Minister Mthethwa launched Africa Month on the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the African World Heritage Fund Seminar

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05 May 2016

Arts and Culture Minister, Mr Nathi Mthethwa launched Africa Month under the theme, “Building a Better Africa and a Better World” during the opening of the 10th Anniversary Celebrations of the African World Heritage Fund Seminar (AWHF), which is taking place from 03 - 05 May 2016 at the Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng, Sterkfontein.  On the evening of the 5th May, a Night of the Legends takes place at Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind, where the Minister of Arts and Culture, Honorable Nathi Mthethwa will deliver a keynote address. This event will involve artistic performance by high caliber musicians and a ceremony of award in recognition of individuals and companies who have played an outstanding role in heritage conservation and sustainable development in Africa. It will bring together representatives from African Governments, business and industry leaders, heritage institutions, local communities and the development sector of Africa.


Themed African World Heritage - Thinking Ahead” the seminar gathered experts under one roof in the heritage profession, some are policy makers and academics, others are in private sector, civil society as well as community representative to discuss thematic areas focusing on harmonizing heritage conservation and development initiatives.  The AWHF was launched on 5th May 2006 at Sterkfontein in South Africa with the mandate to contribute to the effective conservation and management of cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value on the African continent.


Speaking on the significance of launching Africa Month at Maropeng, in his opening address, Minister Mthethwa said that, “We meet here at the Cradle of Humankind, which tells the story of the earliest history of humanity, a story of birth, and a story of migrations.  All who crossed rivers and oceans left behind artifacts, footprints, monuments, evidence of their journeys.  They multiplied and diversified into a celebration of many languages, colours and cultures.  This is why we can speak with confidence about African world heritage and the heritage that Africa bequeaths its people and the world.”


Minister Mthethwa observed that: “In a world in which people and places are increasingly in danger of imminent death and wanton destruction, where valuable African heritage has been defaced and destroyed by those who do not understand their worth to humanity, we welcome this seminar which focuses on the important areas of harmonizing heritage conservation and development initiatives, enhancing the role of communities and partnerships, and, importantly, addressing matters of World Heritage in armed (post) conflict regions. Heritage conservation and sustainable economic development in Africa are two sides of the same coin.”


Minister Mthethwa paid tribute to the African continent for supporting the work of the African World Heritage Fund since its inception a decade ago.


The Month of May has been declared Africa Month, to celebrate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity on 25 May 1963, it was on this date that the 25 May was declared as Africa Day as a symbol of unity amongst all Africans. The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the African Union (AU) comprises of 53 member states. Africa Month also acknowledges the progress that we, as Africans, have made in the continent in addressing collectively the challenges that we face such as armed conflict, climate change, and poverty.


Africa Month is a Festival of Ideas. The celebrations will entail a month-long programme that will feature all aspects of arts, culture and heritage. The activities will aim at strengthening the socio, cultural, economic and political relations among African nations.


The Minister further emphasized that while existing programmes of the Department of Arts and Culture seek to inculcate an African identity through the popularisation of the national flag and continental flag as well as the National Anthem and the African Union Anthem, it was important last year that we inaugurated a full Africa Month programme. This year we continue to provide a Festival of Ideas, conversations of critical thinking a celebration of what it means to be African to deepen and expand our knowledge, engage in cultural exchange, sharpen our ideas but also come together to face our continental destiny.


Africa Month Focal Areas:


1. Know your history: Telling the African story


This year’s Africa Month programme has activities that share knowledge on the role of Archives and their importance in preserving the history of the state and of the people. The Archives programme is further complemented by lectures and colloquia that focus on African history and the impact it has on our present and future. Specific activities focus on youth engaging with our legacy and what they need to do to shape the future.


2. Building African Unity and Solving Africa’s Problems


There are conferences focusing on African unity and renaissance, seminars on intra-African trade, a meeting of the Bureau of the 4th Pan African Cultural Congress, a focus on building communities of peace and diversity, examining water security and Africa, a gathering on the themes of Agenda 2063.


There is Fort Hare University Centenary celebrations, an institution that has nurtured generations of African leaders, through lectures and engagement on the role of intellectuals in developing the continent.


The colloquia programme, hosting the Nobel Literary Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, (in partnership with Press Club SA and the African Independent), who will deliver a lecture in Gauteng.  The famous Ghanaian writer, Ama Ata Aidoo will discuss her work in the Eastern Cape. The renowned Howard University academic, Prof Harold McDougall will deliver the Nat Nakasa lecture in Durban. The acclaimed author, Zakes Mda will engage audiences in Kimberly and Mangaung.


The programme will also focus on nurturing the creative arts. Festivals of African music will be held around the country notably in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng: these events focus on intra-African collaboration. There will be a focus on fashion in hubs around the country.


3. Encourage Cultural Exchange


Notable activities include the Gcwala Ngamasiko International Cultural Festival, an international multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary festival that brings artists together from around the continent.


The Africa Month programme encompasses a Pan African Culinary Festival in Durban, an indigenous food symposium in Polokwane, an African traditional dance and music festival in Rustenburg and an African carnival in Port Elizabeth.


A reggae festival, an anti-racism music festival and a film festival will be held in Limpopo. The acclaimed Amandla Musical production will be hosted in Soweto and Emalahleni.


The iKauru Contemporary Art from Africa Exhibition that showcases African Contemporary Art will be held in Gauteng and this project aims to expand to other areas and explore fine art through the lens of regional integration and unity.


Another event is the 5th International Marimba and Steel-pan Festival that brings people together to play these instruments and to learn traditional dance.


A detailed programme will be available on our website and will be disseminated


Government invites all of you to participate in Africa Month activities that seek to build a better Africa in a better world.


For more information, please contact Lisa Combrinck on 082 821 4886

Issued by the Department of Arts & Culture