Address by Minister Pallo Jordan at the occasion of the Night of 50's gala event/Awards ceremony

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25 Nov 2005

Programme Director
Colleagues
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen and
All protocol observed!

It is a great honour for me to be addressing this kind of an audience that is mostly made up of our musicians, people who have spent their lives before audiences.

In the State of the Nation Address on the 14 of February 2003, President Mbeki referred to the critical role that the New Partnership for African Development, NEPAD, is playing in knitting together the peoples of Africa. This thrust was heralded by the formation of the African Union amongst whose principal aims is to translate NEPAD into concrete projects that will impact positively on the lives of the people of this continent. ?In the implementation of our programmes, the President said ?we need to pay particular attention to culture, music and arts as the manifestation of our self-image??.

The 1950s was a decade that has rightly been called the fighting fifties. It was during those ten years that the movement for liberation forged the alliances and the democratic fronts that finally brought us freedom in 1994. It is the leaders of our people who emerged during that decade who crafted the strategic decisions that took our struggle forward and who were abler to bring it to a successful conclusion.

At the core of those democratic forces who came into their own during the 1950s were the Black working people of the urban areas. This was a new breed of African who had been separated from the rural areas by economic circumstance and determined to make their way and build their future in the urban areas. The racist regime did everything in its power to discourage, persecute and otherwise make them feel unwelcome in the cities and the towns, but they refused to submit, laying claim to every inch of the country as their home.

It was this class who produced the music we are celebrating this evening. It is these Black working people, tempered in the crucible of struggles, who inspired this music and drew from it the sustenance, the strength, the resilience and the humour to sustain their humanity in spite of the burdens they were forced to bear. Through this music the urban Black working people could maintain a dialogue with their past, while never missing a beat in the present, but with their eyes firmly fixed on the future.

In 2004 my department honoured one of the icons of South African culture, Miriam Makeba in recognition of the contribution she made through her art to the liberation struggle in South Africa and southern Africa. But it is equally true to say that Sis? Zenzi was merely the representative of a generation, because all the musicians we are honouring here tonight, in their ways also made their contribution to the struggle in South Africa and the region. Travelling from here into the neighbouring countries and as far afield as Kenya and Uganda, they also carried with them that spirit of pan-Africanism that animated their music.

On that occasion she pledged to donate her audio and audio-visual collections to the National Film, Video and Sound Archives. That event, especially the performers who attended it, brought home to us that we had living in our midst, living archives of an important chapter in the cultural history of this country.

This event will be an annual event, beginning with the musicians of the 1950?swe will trace this heritage forwards and sometimes backwards both to unearth the stories, recollections and biographies of these notables of the past, but more importantly to preserve them for the future.

This is a South African project, so it will seek to cover the whole country. Gauteng province, as both the economic hub and the main centre of cultural production will at first have a higher profile than other provinces. But we shall be taking this event from province to province as well as a token of its inclusive character and to make sure that we reach past performers wherever they are.

Our purpose, I must confess, includes the selfish motive of encouraging performers and musicians to deposit their audio and visual collections with the national archives.

As we know, it was the practice in our racist past not include the systematic collection of archival materials about the Black majority, let alone their cultural life, among the missions of the archives. We have, as a nation, inherited an archives with a huge gap in it. We have the opportunity to correct that while we have our living archives with us.

Ladies and gentlemen, in honouring the artists we have here with us tonight, we are trying to give expression to the gratitude and appreciation of a grateful people. It was a long time coming. Thank You for persevering even when it was impossibly tough. Thank you for keeping alive the hope of a better day with your music; with your humour; with your joy in life; with your determination never to give up!

Some of us might want to say: congratulations, thank you, hurrah, yippie and all those other signs of approbation. But it was a job well done.

When we cast our eyes back over the decades and everything that was done to repress, suppress and discourage authentic forms of cultural expression, many will marvel that you survived at all. I am sure you will all rise to give a well deserved round of applause to the stars of the ?50s!

Thank you!

Please enjoy what promises to be a great evening.
Z. Pallo Jordan (M.P)