Address by Minister Nathi Mthethwa, at the National Indaba on the Revision of the white paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage, Cedarwoods Johannesburg

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26 Nov 2015
Programme Director
MECs and HODs present
Esteemed members of the Reference Group
Distinguished Guests
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We meet today on what is and surely must be described as a historical occasion.
Gathered in this room are the intellect and resources that must set and drive a new agenda for the arts in South Africa.
When future generations look back, it must be with the understanding that this gathering shaped the arts landscape decisively and activated a new movement for change, that it became a catalyst for the radical transformation of the sector.
When the Graduates of 2035 look back at the timeline of this particular historical period, they must be able to say that the year 2015 ended on a high note with this gathering of the arts, culture and heritage sector reaching agreement on the future of the arts and planning the roadmap that lies ahead.
They must recognize that the struggle for freedom of expression and creativity described in the Bill of Rights has been a long one.
The weight of history did not deter those who fought for this freedom. Three hundred years of colonial rule, segregationist policies and apartheid had disrupted and destroyed our people’s lives.
The arts, culture and heritage landscape that was our inheritance was a harsh reality, whereby the cultural life of the majority and their institutions was largely decimated and diluted.
Repressive and inhuman legislation had promoted apartheid culture at the expense of all others and ensured divide and rule. The systematic creation of towns on the one hand and townships and “bantustans” on the other through land dispossession and forced removals prevented the emergence of a unified culture.
Instead people were stripped of their sense of identity, dignity and purpose, their creativity and freedom; and the humanizing spirit and consciousness that the arts bring to people’s lives.
The very formation of the South African Native National Congress later to become the ANC was to bring Africans together in a political union, but also address matters of culture, society and customs.
The Freedom Charter of 1955, among other clauses, declares: “The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Open to All.”
From the Morogoro Conference of the ANC to Kabwe, culture would find a place on the agenda. In the 1980s under the leadership of Comrade OR Tambo, cultural workers began to form ensembles that travelled the world explaining the struggle for freedom. The ANC began to organize conferences devoted to culture. Intellectuals like Albie Sachs entered the fray. National discussions ensued. Arts organisations mobilized and arranged debates.
The foundations of a nonracial, non-sexist democratic South Africa were being laid.
By the time the then Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology began its work, there was already a long history of engagements on what the arts landscape should look like.
But the White Paper was also a product of its times.
It was crafted at a period in our history where a negotiated settlement had been reached, when the liberation struggle had been victorious and where the dismantling of apartheid legislation was an immediate priority.
This is not to say that the White Paper adopted in 1996 did not bear fruit. In fact, the 1996 White Paper served us well as a Policy Paper; and many of its pillars became the fundamentals for the democratisation of the arts in the post 1994 period.
The 1996 White Paper paid attention to the arts in relation to goals of reconciliation, the meeting of basic needs, building the economy and human resource development.
It called for “building new audiences and developing new markets” and “supporting the growth and sustainability of a range of art festivals”. It called for tax incentives for business.
The White Paper proposed “new policies and institutional frameworks”, among these a National Arts Council, a National Monuments Council, a National Geographical Names Change Division, a National Heritage Council.
For the most part these councils were established and resourced. Transformation would be at the heart of their agenda.
But given the extent to which apartheid had controlled all aspects of people’s lives and livelihoods and the very landscape itself, the wheels of change have moved slower than what we would have liked.
In this way, the 1996 White Paper also had limitations.
Much has changed in the period since the adoption of the White Paper in 1996.
The public consultation processes that have taken place in all provinces have provided a critique and policy gaps.
There is a need for a uniting vision, a call to action, providing real hope for change.
The participation of previously disadvantaged groups in the arts, culture and heritage value chain needs to be put at the centre of the arts agenda.
There needs to be alignment with the National Development Plan, the African Union Agenda 2063 and other government-wide and continental policy and legislative frameworks.
This revision of the White Paper should provide leadership in the nation building and social cohesion agenda of the nation. There is a need for the moral regeneration and renewal agenda to be at the forefront of the nation building and social cohesion project.
There is a great need for South Africa to talk more to itself. South Africans should engage in dialogues at various levels to talk about issues that matter to them.
There is a need to look at governance structure and restructure the institutional arrangements within government and re-align the Public Entities of the DAC as there is a lot of duplication of mandates and operations.
There is a need for intervention in the economic transformation of the sector and sustaining livelihoods
With all these gaps and challenges in mind, I have appointed an eminent reference group that will provide advice and guidance on the content and quality of the revised White Paper.
The composition of the “White Paper Reference Panel” is as follows:
Prof Muxe Nkondo
Ms Avril Joffe:
Prof. Andries Oliphant
Prof. Somadoda Fikeni
Professor Ann Marie-Beukes
Mr Tony Kgoroge
Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa
Ms Noluthando Gosa
I am pleased that they are on board and are committed and ready to get down to work.
Following this National Indaba on 26 and 27 November 2015, there will also be consultation with arts disciplines or sub-sectors. We envisage that a Draft will be taken to Cabinet and thereafter Portfolio and select committees before the end of the financial year.
As we embark upon the final stages of the processes, let us emphasise that the adoption of the National Development Plan (NDP), a road map for South Africa’s development over the next 20 years, has been a significant milestone.
The National Development Plan states that:
“Arts and culture open powerful spaces for debate about where a society finds itself and where it is going. Promoted effectively, the creative and cultural industries can contribute substantially to small business.”
The great African intellectual, Frantz Fanon, whose words still ring true today, reminds us that:
“…Cultural transformation cannot be fulfilled under colonial occupation, but only through national liberation…It is national liberation which leads the nation to play its part on the stage of history. It is at the heart of national consciousness that international consciousness lives and grows. And this two-fold emerging is ultimately the source of all culture."
Let this quotation serve as a reminder that arts and culture, freedom and consciousness go together.
Let this become be our rallying call as we transform the arts.
I wish you well in your deliberations.