Speech delivered by By Prof. Keorapetse Kgoshi on the behalf of Minister Pallo Jordan on the role of culture in post-apartheid South Africa at the EU-ACP Colloquium in Brussels

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01 Apr 2009

In his keynote address at the launch of the Encyclopaedia of South African Arts, Culture and Heritage, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg Campus), a week ago, our Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr. Z. Pallo Jordan, reminded the audience that: “One of the founding fathers of democratic South Africa, Oliver Reginald Tambo, a visionary leader and an iconic and unifying figure in the liberation movement, expressed the political, educational and social importance of arts, culture and heritage in reconstruction and reconciliation as follows”:

“We are one people with a rich cultural heritage which manifests itself in many variations. Our task is not to preserve our culture in its antique forms but to build on it and let it grow to assume a national character, the better to become a component of all-inclusive evolving world culture. In this context, oral literature, dance, etc., become elemental parts of the national culture – a people’s possession rather than a simple means of tribal identification.”

When the first democratic government was established in 1994, the arts, culture and heritage fell under the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. The Ministry of Arts and Culture came into existence in 2004. The evolution of a stand-alone ministry came with a number of advantages. The emergence and ultimate adoption of the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage in 1996 was a crucial aspect of that evolution and marked an important milestone for the arts, culture and heritage in post-apartheid South Africa.

In the White Paper the Department of Arts and Culture set itself the following objectives, among others:

Human Rights: To ensure that all persons, groups and communities have the right to equal opportunities to participate in the arts and culture, to conserve and develop their cultural heritage.

Access: To ensure unhindered access to the means of artistic and cultural activity, information and enjoyment in both financial and geographical terms.

Redress: To ensure the correction of historical and existing imbalances through development, education, training and affirmative action with regard to race, class, gender, rural and urban considerations.

Nation Building: To foster a sense of pride in and knowledge of all aspects of South African culture, and the arts and to encourage mutual respect and tolerance and inter-cultural exchange between the various cultures and forms of art to facilitate the emergence of a shared cultural identity constituted by diversity.

Diversity: To ensure the recognition of aesthetic pluralism and a diversity of forms, within a multicultural context.

Conservation: To conserve the full diversity of South African heritage and traditions.

Achievement: To recognize achievement and foster the development of shared standards of excellence.

Innovation: To encourage artistic creativity, experimentation and artistic renewal.

Sustainability: To encourage self-sufficiency, sustainability and viability in the arts and culture.

Because under apartheid freedom of expression, among many other things, did not exist, the White Paper stipulates that: “A fundamental prerequisite for democracy is the principle of freedom of expression. Rooted in freedom of expression and creative thought, the arts, culture and heritage have a vital role to play in development, nation building and sustaining our emerging democracy. They must be empowered to do so.” 

The under-girding principles that inform the objectives I have listed above are there for the support, development and promotion of activities aligned to our national development priorities, namely: the promotion of democracy; the promotion of development and sustainability; the promotion of institutional development; the promotion of accessibility to culture for all; and for the promotion of processes that lead to artistic renewal and development.

The following are the Department’s activities which are divided into key measurable objectives and programs:

Administration: to coordinate and support the national strategic programs by developing and reviewing policy and legislation and developing systems for monitoring and evaluation.

Arts and Culture in Society: to increase and facilitate access to and broader participation in arts and culture through policy formulation, legislation and equitable funding.

National Language Service: to develop, promote and protect the 11 official languages and enhance the linguistic diversity of the country.

Cultural Development and International Co-operation: to improve economic and other development opportunities for South African arts and culture, nationally and globally, through mutually beneficial partnerships.

Heritage Promotion: to identify, conserve and promote cultural heritage to ensure the transformation of the heritage landscape as a vehicle for nation-building and social cohesion.

National Archives, Records, Meta-Information and Heraldic Services: to guide, sustain and develop the archival, heraldic and information
resources of South Africa to empower citizens through full and open
access to these resources.

The strategic objectives, programs and activities illustrating the role of culture and the arts and the implementation of our cultural policy in a post-apartheid, democratic South Africa, place the Department of Arts and Culture at the heart of the Government’s Programme of Action in the process of social transformation. The Department plays a vital role not only in chronicling our collective memory but also in redefining the soul of the nation.