Heritage Month speech by Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi at the National Council of Provinces

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22 Sep 2015

During the month of September, this year in particular, we have decided to use this theme to identify, promote and preserve our intangible cultural heritage or what we commonly refer to as Living Heritage in South Africa.

Living Heritage is the foundation of most communities in South Africa. It is an essential source of identity and continuity. Aspects of Living Heritage may include: cultural tradition, oral history, performance, ritual, popular memory, skills and techniques, indigenous knowledge systems; and the holistic approach to nature, society and social relationships.

Honourable Chairperson, in the African context, it is an established fact that the advent of colonialism with its concomitant wars of dispossession caused havoc to our cultural traditions and customs that had kept intact the social and economic fabric of our precolonial societies for centuries.

Colonial rulers knew that military subjugation of indigenous people was not going to lead to total subjugation and the ultimate achievement of the colonial agenda. They therefore systematically eroded and corroded indigenous cultures by projecting and portraying them as backward. A large number of people began to despise these cultures and traditions and got assimilated into the Western ways of living.

Wars of dispossession robbed Africans of their land and livelihood and created artificial families where the elders in society live in rural areas and men and women of working age live in towns and cities.

This has created generations of South Africans who are deprived of their indigenous knowledge as a direct result of the destruction of the African extended family. Despite this new wave of colonialism and the subsequent imposition of western cultures and traditions; some men and women within the indigenous populations took it upon themselves to keep these traditions for future generations – hence we still have them today.

Honourable Chairperson, it is against this background that during the month of September we celebrate our traditional music, our indigenous food and drinks, our cultural traditions, our rituals, our traditional practices, our belief systems, our skills, our techniques and our holistic relationship with nature and the universe.

During the month of September we celebrate all the men and women who have kept our traditions alive. We celebrate the crafters, the sculptures, the weavers, the musicians, the poets, the writers, the storytellers, the trackers, the healers and the builders from Africa who inherited their skills from their elders.

During Heritage month we celebrate omama Madosini, mama Noria Mabasa, baba Credo Mutwa and all our heroes and heroines who have upheld and kept alive our indigenous knowledge despite centuries of oppression and suppression.

Our parents and grandparents planted their own indigenous crops and had livestock to feed their families. All traditional communities had their traditional healers for most known ailments. Household utensils, clothing items and weapons were made within families and the wider community.

Our families ate healthy organic foodstuffs that were widely available in the neighbourhood and our mothers brewed their own healthy beer which was shared by the elders without being sold for profit.

We began this month with the launch of the sixth National Book Week under the two faceted theme “Hash tag Going Places”…..Hash tag Buy a Book”.

 #GOINGPLACES, reflects the physical journey of National Book Week travelling throughout South Africa, as well as the magic of books and how reading books can both figuratively and literally take you places.

 #BUYABOOK at a minimal cost of R2O and donate it to others.

It aims to create better-informed and self-reliant communities by investing in the literacy of young people and underprivileged adults.

In a bid to restore, protect, preserve and promote living heritage, Government has produced the draft policy on the promotion and protection of South Africa’s living heritage. We have started a programme of identifying and recognising our Living Human Treasures or Living Legends. This programme was launched by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Honourable Nathi Mthethwa on the 25th of August in Johannesburg.

During the launch we identified and invited about 80 South Africans who are over 70 years old and have excelled in various areas of indigenous knowledge.

We are planning to extend this programme so that these elders will be integrated into our schooling programme so that they will teach their skills and pass their knowledge to future generations. By so doing, our indigenous knowledge will never die.

Together with the Department of Trade and Industry, and the South African Music Rights Organization (SAMRO) we participated at a music workshop / master classes hosted as part of a legacy project for the annual Royal Heritage Festival in Thohoyandou wherein approximately 200 local artists attended. The workshop was facilitated by Selaelo Selota.

On the 11th of September, Honourable Members, as part of heritage month, our President, His Excellency Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, officially opened the Matola Raid Memorial and Interpretive Centre in Mozambique. This memorial was built to honour Umkhonto Wesizwe combatants and one Mozambican national who were killed by the apartheid South African Defence Force during a raid in 1981. For the first time since raid, this project made it possible for the few survivors and family members to meet in Matola to pay homage to their comrades and their loved ones. As government, we see this as part of the healing process.

Honourable Members, from the 10th till the 12th we held the annual Moshito conference in partnership with the SABC. During this event we bring together all role players in the music industry where skills are shared ranging from business skills and artists are assisted in marketing themselves.

On the 15th of this month, the Minister of Arts and Culture launched the National Heritage Monument through unveiling the first 55 life sized statues of men and women of all races who fought against colonialism and apartheid. These statues will be amongst the 400 statues that will form the focal point of the National Heritage Monument taking shape in Groenkloof Pretoria.

The Monument will form an everlasting tribute to the fight against dispossessions, colonialism and apartheid. This project is the first of its kind in the history of South Africa, where in one space, you have historical figures from the precolonial, colonial and apartheid era being showcased as the true testimony to their contribution in shaping the democratic South Africa that we have today.

The statues pay tribute to heroes and heroines ranging from David Stuurman, Klaas Stuurman, King Sekhukhune, Bishop Colenso, Inkosi Bhambatha, Chief Adam Kok, Father Trevor Huddleston, Lillian Ngoyi, Walter and Albert Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko and many more. This project is indeed a nation building project because it recognises people across race, colour, ethnicity, gender, creed and political affiliations.

On the 16th of September the President held a meeting with South African artists who have organised themselves into a single organisation so that they can speak with one voice representing the industry. These men and women will represent the interests of artists from all walks of life.

The department has also been busy promoting social cohesion and nation building by installing flags and flag poles at South African schools. During this month we have installed flags, promoted the preamble of the Constitution and national identity at various schools in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng and plan to continue to ensure that every school in South Africa hoists the national flag and that scholars sing both the African Union and South African anthems

Honourable members, on Thursday South Africa will be celebrating Heritage Day and the national event will be held at Mokomeni village in Ramokgopa, Limpopo.

During this day we will be showcasing and celebrating our craft, our pottery, our food, our song and dance and our traditional medicine.

Our elders who have kept our indigenous knowledge alive will be celebrated and will be our honoured guests. Some of our Legends will be entertaining us during the Heritage Day event.

By honouring these men and women, we are ensuring that their knowledge, their art, their skills and their techniques are passed over to future generations and that South Africa can use its indigenous knowledge to provide healthy and affordable food. Our indigenous medicine can contribute to the fight against diseases.

Our people can make a living through their handicraft and pottery and our indigenous musicians can take their rightful place in the world of music.

Honourable members, Have a Happy Heritage Day