Statement by Minister Mthethwa on 40th Anniversary of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown

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02 Jul 2014

Programme Director,

Honourable MEC for Sports, Recreation, Arts & Culture, Dr Pemmy Majodina

Executive Mayor of the Makana Municipality, Mr Zamuxolo Peter

National Arts Festival Board Chairperson, Mr Ayanda Mjekula,

Board of the National Arts Festival,

National Arts Festival Chief Executive Officer, Mr Tony Lancaster,

Artistic Director, Mr Ismail Mahomed

Members of the Arts Community,

Members of Media,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to report that on its 40th anniversary this Festival remains the nucleus of promoting nation building and social cohesion. Significantly, this Festival takes place as part of the 20 Years of Freedom celebrations!

There is no doubt that the festival continues to bring together artists from different background, races, classes and cultures to express and celebrate our unity in diversity. This has taken the country forward.

Also the National Arts Festival attracts audiences from all corners of our country, the rest of the African continent and all over the world.

The story of how it came about is from the shameful historical pages of our conflicted divisive colonial and racist past.

But the arts have, in many instances, always been an instrument of unity, peace and bringing our diverse people together to build one human family in one country. This is what we celebrate!

Significantly, we can look back at the last four decades of the festival as laying the foundation for the non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society that we celebrate in this 20th anniversary of freedom.

The arts, culture and heritage sector have always attracted prophetic voices, pioneers and visionaries who have been at the forefront of articulating the aspirations and hopes for a better world where we can all live together as brothers and sisters in one united country.

These include choreographers, dancers, producers, directors, film makers, actors, singers, writers, thinkers, philosophers, designers and an endless host of others behind the scenes.

As we celebrate 20 years of freedom, we salute them for their self-sacrifice passion and commitment to nourish the soul of this nation. These are legends that have helped to take this country forward.

At the same time we mark the 40 years of the festival, we are looking forward to artists and the festival continuing to make their contribution to nation building and social cohesion.

We believe that the arts, culture and heritage sector have a crucial role to play in contributing to the fight against unemployment through job creation, creating opportunities and promoting economic independence and self-reliance for artists.

Above all, we believe that the festival and sector in general have a pivotal role to play in the promotion of constitutional values, redefining a common over-arching national identity, promoting the transformation agenda that will restore our dignity as Africans and inspire confidence, pride and hope for a brighter future for all our people in the country and continent and to inspire active citizenry and leadership that will see the people take the country forward.

What we cannot forget is that the arts and culture sector has contributed immensely towards the spectacular victory over apartheid. Significantly, none will be more articulate and possess more credibility and integrity so indispensable than our artists to refine our 2030 Vision as defined and articulated in the National Development Plan.

We wish to renew our call to artists to continue to be the voice of conscience in society. They must express themselves freely to challenge and fight economic inequality, dispossession, prejudice and discrimination where it exists. They must raise their voices to call for a non-racial, non-sexist, just, equal and democratic society that promotes a new life experience based on the values and principles enshrined in our world renowned constitution. This is what will take us forward to the society we want to be.

The right to freedom of expression is not absolute. It must be exercised with responsibility to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Freedom of expression is not above anyone's dignity irrespective of their position or rank in life. In fact, everyone has the right to inherent dignity for no other reason than that they are human being enshrined in the constitution.

The last 40 years of the festival that lie behind us and the 20 years of freedom and democracy that we celebrate this year are significant milestones in our journey towards Vision 2030. They have helped lay the foundation for the society we want.

Let us move forward with pride, self-love, care and commitment as Africans to ensure that the arts culture and heritage sector - as epitomized by this festival - continues to build an active citizenry for an inclusive society.

It is none but ourselves who have to create the just and equal society that we wish to live in.

I wish the Makana Municipality, the National Festival organizers and directors and all the artists and audiences that will participate all the best. We have much to celebrate.

I thank you.

For enquiries kindly contact Mr Sandile Memela: 0828003750 or email