Opening ceremony of the Arab Painting and Handicrafts Exhibition
Your Excellency, Mrs. Nansi Bakeer, High Commissioner of the League of Arab States for Civil Society Affairs,
Your Excellency, Mrs Inass Mekawy, Prospective Head of Office representing the League of Arab States in South Africa.
Your Excellency, Dr. A Alzubedi from Lybia, The Dean of the Arab Council of Ambassadors and the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in South Africa,
Dr. Nabeel Shaath, Commissioner of International Relations of the Fatah Movement,
Your Excellency, Ambassador of Egypt, the Head of the Coordinating Committee of the Arab Cultural Week,
Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ms Neo Malao, Director of the Ditsong African Window Museum,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted and honoured to address you this evening. This is the first time that that South Africa, indeed Africa, is enjoying an Arab Cultural Week with 19 Arab Embassies participating in various cultural manifestations including music, folkloric dance, visual arts, crafts and food.
South Africa enjoys a warm and dynamic relationship with the Arab countries and this Arab Cultural Week serves to strengthen these bonds of friendship exposing the varied and rich Arab culture to the people of South Africa. In fact our relationship with many of the Arab countries especially Palestine has been built over many years whilst our Liberation Movements were engaged in the struggle for democracy in South Africa. We shared many platforms during this period and supported each other strongly in our appeals as we faced a similar struggle.
Our Deputy President, His Excellency Kgalema Motlanthe, led a delegation to the second Africa-Arab Summit held in Libya earlier this month. The leaders committed themselves to the implementation of the Africa-Arab partnership strategy by mobilizing existing human and financial resources. The Summit also called on the International Community, especially the Group of Eight (G8) to fulfill their commitments on reforming the international financial and monetary systems, improving international trade conditions, relieving the burden of debts, helping poor countries achieve a sustainable development.
The leaders also affirmed their complete support to the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation. They declared support for the Palestinians to practice their irrevocable national rights including their inalienable right to self-determination to return to their homeland; to all the land that has been illegally occupied since 1948. They acknowledged the Palestinians’ right to live in peace and stability in a sovereign state with East Jerusalem as their capital.
The South African Government and people have consistently supported the rights of the Palestinian people to a sovereign state. Our Government has repeatedly called for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in line with the will of the international community as expressed by the UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 465, 681, 1397 and 1515.
The halting of settlement construction is seen by the South African Government as a commitment already agreed to by Israel during preceding peace negotiations, including at Annapolis International Middle East Peace Conference, which took place in November 2007 and in which South Africa participated.
South Africa has adopted a position to see Palestinian unity, as this would strengthen the situation of all Palestinians in negotiations with Israel. In this regard, South Africa supports all efforts, in particular the Egyptian mediation initiative to conclude an agreement between Fatah and Hamas.
South Africa together with the international community supports all efforts for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
It is our view that a culture of peace should prevail because it is only through permanent and sustained peace that together we can focus on sustaining social and economic development.
Of course a culture of peace is also needed so that the entire world’s people can improve the quality of their lives and livelihoods. This should lead to a thriving arts and culture so that we can focus on creating a more humane and people-centred world.
Together let us ensure that in all our efforts we also put our arts and culture at the centre of our development efforts so that our people’s creativity is brought to the forefront and so that we can demonstrate the rich and diverse cultures that are part of our common humanity and will remain as an inheritance for future generations.
We are gathered here tonight for the opening of the Exhibition of artwork, crafts and photography from the Arab countries of United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, the Sultanate of Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
From Palestine we have an exhibition of photographs taken a 100 years ago reflecting the historic phases. We then have Jerusalem under the Israel occupation and the Holy place for Muslims and Christians in Palestine. There are also crafts from Palestine reflecting its traditions and civilisation.
We have the work of a preeminent modern painter, Dr. Rashid Diab, from Sudan whose work is multifaceted and eclectic. His works are in permanent collections in several museums and galleries in the world.
Mr. Ghusun Ben Mansour Al Rayami is an artist from the Sultanate of Oman and has participated in several exhibitions in different parts of the world. His paintings are exhibited here.
We also have textile arts from Kuwait, from Al Sadu Cultural Centre. There are many other exciting pieces from the participating countries that have been transported for this Exhibition during the Arab Cultural Week.
Through arts and culture we can share many experiences, ideas and creative inspirations that bring us closer together as people of the south and as people of a common globe. We must strengthen existing cultural agreements between and amongst our countries.
Finally I would like to reiterate that South Africa and the Arab States are committed to revitalising our co-operation politically, economically and culturally. True to the spirit of internationalism, this Arab Cultural Week will certainly help to strengthen our bonds and the solidarity and friendship between our people.
Thank you to the Council of Arab Embassies for organizing this event together with us and for especially organizing the Arab Cultural Week. Thank you very much Neo, for kindly hosting this event at the Ditsong African Window Museum.
I thank you.