Address by Minister Paul Mashatile at the launch of the Mzansi’s Golden Economy GIG Guide
I ask your permission to be as informal this evening as I address all of you esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen gathered here in the beautiful city of Durban for the COP17 / CMP 7 negotiations to shape our future.
The conference is particularly important for South Africa, our Continent Africa and the whole of the developing world, which is most affected by climate change and indeed the world.
We are optimistic that a framework agreement will be reached that will ensure that we work together to save mother earth.
We have invited you to join us this evening to encourage delegates and visitors from all over the world to take time out to experience Mzansi’s Golden economy - our creative industries invite you to experience our country’s vast, unique, rich and diverse arts and cultural heritage.
I believe that this Conference is a world first - it is not only organized differently, but has ensured that there are economic and social benefits improving the wellbeing of poor communities.
The conference started with a resounding welcome, and to our international visitors, a welcome home to Africa, the place we all come from.
The climate change response expo, where we are this evening, is home to an exhibition of the newly discovered Autrolopithecus sediba fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.
The exhibition poses the most crucial question facing us, what choices do we make for the future based on our understanding of our past?
The opportunity to explore and understand more about the origins of life on earth and the story of human ancestry is a unique opportunity for delegates and visitors to reflect on our past and ponder the future.
We trust that this exhibition will ignite an interest in visiting our eight South African World Heritage Sites.
The welcome extended to a taste of music, dance, performance and the visual arts at our airports. Those of you who did not fly in will have the opportunity to meet the Orange Farm Giant Puppets, stilt walkers, gospel singers, marimba players and traditional dancers at your hotel, at the Climate Change Response Outdoor Stage, in a walkabout at the Beachfront or at the Green Hub.
Those of you who did not pass through the Oliver Tambo International Airport will not yet have seen the 17 X 4 metre artwork “Tomorrow’s Joy” made from recycled plastic bottle tops woven together with fish gut.
This art work was created in conjunction with 8 community arts centers, involving approximately 140 children and disabled adults and 31 crafters.
Collection, cleaning, sorting and weaving of discarded plastic bottle tops, created an incomparable artwork and participants got a hands-on understanding of the value of recycling and the power of art.
The artwork, an image of children running in an open green space, depicts celebration, hope, simplicity and joy.
In addition to this art work, made from recycled material, you can explore places and spaces to view art made from waste while you are in Durban.
I would especially encourage you to visit the Heath Nash "art and design from recycled materials" workshop at the beachfront area.
And if you are planning to explore further afield, a visit to the “Beautiful Things” craft exhibition here at the expo will delight you.
A feature of this conference which we have every intention of repeating at all future conferences and events is the stories of the Conference bags.
As you all know it is easy to go to a manufacturer and procure 15 000 conference bags. We chose not to do this for this and future Conferences.
Delegates will be delighted to know that we have sourced beautiful hand crafted bags from 11 community groups.
Because of the work of these talented crafters this Conference, in our view, is the most colourful UN conference ever held.
The community groups have proudly written their stories about their participation at the conference through their bags and the money they have earned is a welcome bonus for the forthcoming holiday period.
We were particularly moved by a letter we received from a group of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and DRC wrote;
“Our sincere thanks to you for having confidence in us and for including us in the COP17 work. We look forward to the final payment tomorrow, and us making a lot of people and their families very happy, especially near Christmas. We hope as well to work on future projects with you. We appreciate your faith in us”.
These bags were packed with goodies, including the Mzansi’s Golden Economy Guide and a water bottle, displaying our national symbols and fitted with a beaded lanyard.
The bags and bottles, together with crafted bibs for volunteers, created a mammoth 4 620 direct work days.
Throughout the conference, delegates and visitors will be spoilt for choice in their moments of relaxation.
There will be performances by well known local artists such as Lebo Mashile, our poet and MC for the evening; Gcina Mhlope, our famous story teller; the award winning isicathamiya performers Ladysmith Black Mambazo; the world renowned Drakensberg Boys’ Choir.
Delegates will also be entertained by our immensely talented composers and female vocalists Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Siphokazi.
You will also have the opportunity to see the marvelous talent of musicians, dancers, performers, story tellers and a host of art practitioners from a cross section of our country’s artistic fraternity.
We are particularly proud of the theatre productions of the Wellworn Theatre Group - the Pollution Revolution and Planet B.
These productions engage with the subject matter of COP 17.
You will have an opportunity this evening to see The Greenhouse Gas Rap a snippet from the family friendly production Pollution Revolution. We are sure you will be enticed to attend the theatre while you are here in Durban.
Those of you who cannot get enough of our creative industries are invited to a festival of music, dance and performance, the Jabulisa festival, at the Green Hub tomorrow from 6pm till late.
For those of you interested in film we hope you are enjoying the experimental videos, from around the world on our screens this evening. You can also visit the venues of the tri-continental film festival, including the Greenpeace Solar Cinema to view 17 films dealing with climate change. The SABC has also curated 11 full length documentaries dealing with environmental themes which are showing at the ICC and other venues.
Also to be seen are mini exhibitions of our visual artists which have been set up in some hotels in addition to artists at work at 20 “reverse graffiti sites” around the city.
Finally I would like to draw you attention to two initiatives designed for the participation of delegates and visitors.
Please visit the restaurant area to see the Umncebo Trust 3m high eco tree made from recycled material.
The tree will symbolically bloom with 3000 leaves during the course of the conference symbolically representing a positive response to climate change challenges.
Please also visit the Durban Botanical Gardens to view the spectacular “Living Beehive” a 14 metre high permanent landscape art installation modeled on a Zulu hut which will be launched tomorrow by Minister Molewa, the leader of the South African delegation to COP 17.
In conjunction with the Living Beehive, a 3-dimensional artwork is being created modeled on the shy and elusive mammal, the pangolin.
The pangolin has a highly developed sense of solving problems and the artists were attracted to it because of its characteristic of innovation in searching for food in obscure locations.
The pangolin is native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia and its artistic representation as “something that rolls up” symbolizes a positive way forward to addressing issues around climate change.
The artwork will incorporate beads brought by delegates from around the world.
You may be amazed to learn that over 9000 work days have been created for arts practitioners during COP 17. This excludes the major events such as the opening of this Expo, the forthcoming beach party and the cultural events planned for the 3rd and 4th of December.
The Department of Arts and Culture has worked with civil society and representative organizations of the sector to prepare for COP 17. We intend working again with Business and Arts South Africa, the Visual Arts Network of South Africa and Cape Craft and Design Institute who acted on behalf of the Department to make COP 17 an experience not to forget. We fully intend working with an expanded network of organizations in the arts, culture and heritage sector henceforth.
On this note, please enjoy your evening, please fill up your leisure time during your stay in Durban and please part with your savings to explore Durban and its environs and buy some treasure and memorabilia to remind you of your visit.
For those of you from across our borders, if you don’t find time to do everything you want to do while you are here, visit again as you will always receive a warm welcome from our friendly and hospitable people.