Speech by Minister Paul Mashatile on the occasion of the Inauguration of the Ndebele Murals at the Nelson Mandela Forum; Florence, Italy

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17 Nov 2010

Programme Director

The Mayor of the City of Florence, Mr. Matteo Renzi

The President of the City Council of Florence, Dr. Eugenio Giani

President of the Nelson Mandela Forum, Mr. Massiomo Gramigni

The Charge’e d’ Affaires of the South African Embassy in Italy, Anthea Joubert

Your Excellency the Consul General of South Africa to Italy, Dr. Nomvuyo Nokwe     

Dr. Ricardo Sarra, the Honorary Consul of South Africa
  
Honoured Guests

Members of the South African delegation

The People of Florence:
We have met here today to witness the unveiling of the beautiful paintings by Ndebele women from South Africa on the walls of the Nelson Mandela Forum building.

This act of painting the walls of the Nelson Mandela Forum using patterns by Ndebele artists, whose work combines tradition and artistic innovation and is in many ways symbolic of the “rainbow nation” that South Africa has become, signifies this place as a meeting point of cultures.

Traditionally, Ndebele paintings were used by a bride to signal to her in-laws that she was well brought up and that she comes from a good family.

To us these paintings are an expression of our appreciation of the role played by the people of this City in support of our liberation struggle.

The paintings are also meant to further cements cultural relations between the City of Florence and our country, South Africa.

Indeed, these paintings are a visible reflection of the bonds of friendship and solidarity that have existed for many years between our peoples.

As part of further strengthening cultural relations between our peoples and exposing our country’s rich cultural heritage, we are today exhibiting a variety of South Africa crafts.

We will also in the next coming days, together with the Mandela Forum, hold an exhibition titled: “From Apartheid to Democracy - the struggle for democracy in South Africa.”

This exhibition will depict our country’s journey from our unhappy past, characterized by injustice and inequality to the achievement of freedom and democracy in 1994.

The exhibition will also give an account of the progress we are making in building an inclusive society envisaged by former President Nelson Mandela, one of the founding fathers of our democratic nation and in whose honour this facility is named.
  
Through the crafts exhibition, we will expose South African crafters to global markets thus contribute towards the creation of sustainable livelihoods for our crafters, many of whom come from rural and poor communities.

Programme Director, on this important occasion I am reminded of the words of former President Nelson Mandela, who said in his acceptance speech of the coveted Noble Peace Prize in 1993:

“ I am also here today as a representative of the millions of people across the globe, the anti-apartheid movement, the governments and organizations that joined with us, not to fight against South Africa as a country or any of its peoples, but to oppose an inhuman system and sue for a speedy end to the apartheid crime against humanity.
These countless human beings, both inside and outside our country, had the nobility of spirit to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain.”

Former President Mandela made this statement in recognition and appreciation of the critical role the international community played in our struggle for liberation.

He wanted the world, including the people of Italy and the people of the City of Florence, to know how much we as South Africans owe them and how grateful we are for the support that they gave to our course, without seeking selfish gain.

He was indeed making the point that; the democratic South Africa is a product of international solidarity.     
Programme Director as South Africans, we are proud to be the children of Nelson Mandela and to walk in the footsteps of this extraordinary icon.

We are grateful that our liberation was a product of a titanic struggle that brought together great minds and drew overwhelming support from the peoples of the world.

Going forward, as we deepen the gains of freedom and democracy in our country, we will continue to rely on the support of the international community, to defend the proud legacy of Nelson Mandela.

It is for this reason that we applaud the work done by the Mandela Forum to promote the culture of human rights for all - an issue that is so close to the heart of our icon Nelson Mandela, his generation of leaders and many South Africans.
This commitment to defend and deepen the culture of human rights has also found expression in our country’s democratic constitution.

We hope the work of the Mandela Forum, especially among young people, will go a long way towards building a generation of future leaders, who will follow in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela and work towards the goal of a Better World rooted in human rights, equality and dignity for all.

Working together, we must gather the spirit of nobility to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, in all its manifestations.

Programme Director; we note with appreciation that the Ndebele paintings on the walls of the Mandela Forum building, were done with the assistance and cooperation of young artists from Tuscany.

We have no doubt that this cooperation will pave the way for more collaborations between artists from our two countries.

Most importantly, this collaboration signifies that the Ndebele culture has been embraced by the people of this City, further strengthening people to people contact between South Africa and the City of Florence.

The collaboration has also led to skills transfer, which is an issue we in the Department of Arts and Culture have identified as a major priority.

Indeed, it is our view that skills development and transfer within the creative industries is central to the sustainability of this sector and unleashing its potential as a major contributor to economic growth and job creation.

We are also encouraged that there is a commitment between the Mandela Forum and the Department of Arts and Culture to work together in the area of skills transfer, especially the transfer of Technical Skills.

This fits well within our plans as a Department to establish a National Skills Academy for the Arts.

We look forward to working with the Mandela Forum on this important initiative.

On behalf of the South African government I take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have made this project a success.

I also thank the City of Florence for embracing our culture and for hosting our exhibitions.

We trust that your ultimate reward will be to see greater cooperation between South Africa and Italy, as part of ongoing efforts to build a Better World.

Thank you.