Minister Anroux Marais' Speech at the "My Name is February" Exhibition Launch
WESTERN CAPE MINISTER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND SPORT, ANROUX MARAIS
EXHIBITION LAUNCH: MY NAME IS FEBRUARY
4 JULY 2019
Good evening, goeienaand, molweni nonke,
It is indeed a great honour to address you at this very special occasion as we launch the “My Name is February” travelling exhibition today.
At the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) we are committed to building inclusive communities through the expansion of our museum services’ offerings by addressing previously hidden narratives. Exhibitions of this nature are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples. This exhibition will indeed raise awareness on the once untold story while creating a sense of belonging to all descendants who now call the Western Cape home.
Through this exhibition we pay tribute to the thousands of people forcibly uprooted from their homes in various parts of Africa and Asia, who were brought to the Cape and whose labour contributed to the building of South Africa’s cities, towns and farms. This often forgotten and neglected slave past has shaped our heritage not only at the Cape but in South Africa.
Although often an uncomfortable conversation, it is of vital importance to create awareness on the enslaved people who were brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company as forced labour for the expanding settlement at the Cape. The first ship-load of slaves arrived in 1658. Between 1658 and the early 1800s over 63 000 men, women, and children were snatched from their homes in places such as Madagascar, Mozambique, Zanzibar, India and the islands of the East Indies such as Sumatra, Java, the Celebes, Ternate and Timor and brought to the Cape as slaves.
Stripped of their homes, families and friends, cultures, languages, religions, and identities these enslaved people became the property of others. They had no rights to their own children; they could not own property; and did not have the freedom to choose who they wanted to work for or the kind of work they wanted to do.
Upon landing at the Cape of Good Hope, slaves were stripped of everything. Even their names. As property, they were renamed at their slave masters’ whim. For many, this was the calendar month in which they arrived.
This exhibition was produced with Iziko Museums of South Africa and its partners Geometry Global and Gavin Wood. It explores local identities rooted in slavery, by exploring the practice of renaming of slaves after the calendar month through the images and statements of their living descendants, who still carry these names, such as February, April and September.
At DCAS, we understand the importance of history and heritage. It is for this very reason that we welcome this new exhibition as it forms part of our ongoing efforts to promote, transform and highlight the crucial role heritage and museums play in our communities. Remember, any exhibition can invite you to look, a great one changes the way you see.
I thank you.