Address by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the launch of the 4th Pan African Cultural Congress at Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg

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25 May 2015
The DM of Arts & Culture, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi
Representatives of the African Union Commission,
Distinguished Delegates present,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Senior Government Officials
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We gather here this morning to observe and celebrate Africa Day.

We gather here within the richest square mile of the South African economy. Despite the inequality and injustice, this stands as a testament to the power of Africa.

We have met here this morning at the beginning of our third decade of democracy and freedom towards radical economic transformation.

Considering who we are and where we come from, one cannot help but be reminded of the urgent need to spread the spirit of African consciousness.

I mention this because it is important that we all work together in the programme to redefine ourselves and our spaces as unmistakably African. Our environment and spaces should articulate express our identity, aspirations and hopes as Africans.

The centrality of this point becomes relevant as we gather in this beautiful country that people mistake for Paris, New York or even London. We are Africans in Africa. It is more than just a state of mind.

We are still confronted by challenges of prejudice and stereotypes, including racism, Afrophobia and sexism. Our people continue to see themselves as not part of Africa.

Thus this gathering is a stepping stone, a platform for embracing that larger identity of being African in the country, the continent and the world!

Indeed embodied in this realization is the transient spirt of a dynamic, forward-moving and progressive Africa tha is destined to emerge as the leader of the world. This is, indeed, an African Century.

Let me declare it that it is our creative intellectuals who must lead the regeneration of the continent. And the men and women gathered here this morning are the leaders of this African Cultural Renaissance!

In this journey towards African self-renewal, I also wish to remind us of the brilliant thoughts and speeches of a pioneer, Pixley ka Seme who already in 1906, called for the “regeneration of Africa”.

The Pan African Cultural Congress taking place in this country means that his dream is being fulfilled. Yes, to paraphrase his words, “a new and unique civilization has been added to the world.”

The time has come for Africa’s renewal to be taken to a higher level by the continents highly gifted creatives: poets, writers, intellectuals, musicians, chefs and artists.

I am happy to say that these are the men and women who are gathered here this morning.

We shall agree that throughout the ages, culture has been a powerful force to bring us together and, ironically, to tear us apart.

But over the years, we have learned to acknowledge and recognize its pivotal role in nation building, social cohesion and promoting better relations among people of the continent.

In fact, we have launched African Month – Festival of Ideas & Cultural Exchange to assert the role of artists and other cultural practitioners as the custodians of the soul of nations in the African continent.

It is for that reason that we are proud to host the 4th Pan African Cultural Congress (PACC) in collaboration with the African Union for Social Affairs.

This happens at a crucial time when South Africa celebrates 21 years of democracy and freedom.

We need to acknowledge and recognize that culture always has been and always will be an important instrument to build a united African continent that stretches from Cape to Cairo.

The theme for this very important conference, Unity in Cultural Diversity for Africa’s Development is intuitively linked to the theme of the Africa Month festival of ideas and cultural exchange, that is, African Unity to promote peace and friendship from Cape to Cairo.

At present all African artists are called upon to mirror the soul of the continent in the fight against all forms of prejudice and stereotypes. It is diverse continent that has given birth to all of us. We have a golden thread that links us all as brothers and sisters.

It is through culture that we are able to articulate and reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people for a united continent.

It is through our cultural celebrations and expressions that we highlight our diversity. This does not mean difference. There ties that tie us are greater than what separates us.

Thus the 4th PACC provides a platform for intellectuals, academics and cultural practitioners from different backgrounds to explore issues of a common African identity.

We believe culture can strengthen the ties that bind us. Essentially, it is intended to foster self-love and pride among the people of the continent.

As South Africa marks the beginning of the third decade of democracy and freedom towards radical economic transformation, we are proud to host this significant cultural conference.

For us, the 4th PACC is a bonus to the plethora of platforms to display and celebrate the best of African creative talent.

It is in this context that South Africa has ratified the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance.

In fact, we believe through this tool, we all can promote Pan–Africanism, cultural renewal and identity to champion the African Agenda.

It is part of the efforts to create a better South Africa in a better Africa and thus ‘give the world a human face.’

For us as a country, it is no accident that the Charter is strongly aligned to, the National Development Plan, the revisions to the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage and the Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy.

As we celebrate Africa Month in the context of 21 years of democracy and freedom, we shall not forget the important role that was played by the African Union and African states in the struggle for liberation in South Africa.

We are proud that the African Union first met on South African soil.

To support the implementation of South Africa’s work on the Charter, we have dedicated the entire month of May in 2015 to Africa Month henceforward.

This is a month long Festival of Ideas and Cultural Exchange that features various arts and culture disciplines including Music, Literature, Dance, Literature, Film, Fashion, Crafts, Theatre, Visual Arts, Panel Discussions and Food Culture amongst others.

We hope some of the performances you will witness and experience during your stay will nourish your souls and inspire your minds.

This cultural celebration, of course, also included this the 4th PACC and a series of other dialogues and seminars.

The big idea is to lay a solid ideological and intellectual foundation to forge African unity.

We are delighted that the people of Africa and the world are gathered in South Africa during this Africa Month as we take the celebration of Africa Day into greater heights.

We believe that in this way we shall remain true to the vision of the Africa Agenda 2063.

God bless Africa!