Address by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha on South African Heritage month reception, South Afican Embasssy – Prague

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15 Sep 2008

Since the year 1995 the government of South Africa celebrates Heritage Day on 24 September of each year and the Department of Arts and Culture decides on a theme for the heritage celebrations during the whole month of September. This is done to highlight and improve levels of awareness around South Africa ’s diverse cultural heritage. Above that, Heritage Month is also aimed to provide a platform to celebrate the rich tapestry of different languages, art forms, dress codes, cuisine (food), positive ethnic specific cultural practices and rituals, cultural ceremonies, and last but not least, music and dance.

Heritage has been recognised by government as an important tool for promoting democracy, nation building, social cohesion, positive values, and instilling a sense of national pride, national identity and individual identity. South Africa is a country of diverse cultures and heritage is used to foster interest, appreciation and tolerance of culture traditions and practices outside one’s own culture in that way ensuring that we learn more about each other as a people. The first president of a democratic South Africa , President Mandela, in one of his speeches in 1996 once said:

“When our first democratically elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation”

According to the National Heritage Resource Act of 1999, “Heritage celebrates our achievements and contributes to redressing past inequalities. It educates and deepens our understanding of society and encourages us to empathise with the experience of others. It facilitates healing and material and symbolic restitution and it promotes new and previously neglected research into our rich oral traditions and customs”

This year’s theme is “Celebrating our Dance, Our Heritage”. If you are a follower of South Africa’s annual Heritage Month celebrations, you would have noticed that despite the constant change from year to year of the chosen theme, there is one common thread, which is that the genre under the spot light is still used to highlight the “unity in the diversity” of South Africa’s cultural community.

Dance like music, is one of the cultural components that transcend and unite all population groups regardless of their culture, background, gender or age.           In South Africa , dance tells a story of the origin, evolution, growth and development of South Africa ’s diverse society. Intangible cultural heritage such as dance, music        are integral part of peoples lives and constitute a very popular art form. South African dance performance reflects the diverse cultures and history of communities in South Africa ..

Different types of dance performances are used in various ceremonies, events and rituals to express joy and happiness, pain and suffering, sorrow and grief. 

I wish to very briefly describe the various cultural dance forms of South Africa . What I am going to provide is clearly a theoretical description. I am hoping that Iyasa Cultural Group, who are actually from our neighboring country, Zimbabwe , will showcase at a practical level what I will describe now. Iyasa, even though from a different country, I’m informed their dance form is very close if not similar to South Africa &’s dance form. This is understandable because of the assimilation of our respective cultural because of ongoing interaction across our borders.

I will mention a few here. The most commonly recognised South African dance form is the Zulu dance which is characterized by vigorous rhythmic, almost aggressive stomping of feet by both male and female traditionally clad dancers. This form of dance is usually accompanied by drumming, clapping and song. Zulu dance might be the most known South African dance form, but it is certainly not the only dance form. If time allowed I could go on to describe the eland Khoi- San dance, the st1:country-region w:st="on"> Venda tshikona indigenous dance, the Xhosa umxhentso, the Basotho Dinaka (male) dance, Mokhibo the female Basotho dance, the Tsonga Kuthawaza dance. There is also the Indian, Afrikaans, as well as contemporary dance form such as the Pantsula dance. Enough on the theory, the practical lesson will be provided by the Iyasa Cultural Group.

We are happy that the performance is provided by a group from Zimbabwe . This is good because it shows the current approach aimed at the development of the African continent called NEPAD (The New Partnership for Africa ’s Development).

Finally, Heritage month is about celebration. We celebrate our diversity, our uniqueness, our creativity. Today we are privileged to not only celebrate our cultural heritage, but our friendship and partnership with this extremely beautiful and unique country.

YYour Excellency, Ambassador Dube, thank you very much for inviting us to be part of festivities to mark the 2008 South African Heritage Month.

Thank you.