Launch of the 2010 Soccer World Cup and 2010/2011 Artistic Programme at Windybrow Theatre

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09 Jun 2010

Programme Director
CEO of the Windybrow Theatre, Mr Vuyo Maphela
Artistic Director of the Windybrow Theatre, Mr Jerry Pooe
Arts Practitioners
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

We meet here tonight at a time when the whole of South Africa is in a joyous mood and where we are counting the hours rather than the days to the opening ceremony of the first World Cup on African soil.

Our citizens are celebrating and all of Africa is waiting in anticipation of the first song to be sung and the first whistle to be blown.

People are walking the streets of our land in football shirts and blowing vuvuzelas. Flags are to be found everywhere from shopping centres to cars. Our people are rallying behind Bafana Bafana and all our African football teams.

Only two nights ago President Zuma addressed dignitaries gathered at a State Banquet welcoming FIFA and he reminded all of us of the road we have travelled to reach this page in our history. The President said; and I quote:

“It is the sacrifices and suffering of many South Africans that brought us to the point where the international community could entrust us with such a responsibility.

It is the sacrifices of our African brothers and sisters on the continent, the Diaspora and indeed many in the world over.

They refused to rest until South Africa was free of apartheid oppression. The World Cup is their celebration too.”

It is in this spirit of the quest for Continental unity and the knowledge of how powerful Africa can be if all Africans work together, that we meet here tonight to launch the Windybrow Theatre 2010 World Cup Artistic Programme and indeed their entire programme for the period 2010 to 2011.

The Windybrow Theatre has historically been the site for very interesting artistic productions over the years. Many of you who are present here today can recall the times when it used to be the centre of artistic vibrancy. It provided space for artists who at the time had few other opportunities to present their work and it created platforms for new voices to be heard at a time when the state-owned performing arts councils had yet to be transformed. The Windybrow used to be a hub of activity as regards classical music, contemporary productions, children’s arts classes, women’s festivals and Heritage events, including theatrical production of Indigenous set-works.

It is time that we revitalize this institution so that once more it becomes a voice for a generation and it takes its rightful place in the eyes of our nation as a welcoming space for creativity and innovation and for artists to showcase their talents.

But more than just renewing its mandate, the Windybrow Theatre will be taking on a more comprehensive role as a Pan African Theatre of Excellence in the Arts.

Conscious of the role played by Africa and the African Diaspora in our liberation – as President Zuma said – but also aware of the contribution made by those from other parts of Africa who have made our country their home, we have seen it fit to reposition the Windybrow as a place for all Africa to enjoy an African experience and to be able to exchange ideas and to put on their cultural and artistic performances.

The Windybrow Theatre is in the process of refurbishment in order to meet the new challenges of being a Pan African Theatre of Excellence in the Arts and to take on this added identity. For many years we have spoken about Africa’s renewal but for the most part we have embarked upon this exercise as if it were mainly about economic integration and political unity. Increasingly we can see the cultural component of such a unity. It is this cultural renewal that should be at the heart of any unification process.

Therefore we are proud to see the Windybrow Theatre repositioning itself. This kind of theatre space has long been overdue but now we are making up for lost time.

And we are beginning this process in a rather exciting period when we are welcoming many football fans from all over the world to our shores. It will definitely provide them with an experience of authentic African culture.

The Theatre plans to showcase many African Classics during this period and to bring to its stages African artists who have earned accolades all over Africa and the world. The programme from June to July this year will provide everyone with a sample of what it is going to be like when the Theatre launches itself fully as a state of the art Pan African Theatre of Excellence in the Arts by next year.

One of the great early thinkers of African unity, Marcus Garvey, as he sought to unite African people, said that: “Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… let us hold together under all climes and in every country”. Reflecting on Garvey’s statement, we can safely say that this is what we seek to achieve with this Pan African Centre for the Arts.

This Theatre must bring everyone under one roof with no emphasis on boundaries or nationalities but rather on what unites us all as an African people. This will go a long way in addressing the issues of territorial boundaries, xenophobia, racism, gender relations, crime and violence, thus creating access to arts facilities and promoting understanding, tolerance and the spirit of brotherhood between South Africans and other Africans including those of the Diaspora.

The artistic and cultural exchange envisioned will go further than musical and theatrical productions, but also ensure representation of African nationals within the Council of the Windybrow Theatre. This will indeed help in shaping the Windybrow Theatre as a true Pan African Theatre of the Arts embracing all of the people of the continent. After all the immediate area in which the Windybrow Theatre is located is also a place where many Africans reside and live their lives.

The arts plays an important role in the social wellbeing of a community as it is also a key to addressing social ills besetting communities, and thus arts and culture truly enables us, as Ngugi once said to decolonize the mind.

It also makes economic sense to invest in the arts and it is the intention of my Ministry to ensure that the arts contribute greatly to the economic growth of our country and that arts, culture and heritage are essential for the social and intellectual wellbeing of our communities.

On the 29th May we also launched the African Welcoming Village in Dries Niemand Park, Ekurhuleni, as part of Africa Day celebrations. But it is important to know that this Village will be a hive of cultural activities and will be in operation for the duration of the World Cup. At this venue, there will be an exhibition of African arts and crafts as well as performances by African artists.

As the Department of Arts and Culture we have also funded 21 World Cup Arts and Culture related projects - including the Windybrow Theatre refurbishment - to the tune of R59 million as well as setting aside R127 million for infrastructure development projects which we regard as 2010 legacy projects. In this way we continue to work hard to increase access to the arts and to realize the goal of Arts for All.

We also look forward with tremendous excitement to the opening ceremony of the World Cup which I can assure you will be a great African extravaganza!

In conclusion I wish to congratulate the staff of Windybrow Theatre in the creative team led by Mr Pooe for their hard work in producing a magnificent 2010 Soccer World Cup Artistic Programme and a very exciting line-up for the 2010/2011 Artistic Programme.

I wish you well for all your activities and look forward to attending some of these events and to see the fruit of our labour when the theatre becomes fully functional next year as a Pan African Theatre of Excellence in the Arts.

Ke Nako!! Now is the Time!!

It is Africa’s time, Africa’s century!

I thank you.