Signing of South Africa-Algeria cooperation on Arts and Culture in honour of Miriam Zenzile Makeba, Algiers, Algeria

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07 Jul 2009

Programme Director
Your Excellency, the Minister of Culture of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Algeria, Madame Khalida Toumi,
Honourable Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you tonight.

We gather here today as Africa and its Diaspora engaged in the African Union’s Second Pan African Cultural Festival, hosted by Algeria, which has become the theatre where our inherent rich artistic heritage will be exhibited for all to see. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria and its people for making this continental event a reality, demonstrating an undying commitment to Africa’s renewal. We remain confident that the festival will leave a mark that will remain with us for years to come. We are also humbled by the warm reception and hospitality that we have received from the people of Algeria. Indeed, as the motto of the Festival states, ‘‘The African Renaissance is in Full Swing’’!

In the coming years, we dare not abandon this critical vehicle for consolidating the rich culture and heritage of our peoples. Guided by the visionary leadership the African Union, we should all ensure that we do not wait for another forty years before we realise the next Pan Africa Festival.

At this moment, I would like us to spare a thought for those African cultural doyens, in Africa and the Diaspora who have fallen since the last festival that took place here, forty years ago. As you all will be aware, at this very moment, another of our greatest musical icons of the modern era, Michael Jackson, a son of the African Diaspora, is being buried. May his soul rest in peace! The music of Michael Jackson inspired and entertained many on our continent in difficult and trying times. It is in this context that I would like to ask all present here today to observe a moment of silence for this great son of the soil!

Ladies and Gentlemen

Today, we pay tribute to the first African cultural activist to address the United Nations General Assembly, ‘Mama Afrika’, Miriam Zenzile Makeba, whom all of us remember as a songstress, tireless activist and a selfless patriot. Makeba passed away on 10 November 2008 shortly after performing on stage in Castel Volturno in Southern Italy whilst lending her support to a just cause. As all present will recall, she set the stage alight on the First Pan African Festival that took place here in Algeria in 1969 alongside the likes of Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Manu Dibango and Archie Shepp. Ever the internationalist, ‘Mama Afrika’ regarded herself as the daughter of Algeria. Those old enough present here today will remember her tremendous performance of the song “Ana Hurra Fi Al Djazair” (I am free in Algeria) in 1972 at Atlas Hall in Algiers still echoes in our hearts even today.

Today we are happy to present Ms Dorothy Nontsokolo Masuku who also performed at the First Pan Africa Cultural Festival in 1969, along with other divas like Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone and Abigail Khubeka. Some of us might not be aware that she actually wrote some of Miriam Makeba’s famous songs such as ‘Pata-pata’ and ‘Nontsokolo’.

Ladies and Gentlemen

South Africa has just recently celebrated the 54th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter, a historic document drafted in Kliptown on 26th June 1955, which mapped the vision of a new democratic South Africa. The document mentioned amongst others that, ‘‘The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life.’ The Charter further mentions that ‘All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands’. It is within this context that South Africa-Algeria historical relationship has matured into the Bi-National Commission.

Today, as part of the implementation of the Bi-National Commission, our two countries have signed a Cooperation Agreement in the field of Arts and Culture. The signing of this agreement will see our two countries strengthening the friendly relations existing between our peoples being mindful of the role that culture can play in furthering the objectives of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

The AU Second Pan African Festival also coincides with the birthday of one of the giants of African liberation movements and symbol of hope for humanity in the world, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who will be celebrating his 91st birthday on 18 July 2009. In his State of the Nation Address the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma said, ‘Mandela Day will be celebrated on the 18th of July each year. It will give people in South Africa and all over the world the opportunity to do something good to help others’.

All present here today, will recall that Mandela was politically active for 67 years, we therefore call upon people all over the world to spend at least 67 minutes of their time doing good deeds that will advance the cause of humanity within their communities, especially among the less fortunate. This is in keeping with the spirit of ‘ubuntu’, which is one of the fundamental pillars of African culture whose motto states that ‘I am because you are’ in our language we say ‘umntu ngumntu ngabantu’, ‘motho ke motho ka batho’!

As we are celebrating the Second Pan African Cultural Festival, in less than a year, the entire world will again witness another spectacular event from the African continent that is, the FIFA 2010 World Cup to be staged in South Africa. The Pan African Cultural Festival and the FIFA 2010 World Cup indeed attest that the renewal of the African continent is indeed in full swing!
Ladies and Gentlemen

We remain firm in the belief that arts and culture will continue to promote social cohesion, nation building and enhance socio-economic development in Africa and its Diaspora. In our view, culture should be placed at the center of solidarity and development among countries of the continent, and the destiny of the African people.

I thank you!