Remarks by Monica Newton on the occasion of the launch of the Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life Exhibition at MuseumAfrika, Newtown.

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12 Feb 2014

Its an enormous privilege for me to be standing here and to join my voice with those welcoming everybody to MuseumAfrika.

In the words of the Minister,"It took decades of oppression, sacrifice and struggle to get here and our nation is celebrating."

This event is so extraordinary on a range of different levels, and I will take you through just some of them. First of all, in celebrating 20 years of democracy it is fundamental that we recognise how far we have come.What you see on the walls today, is in essence the story of us, told through the eyes and the lens of the only people who are good at it, our artists.  In essence, as it's been said before this event is an incredible tribute to their skill, their passion, their struggle, their sacrifice, so I urge you all, to not forget what it was like.

Be shocked, be horrified, be grateful that, that is no longer how we live in this country. Celebrate the work of artists who show us who we were so that they might also guide who we are to become. It is fundamental that this event become part of our national psyche, lest me not forget.
It is also such an important event because it takes place a day after the release of our beloved leader (24 years ago, on 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison). Extraordinary to think that a little while ago, we would not have been standing here as a group of multiracial people, celebrating the end of an oppressive, apocalyptic regime. 

It is also such an important event for where it is taking place. Newtown, Pageview, Brickfields as it was once known so many many years ago, has been the site of struggle for more than a hundred years. Johannesburg's first forced removals happened here. Artistic expression against oppression took place here, next door at the Market Theatre. This is a special place and so no where else could this exhibition be as successfully housed, as in Newtown.

The third extraordinary thing about this exhibition, is that it allows us an opportunity to think about who we want to be in the future. The twenty years of democracy celebrations give us all an opportunity to celebrate what we have overcome, to recognise what we still face but most critically to stop and think about those who sacrificed, those who died, those who are still with us, those who are no longer and to celebrate and commemorate their efforts, as well as designing and celebrating our future.

With those words I once again would like to welcome you here to encourage you to talk to all of your friends, so that they come to. We are full to capacity tonight here at MuseumAfrika wouldn't it be wonderful, if this was the kind of experience at every exhibition. The twenty years of democracy celebrations is a very large programme that will take place throughout the year and I would encourage you to find your niche, to stop and to think about that which is important to you, to remember where you were and most importantly to celebrate where we have come from.

Thank you