The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) warmly welcomes the appointment of Mr Nathi Mthethwa as the Minister of Arts and Culture. We are pleased to have someone of his calibre and experience, leading the arts, culture and heritage sector and look forward to his direction.
In welcoming the new Minister, we have been disturbed by the perception created in the media that Arts and Culture is a junior department and that the appointment of Minister Nathi Mthethwa ought to be seen as a demotion.
The Department of Arts and Culture out rightly rejects this perception. While the DAC may be one of the smaller departments in terms of the numbers of personnel, as well as the size of its budget, however this is no measure of the lack of significance of the portfolio.
Up until the advent of democracy, the apartheid system fanned the fires of division and encouraged a people who were divided along the lines of race, culture, gender, ethnicity, class and religion. All kinds of divisions were brought to the fore and people were divided in a myriad of ways.
The arts and culture portfolio is crucial to the building of a South African nation and the nurturing of social cohesion. The role of arts and culture in encouraging a culture of reading and thinking cannot be underestimated. The building of community libraries is a flagship programme of the Department; to date no less than 56 community libraries have been built through the Community Libraries Conditional Grant. The Department also hosts community conversations and social dialogues together with provinces and municipalities to find common ground on solutions to our challenges.
Legacy projects such as Freedom Park and geographic name changes came about as a result of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as part of the symbolic ways in which the democratic government can address some of the hurts and divisions of the past.
The National Archives and Records Services of South Africa performs a valuable role as the repository of national records and is the memory bank of the South African people.
The heritage landscape was transformed from an apartheid reality to reflect the true history and culture of all South Africans. The Department has funded community arts centres and playhouses in order to ensure that artists would have the space to perform and express themselves.
The Department of Arts and Culture has contributed to flourishing creative industries and a healthy democracy where freedom of expression, and of creativity thrives. Entrepreneurs in areas as diverse as film, the music business, fashion, books and publishing have emerged as a result of government programmes and interventions. Supporting festivals around the country, including in small towns, help to bolster local economies, including domestic tourism.
Much work remains to be done. The work of the Department restores dignity and encourages a sense of self-esteem and pride. This change in mindset produces a deeper consciousness and a more caring society. Under the leadership of Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi we will continue to fulfill this mission.
For more information: Lisa Combrinck at 082 821 4886
Mack Lewele at 082 450 5076