Address By Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha at The Mukumbani Indigenous Cultural Day

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26 Aug 2006

His Royal Highness, Muhali Kgosi khulu (King) Midiyavhathu Kennedy Tshivhase, Ndi khou lumelisa, the Royal Council of the Tshivhase Territorial Authority, dikgosi, tihosi, mahosi, esteemed, guests from the University of Venda accompanying Project Manager Mr Mugovhani, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the national Department of Arts and Culture, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the invitation to come and celebrate with you today our Indigenous Cultural.

I would like to thank the University of Venda, the Traditional Leadership, the Provincial government and the Local Municipality (Vhembe?) for organising this event that involves both the indigenous communities and the academia in the collection and promotion of our living heritage.

When our Department took the decision to forge partnerships with the Universities of Venda, Fort Hare and Zululand to pursue research in the area of Indigenous Music and Oral History, we did so because we began to realise, and indeed, appreciate the wealth of knowledge and skills which our people are endowed with, that remains largely untapped.

This knowledge, which is inherent in our rural communities, relates to indigenous food, indigenous music, craft, indigenous herbs and medicine and traditional practices and belief systems that have sustained our communities over many centuries. It is the glue that has bound us together as a people.

This indigenous knowledge produced and moulded women and men and also nurtured them to live in harmony with one another, at peace with their neighbours and at peace with nature.

This rich indigenous knowledge was disregarded by the previous colonial and apartheid regimes. Our forebears were treated like strangers in the country of their birth. They lost their dignity and respect, and above all, their fundamental human rights.

Our new democratic dispensation has ensured that these fundamental human rights are entrenched in our Constitution to provide for the restoration and protection of these rights.

Section 30 of our Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their chose, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of rights”.

Section 31 states: “(1) Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right with other members of that community (a) to enjoy their culture, practice their religion and use their language and (b) to form, join and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic association and other organs of civil society; (2) The rights in sub-section (1) may not be exercised in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.”

We, therefore, cannot allow a situation where the dominant culture in this country remains that of expatriates while our own culture is being undermined and marginalised.

We have allocated funds to the University of Venda to design a project which is aimed at salvaging our indigenous knowledge from cultural annihilation by collecting, documenting, preserving and promoting our intangible cultural heritage.

The University has been doing research in the history, culture, language and music of the people of this Province, as the first phase of the project. I am made to understand that the second phase will focus on the production of books and publications that will be used at our schools and other institutions of higher learning so that South Africa can benefit from this vast knowledge of our people.

You might ask why our government is placing so much emphasis and investing financial resources in this project and other similar projects.

As a country we need to reach a level of awareness that will enable all South Africans, young and old, to begin to appreciate and enjoy their culture as an integral part of being South African.

To be able to do this, we need to know where we come from in order to know who we are and where we ought to go.

Sir Seretse Khama, the first President of a liberated Botswana, is often quoted as having said: “A nation without a past, is a lost nation; a people without a past, is a people without a soul”. Our own former President Nelson Mandela has said that what this country needs is an RDP of the soul.

At the heart of this effort by the University of Venda, is the regeneration of our soul – the rebirth of our nation.

We need to mainstream South African indigenous music and make it accessible to a wide variety of interest groups, including music educators, ethnomusicologists, sound archivists, performers, students at tertiary and school levels.

I would like to talk a little bit more about indigenous food and indigenous music and dance, seeing that today we will be singing and dancing and eating.

Research conducted by the Food Technology division of the CSIR has shown conclusively that the nutritional and medicinal value of indigenous food and drinks surpass any other food products by far.

Most of the food products can be found in our own gardens or can be harvested freely in our own localities.

In the olden days, our mothers and grandmothers would pick a specific type of wild vegetation to cook a sumptuous meal. In those days no family would go to sleep at night with any food.

In this province you will be familiar with food products like gushe, tinjie, maraca, dinawa and thokojifa.

