Launch of Heritage Day Celebrations

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16 Sep 2009

Programme director
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

Pogramme Director, I have pleasure to speak at the launch of Heritage Month at Mapungubwe National Park, which houses one of our historic World Heritage Sites. It is here where our ancestors built a settlement of which we can be proud. It is here where they made artefacts from iron and gold, including the famous rhinoceros made from gold foil.

This beautiful Park also borders the Limpopo River. From this height we can see the river. It is here also that we find a meeting place between ourselves, Botswana and Zimbabwe, here where the Limpopo and Shashe rivers meet.

We should be proud that South Africa possesses such vast natural beauty and the heritage of outstanding universal value through our 8 World Heritage sites namely, Mapungubwe, Robben Island, Vredefort Dome, Cradle of Human Kind, Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, Richtersveld, Isimangaliso Wetlands and Ukhahlamba Drakensburg.

As we all know September is Heritage month and this gives us an opportunity to take pride in our country and our people.

Heritage month provides opportunities for us to foster social cohesion and instil a shared identity, promote unity and reconciliation through events planned for the month.

In order to highlight the role of the craft industry in the socio-economic development of society, the 2009 theme for heritage month is: celebrating South African craft, our heritage.

The theme presents us with an opportunity to pay tribute to the crafters who have contributed immensely to the development of South Africa’s rich heritage. Our rich cultural heritage - the collective knowledge of our shared past - has profound power to build national unity and strengthen nation building, reconciliation and patriotism.

This year we are especially proud to say that indeed South Africa is home to a unique and growing crafts industry. Crafters have over the years produced a vibrant crafts legacy by using natural resources and recycled products such as plastic bags, paper, card boxes and wires among others from their communities.

Although the crafts industry has gradually moved from being just a mere expression of individual skills to entrepreneurship, practitioners still lack the protection from exploitation. The industry does not provide for equitable distribution of profits as well as participation in the crafts market.

Historically, crafts have been part of the South African economy especially in the rural areas. The women-dominated craft industry is one of the strategic economic sectors which address challenges of rural underdevelopment and poverty. Over the years, the industry has meaningfully contributed to the economy through income generation and job creation.

Even though crafts make a significant contribution to the economy the primary producers, namely crafters, often experience exploitation by middle persons. Crafters do not have direct access to markets and often do not have the muscle to bargain on pricing due to low and infrequent sales. There is no recognised representative body that promotes the rights of crafters.

Currently, most raw materials used in crafts, e.g. certain types of beads, are imported and thus unaffordable for many people. As government would like to reiterate our unwavering commitment to support the crafts industry as part of efforts to develop and revitalise the rural economy.

Paying attention to the crafts industry will help forge a national identity, restore respect between the knowledge holders who transmit skills to our youth and promote Proudly South African products and their economic potential to South Africans.

Most importantly, South Africa is a signatory to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Cultural Diversity Expressions of 2005 which helps to create conditions for culture to flourish and diverse expressions to interact freely in a mutually beneficial manner.

Through our Investing in Culture programme, we are trying to make a difference especially to the crafts industry by funding projects and empowering crafters with business skills as well as assisting them with business opportunities through provision of space to market goods or through participation in exhibitions both nationally and internationally.

We have funded 409 arts and culture projects which have produced 10 938 job opportunities since 2005. Most of the beneficiaries of these projects are women, youth and persons with disability. In line with government’s commitment to rural development, we have made sure that 40% of the projects came from rural areas. We will improve on this percentage. We believe that the 2010 FIFA World Cup provides a unique opportunity to showcase South African craft products as well as promote our cultural expressions internationally.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have pleasure to announce that on 24 September 2009, the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the Limpopo Provincial government will host a national Heritage Day event at Ntwampe Sports Grounds, Moroke in Greater Sekhukhune Municipality.

Significantly, the celebrations will be marked by a craft exhibitions of products from all the nine provinces.

The crafters will also be able to sell their products to guests who will be in attendance from Limpopo and other provinces.

The Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe will deliver a keynote address as a tribute to our crafters who have contributed to the socio-economic development of society. As part of the National Heritage Day celebrations, we will also have performances by different cultural groups.

We are also pleased that the 2009 heritage month celebrations coincides with the 4th World Summit on Arts and Culture which will take place in South Africa from 22-25 September 2009.

Arts and culture policy makers, funders and representatives of international, regional and national artists’ networks will gather to discuss a range of topics under the theme : Meeting of cultures: creating meaning through the arts.
Other heritage month activities include the following :

* A craft exhibition during the Mapungubwe National Parks Week between the 14th and 20th of September.
* Launch of the investing in culture projects in the Eastern Cape on 18 September.
* A gala dinner and launch of the DAC/ Old Mutual partnership on 23 September in Limpopo. The partnership seeks to increase the commercial success of promising black-owned business in the craft sector by using proven methods of applied business development.

While the national event will take place in Limpopo, people are encouraged to participate in Heritage Month activities in their communities. The information on the provincial Heritage Day events will be available on our department’s website (http://www.dac.gov.za).

I would like to conclude by taking this opportunity to urge all people in South Africa to participate in the Heritage Month activities in their communities.

Thank you