Minister Nathi Mthethwa: Africa Month Colloquium

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07 May 2015

Thank you, Programme Director:
Guest Speakers and Panel Members
Members of the Diplomatic Corps here present
Esteemed academics and students
Artists and Members of the media
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen,

The beginning of the third decade of democracy finds us faced with challenges of WeAreAfrica_Blogprejudice and stereotypes that have exploded into violent attacks against foreign nationals.

This happens as we embark on a vigorous program towards radical economic transformation. This happens at a time when we celebrate 21 years of freedom and the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

As we do so, we recognisze that it will never be enough for artists to sing, dance and perform or write a book.

In fact, we believe artists can do much more. They are the custodians of the soul of the nation.

Artists always have been and will be part of the struggle to build peace and friendship in a united African continent that stretches from Cape to Cairo.
At this particular time, artists are called upon to fight all forms of prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination: racism, sexism, ethnicity and xenophobia.
We believe artists have always been the voice and conscience of the people.

Thus we are looking at artists and other creative intellectuals in the sector to articulate and express the wishes, hopes and aspirations of the people.
We know that the people of South Africa and the continent want to leave in peace and harmony. We have seen the people of South Africa stand up to make it very clear that they are opposed to violence against foreign nationals.

It is for this reason that we are, here, today to promote Africa Month platforms that show that artists are part of the people’s fight.
We encourage the creative community to use artistic freedom of expression to push for No Violence Against Foreign Nationals. Artists should promote unity, peace and friendship among the people of the continent.

In fact, we must declare that We are Africa. We must stand united. We believe this is part of the role of the artist: to promote the ideal of an African continent and world with a human face.

I would like to seize this opportunity to call upon the arts fraternity, academics and other creative thinkers to occupy the frontline trenches in our efforts to promote national discourse and debate. This will promote education and mutual understanding among all our people in South Africa.

The arts fraternity has the ability to see where many of us cannot see, reach the depths of our souls and raise our consciousness. They are the guiding light that shines through generations and illuminates our paths as we traverse unfamiliar territories.

This dialogue is part of our broad strategy to promote cultural understanding, encourage a pan-African identity, forge African unity and create spaces for dialogue and understanding.

This festival of ideas is an outward expression of the recently ratified Charter for African Cultural Renaissance. Through this initiative we are at the same time reaffirm our commitment to implement the ideals and reinforcing the principles of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063.
The theme for Africa Month is “We are Africa” - ‘opening the doors of learning and culture to promote peace and friendship from Cape to Cairo’.

As we enter the second half-a-century of the existence of the AU, Africans must redefine themselves. They should stop being defined by others.
For far too long African people were conditioned into looking at themselves through the “Colonial Prism.” Our celebration of Africa Month this year is the reconfiguration of the African narrative. It is a reinforcement of the ideals of the AU when it was founded fifty-one years ago.

Ladies and gentlemen, our engagement this evening is part of a series of panel discussions and debates that we have initiated as a way of celebrating and reinforcing African unity through dialogue. This series of dialogues also serve as a platform to unite the Continent in sharing African culture, values and diversity through arts, culture and heritage.

South Africa is a nation that prides itself in unity in diversity, an ideal enshrined in our constitution.  Our constitution is lauded as one of the best constitutions in the world. It promotes human dignity and value for life.

We cannot allow a few individuals to undermine what the people of South Africa struggled for, that is, to create a world with a human face where all people live in harmony.

We echo the inspiring sentiments of Kwame Nkrumah, when he said: “The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart.”

Let us embrace our common African heritage and reinforce things that bring us together as the cradle of human kind.
Tonight is a clarion call to all artists to bring forth the growth, development and progress of African people. There is no place for the artist outside the struggle to build a better South Africa, a better African continent and a better world.

Let our voices reverberate across the land and the heavens as we celebrate our common identity. We are Africa!

Thank you!