The same applies to indigenous music. African people are naturally musical. They are gifted with talent in music.

Our musical heritage offers the potential for significant economic growth and a significant contribution to the GDP.

We have yet to undertake a more scientific research to determine the potential contribution of traditional music and dance to the creative economy. However, judging by the phenomenal international success of traditional groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Juluka and Jazz artists such as Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbulu and Miriam Makeba, we are certain that this country has great potential in the export of cultural products, which potential has currently not been optimally exploited.

We can safely say that our indigenous knowledge, specifically our indigenous music, is a niche market, which can be harnessed to boost the second economy and bring financial independence to many artists and musicians in rural areas.

In his speech delivered at the Heritage Day celebrations in Taung ( North West) last year, President Mbeki challenged government departments to find ways in which our cultural heritage can be harnessed for socio-economic development.

He said (I quote):

“We have not done enough to articulate and elaborate on what Ubuntu promoting this important value-system in a manner that should define the unique Africa. Indeed there has not been a campaign to ensure that Ubuntu become being South Africa.”

This project that we are celebrating today in which we are identifying and promoting the traditional culture of the people of Limpopo, will also assist our Department of Arts and Culture in its strategy to identify indigenous knowledge, food, dance and oral history that will bring back and promote this unique South African phenomenon of Ubuntu.

As you have correctly said it in your invitation Mr Mugovhani:

“The time has come for African universities to carry the flag for African civilizations. This challenge includes leading the process of cultural emancipation within our communities”

The thrust of this project is the promotion of indigenous music. Researchers have, in the past, largely ignored the practitioners of indigenous music. These practitioners, however, lack the financial capital and managerial skills to promote their own music. Yet, they do have a great music potential.

Indigenous music needs to be disseminated by modern technological means for use in schools, universities and the recording industry so that it can be experienced and enjoyed by everyone.

Ultimately, the artists should be able to generate enough revenue to earn a decent income from their productions and performances, so that they can attain financial independence.

The medium of music and dance is not only just a source of income for the practioners and musicians. It is the strongest medium that South Africans of all colour race and creed can reach out to each other as equal members of the same society.

The ability of South Africans to make music has endured over a number of years. Generations of South Africa have used the medium of music to come to terms with the social and economic realities and as a medium to communicate with nature and with God.

Music has characterized almost all stages of human development. It has been used during birth, initiation, marriage, war and death.

During the period when conventional forms of protest were banned in South Africa, music in the form of struggle songs, toyi-toyi and Jazz at home and in the diaspora, became central in the transmission of critical messages and inspiring hope amongst the oppressed people of this country. It is important to celebrate this music of the liberation of South Africa.

There are songs that tell stories about our pre-colonial societies and communities – epitomising and articulating values, norms and morals that those societies and communities observed and respected. They tell stories about how such communities related to and interacted with each.

Before I conclude, programme director, I would like to highlight some of our department’s expectations from this project.

Firstly, I would like to encourage the University of Venda to continue with the good work they are doing in this Province and I want to emphasise our expectations, as government, that our partnership should result in the publishing of books and other learning material that will ultimately find their way into the curriculum of our schools and other institutions of learning.

I would like to end my address to you with another quote from President Mbeki during his Heritage Day address where he says:

“as we dance, sing eat and drink from the same source, we are forging a new society which knows no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, ethnicity, gender. We need to break down racial, tribal and gender boundaries and instead invoke the traditions that bind us as a nation, as South Africans and as human beings.”

Your Royal Highness, mahosi, makgosi, Honourable members of the Management of the University of Venda, Project Manager, Mr George Mugovhani, Programme Director, Honourable guests, I now have the privilege and the pleasure to announce the second phase of the Research Project – “The historical and cultural foundations of the indigenous music of the people of the Limpopo Province”. I wish the research team every success in this venture.

May you all have wonderful Cultural Day.

Ndo livhuwa, Thank You