Speech by Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi during Limpopo Leg of India Festival In South Africa at Polokwane Library Gardens

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28 Jul 2014

MEC of Sport, Arts and Culture, Ms Nandi Ndalane;

Consul General of India to South Africa, Randhir Jaiswal;

Artists from both South Africa and India;

Distinguished guests;

Members of the media

It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the passing away of the acclaimed journalist, Elijar Mushihana. He was attached to the Sowetan newspaper bureau here in Limpopo. The media fraternity has lost a gigantic reporter.

Let us observe a moment of silence.

It is clear that as those whose calling is to promote and publicise arts and culture, we cannot do without those whose job is to communicate this work to the people.

The media has an important role to play to convey the arts, heritage and social cohesion to the people. It has an important role to play to convey our public cultural diplomacy to the people of India, South Africa and the world.

The people of both South Africa and India are strong nations who live in rich, vibrant, stable democracies in their respective countries partly because of the political culture of our two countries and the two great influences of two statesmen, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.    

The cultural exchanges that we celebrate here today between South Africa and India further strengthen the profound bond between our two people that date more than 100 years back.

The government and people of South Africa hold dear the profound ties that we have built with the government and people of India since the arrival of the Indians in South Africa to work as labourers in the Natal Sugar Fields in 1860.

But it is important to note that trade between Africa and Asia even extends way before this into the pre-colonial period.

In the period 1000 to 1300 AD historians and archaeologists tell us that at Mapungubwe Hill here in Limpopo was a rich kingdom, an iron site, whose people were skilled goldsmiths and traded in textiles, ivory, gold and copper.

Glass beads have also been found in Mapungubwe which is evidence of Indian Ocean trade and these suggest links with South East Asia, as far afield as India and China. So history shows a far more ancient relationship between our two continents.

The founding father of our nation, Nelson Mandela, once said:

“Courage is not the absence of fear — it’s inspiring others to move beyond it.”

And the acclaimed Bengali language poet, Rabindranath Tagore in 1910 wrote:

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action;

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

The histories of both our countries tell the story of people who were able to move beyond fear, oppression, discrimination and against all odds fight and strive for victory and establish a democratic order.

This is why South Africa and India enjoy cordial relations that have been solidified by the Agreement on Cooperation in the fields of Education, Arts, Culture and Sport in 1996.

The South African Department of Arts and Culture and the Indian Ministry of Culture signed the Executive Programme for Cultural Co-operation (POC) in 2003.

The Limpopo leg of the India Festival in South Africa forms part of the implementation of an agreed programme whereby reciprocal cultural festivals would be held in each other’s country to implement the Programme of Cooperation to promote social cohesion and cultural diversity in both countries.

Spreading the festival in provinces such as Limpopo expands our international cultural footprint, tourism opportunities and gives meaning to the idea that arts and culture bring people together.

The India festival in South Africa forms part of the 20 years celebration of freedom and democracy in South Africa, the 100 years since the return of the renowned Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi, from South Africa to his native land on 18 July 1914 and coincides with the celebration of life and values of our liberation struggle icon, our former and late President, Tata Nelson Mandela.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the Indian group, Nrityarupa, as well as our local group, Polokwane Performing Arts Ensemble as they perform for us as part of this cultural exchange.

Let this mark the start of even closer cultural relations and let firm friendships be made with the people of India and the people of South Africa.

I also want to thank MEC of Sport, Arts and Culture, Ms Nandi Ndalane, His Excellency the High Commissioner of India to South Africa, Virendra Gupta, Consul General of India to South Africa, Randhir Jaiswal, the National and Provincial government and everyone else who made this festival to be a success.

Let me end by reminding you of the words of Indian father of independence and beacon of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, who celebrated cultural diversity when he said:

“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed.

I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

 

I thank you.