Speech by Minister Pallo Jordan at the launch of Heritage Month at Zoo Lake
Thank you programme director,
MMC, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Our theme for Heritage Month 2008 is “Celebrate our dance, Celebrate our heritage.”
Dance celebrates the grace of the human body, it celebrates the human body’s energy and its inexhaustible capacities for total body articulation through every kind of inherited or learned movement. Dance is one of the greatest gifts Africa and her people have offered the world.
Dance had its modest beginning at social gatherings. In every part of our country dance is a component of rituals and rites. We dance when a child in born ; we dance when the child reaches puberty ; we dance when the youth passes into adulthood ; and we dance at weddings ; at parties and at funerals.
There are different forms of dance that come from unique ethnic and regional backgrounds, expressing specific identities that define the uniqueness of those who perfrorm it and the place the dance comes from.But the common experience of living together in the melting pot of cities like Johannesburg has broadened the meanings we give to our identities and given birth to something altogether new. Thus, what has come to be known as South African dance today, is not only influenced by different cultural inputs, it is often the sum total of all these.
Though others have viewed African dance as exotic entertainment and even as prurient entertainment, it is at the heart of our African identity and cultural expression. Through dance Africans have dramatized our agony ; through dance we have mobilized for our struggles ; in dance we have transmitted our history ; through dance we have celebrated our joy and our hopes. It remains central to our religious rituals, and the practice of our traditions and customs. Over the centuries .many traditional styles had developed and have been kept alive through special occasions. Africans perform dances of welcome, dances of rites of passage and of coming of age, warrior’s dances to steel fighters for war, dances of love; dances of possession and dances of spiritual revelation.
Our dancers are imaginative creative forces. In pre-colonial Africa, dance was not a distinct art discipline; it was a component of the complexity of living. Dance has thus evolved as a comprehensive form of expression, ranging from the most subtle and lyrical movements to powerful and dynamic actions; ranging from the most complex body movements to the simplest. It challenges the choreographer, the performer/s, and audiences to keep a close eye on the dynamic shifts in perspective, rhythms and poly-rhythms, accents and melody.
South African dance developed as a community activity, performed within and for the community. Most of our dances are participatory with spectators as much part of the performance as are the dancers. Traditionally there were no barriers between dancers and members of the audience. Even ritual dances often permit spectator participation. Some dances may be performed exclusively by men, and others, are only performed by women. Through them are expressed communal desires, values, memory and collective creativity. The vigour of a dance can also test the stamina and energy of the dancers, attesting to physical health and strength.
The dancer’s body is like a musical instrument, through which every conceivable emotion or event can be portrayed, often resulting in a hypnotic marriage of life and dance. Histories, fictional tales and sagas can be told in song and dance. The love and respect for earth and environment is a significant factor of African dance.
In the broadest sense of the word, dance is a cultural genre that has long been employed to mobilise groupward emotions and to affirm collective affiliation and solidarity. It links us not only to that which stirs in our souls, but gives outward expression to our aspirations and hopes.
Through dance we have dramatized our agony ; through dance we have mobilized for our struggles ; through dance we have transmitted our history ; through dance we have celebrated our joy and our hopes. It remains central to many religious rituals, and the practice of African traditions and customs. Over the centuries .many traditional styles had developed and have been kept alive through special occasions. Thus there are dances to welcome strangers, dances for rites of passage and of coming of age, warrior’s dances to steel fighters for war; dances of love; dances of spirit possession and dances of spiritual revelation.
Dance was and remains central to the African experience.
Commencing today, for the rest of this month, we shall be celebrating our dance. During this month we are also receiving important guests from Europe and Asia.
From China, The Chongqing Artistic Troupe has stunned South African audiences with their brilliant performance of a repertoire called “Greetings from the Yangtze River” in Pretoria and Cape Town. They will also be performing in Durban and Johannesburg.
The Belarussian Bolshoi Ballet Theater Company begins its visit to South Africa on 15th September. This is part of a cultural exchange programme between our two countries. They will be performing classical ballets.
We are entering into a partnership with Gauteng province and it will involve the provincial traditional dance programme organised by Zindala Zombili and CIOFF. This programme will entail the Gauteng Indigenous Dance competitions running between the 20th till the 23rd of September. The winners of this competition will be featured during the Heritage Day programme.
Our Partnership with the City of Johannesburg begins today and culminates in a month long Arts Alive dance programme involving over 30 dance performances throughout the month of September. This will culminate in a dance evening at the Dome within the Mary Fitzgerald Square on 23rd September 2008 in which we will be showcasing contemporary and modern dance.
Some of the highlights of the dance programme throughout the month of September include a dance presentation at the Dance Factory called “Uncharted Seas” presented by Shared Histories and the High Commission of India, the Fred Astaire Medley by the Embassy of the Netherlands and many other exciting dance programmes.
The celebrations culminate in the national event, being hosted by Gauteng Province, at the Cradle of Human Kind on 24th September.
So, I invite you all, I invite South Africans, of every hue and creed, to mark this month in dance, to “Celebrate our Dance, to Celebrate Our Heritage”.