memory. We should not miss the opportunity of documenting the authentic history our people, lest history judge us harshly.”
It is my view that literary development in South Africa is making tremendous strides and this development has encouraged the emergence of a new generation of writers and poets.
Last year in December Prof. Keorapetse Kgositsile was awarded the South African National Poet Laureate. He is also unable to be with us tonight as he has accompanied the Minister to India. I am proud to report that Prof Kgositsile has already engaged the young people in literary programmes in his field.
I was extremely happy when the Literary Posthumous Awards were introduced last year and among those that were awarded was the late Bessie Head. It is important to acknowledge the contribution made by women in South African literature. Women should be encouraged to write.
We congratulate all the recipients and nominees of the South African Literary Awards: well done!
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our fellow partners in the development of the South African Literary Awards programme, particularly as re-publishing of the awardees’ work become part and parcel thereof. By so-doing they will also be sharing their stories with the broader South African society.
We hope that this initiative, now in its third year, will be supported by many of our literary scholars and academic institutions. It is also important that learners be encouraged to see the value of following a career in literature.
We also hope that these Awards will encourage other publishers to come on board and be active on the literary scene, by publishing, re-publishing, advertising and distributing more of the new literary works, particularly, more those written in the African languages.
We would like to invite the corporate sector to strengthen this public-private partnership and to continue to support and develop the South African Literary Awards initiative.
In conclusion let me, once again thank and congratulate the staff of the founding and organising partner, the wRite associates, for the job well done. The work begun must continue.
I thank you!!!