Opening of the Lefifi Tladi Exhibition, the National Cultural History Museum

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01 Sep 2009

Programme Director,
Mr Mandla Langa,
Prof Pitika Ntuli,
Our guest of honour, Mr Lefifi Tladi,
Heads of our associated institutions,
The CEO of the National Flagship Institution, Mr Magolo Magolo
The CEO of the National Arts Council, Ms Annabel Lebethe
Government officials

Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of the national Department of Arts and Culture, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be part of the opening of this art exhibition celebrating the creative work of Mr Lefifi Tladi.

In order to understand the works of art of Lefifi Tladi, we also have to understand the history of our country and Lefifi’s passionate commitment to reflecting our history in such a way that we seek to change it.

You might have read from press releases about his achievements and great exhibitions in this country and abroad. As a young man in his twenties, he was influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement, which he interpreted through his artistic work. His art, during this period, spoke of a moment in our history when the youth of the country decided that they themselves would rise up against the apartheid government.

The events of June 1976 became a watershed moment in our history. South Africans were determined to fight for their national liberation. South Africans also recognized the victories of our brothers and sisters in neigbouring countries and believed that we too could achieve our freedom.

These were also times of despondency and sadness as the apartheid state used repressive measures, shooting children and torturing and killing activists and many youth fled into exile. Even in exile, the soldiers of the SADF hunted our youth down in our neighbouring states. Today we are beginning to pay tribute to these activists who gave their lives for our freedom and are creating monuments in their honour.

Let us recall the words of the poet, Oupa Mthimkulu, whose writing captures the tragedy of this period. Mthimkulu wrote as follows:

“Go 1976.
Never come again.
We need you know more.
You stand accused of deaths and imprisonments.
You were not revolutionary enough.
We do not boast about you.
Year of fire. Year of Ash.”

Yet artists like Lefifi Tladi knew that through struggle and particularly through promoting art, we needed to recognize this period in our history as one that took us further – a few steps more to our freedom.

He recognized the cultural renaissance that was also at the heart of the Black Consciousness Movement and that helped to influence the course of our struggle.

Through his travels, Lefifi also became part of an internationalist artistic community. I am told that his wish is to impart his knowledge to younger generations.

Lefifi has said (and I quote):

“I love art and poetry because they are an enlightening form of art and quite challenging to creativity”.

The opening of this exhibition coincides with the beginning of our programme for Heritage Month 2009, with the theme, “Celebrating South Africa’s Craft, Our Heritage”.

During this month of September the Department of Arts and Culture pays tribute to the crafters who have contributed so significantly to the development of South Africa’s rich heritage.

The choice of craft as the theme for the 2009 Heritage Month celebrations is largely motivated by the following considerations.

To showcase the contribution of crafts to economic development of South Africa

To promote the use of indigenous knowledge to design and products;

To create an environment for the promotion of South Africa’s cultural expressions in South Africa and internationally

To demonstrate the potential and role of crafts in creating jobs, alleviating poverty and forging of a national identity

To forge cohesion among crafters and other stakeholders.

To showcase unique South African crafts products in preparation of 2010 and beyond

This year’s Heritage Month is anchored by a series of events, all intended at celebrating and promoting our rich craft heritage and giving a platform to crafters to showcase and sell their craft products.

Some of the highlights during Heritage Month include the following:

A craft exhibition during the Mapungubwe National Parks Week between the 14th and 20th of September.

A gala dinner and launch of the DAC/ Old Mutual partnership which will see practical action to increase the commercial success of promising black-owned business in the craft sector by using proven methods of applied business development specifically designed to nurture the commercial success of emergent craft businesses.

The major highlight of Heritage Month is of course the Heritage Day Celebrations which will be held within the Tubatse Muncipality at the Ntwampe Sports ground in the Moroke village. Here we will showcase and allow crafters from all over South Africa to sell their craft products. We also trust that the Deputy President of South Africa will grace the occasion.

In the interest of time I will not announce all the projects that we will do during the month. Our communications section will make these available to the media and will post them on our website for ease of reference.

As we celebrate our heritage, let us also acknowledge the role played by the generation who came of age in 1976 in laying the foundations for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa – a country in which all people could be free and equal and in which freedom of expression and creativity prevails.

I would like to conclude by congratulating Mr Lefifi Tladi for the wonderful exhibition. I would also like to thank the Northern Flagship for hosting this wonderful exhibition together with the National Arts Council who also provided financial support.

I understand that Mr Tladi will be available for the duration of the exhibition as there will be public walkabouts and workshops for school children during the exhibition. We encourage the public to come and appreciate his amazing works of art. Buying a piece would be an investment of a lifetime.

Ladies and gentlemen enjoy the exhibition and have a happy Heritage Month

Thank You.