Minister Anroux Marais' Speech at US Grant launch in Elands Bay
WESTERN CAPE MINISTER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND SPORT, ANROUX MARAIS
US GRANT LAUNCH: ELANDS BAY
18 NOVEMBER 2019
Good day, molweni nonke, goeiedag
It is both a great pleasure and privilege to address you at this very significant engagement in our beautiful Elands Bay in the Cederberg Municipality today.
We are delighted that Heritage Western Cape is only one of the two applicants in South Africa which was successful in being awarded the U.S Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation for the 2019 financial year. Coming in second is the Conservation of the 20th-Century Constitutional Court Art Collection in Johannesburg.
This grant will be indispensable for the preventive conservation of Diepkloof Rock Shelter for all humanity and for addressing conditions that damage and threaten the site, which is in the process of being inscribed as a world heritage site.
The project is also important for the innovative approach taken towards preservation. The funds will be used to further develop the VR reality also showing what South Africa can do in leading the conservation process in the continent and beyond. The funds will also be used to open an archaeological site, with the view of it being a world heritage site, to the public. Not many archaeological sites in South Africa are currently open to the public and even in the cradle of humankind, we only have Sterkfontein which has been actively set up to welcome tourists. The genesis of the Cradle of Humankind and its sites are quite different from Diepkloof Rock Shelter but we will continue to use the Cradle as one of the examples around to mould our experience.
Other archaeological projects which have received this award since 2003 are the Cradle of Humankind, at the inception of the fund, Mapungubwe, the 18th‐Century São José Slave Shipwreck in Cape Town and the Rock Art Sites at uKhahlamba‐Drakensberg. While this is an extensive and diverse list of projects, Diepkloof is the first Stone Age site to be on this list and its preservation challenges and conservation differ from all other recently awarded sites.
This grant will effectively contribute to strengthen the World Heritage Site nomination and make it even more relevant to the UNESCO requirement of accessibility and community beneficiation.
The conservation interventions on site will be of primary importance to ensure that the site retains its scientific significance and its outstanding universal values, which is what makes it exceptional compared to many other Middle Stone Age sites in South Africa.
According to the latest statistics by Wesgro, more than 200 000 Americans from the U.S. visited the Western Cape in 2017. The main reason for visiting was for leisure and they spent an average of 11 nights in the province. The majority of these visitors (42.5%) was between 25 and 44 years old. This is the age group who normally relies on digital information to decide their itinerary. Considering this, we are happy that, through this grant, our U.S. visitors will be able to start experiencing Diepkloof Rock Shelter online with the virtual reality web adapted version and will then be inspired to come and visit the actual site once they land in South Africa. It is also an advantage that the West Coast in 2018 was the highest achieving region in the Western Cape in terms of visitors for culture & heritage activities.
The US is amongst the Leading source markets of cultural tourism in South Africa, and 18.55% of all Americans coming to South Africa indicated that culture and heritage is the most positive experience they had in the country.
The Western Cape Government welcomes the U.S Consulate General’s generous support to Heritage Western Cape and wholeheartedly expresses our gratitude for the confidence bestowed upon Heritage Western Cape. As the leading heritage resources management public entity in South Africa, Heritage Western Cape continues to effectively contribute to the identification, protection and conservation of the rich and diverse heritage resources in the Western Cape. With their already high standard set for the conservation of our heritage landscape, mindful of national and international trends, while realising the importance of tourism in our economy, there is no doubt in my mind that Heritage Western Cape will far exceed the US Consulate General’s expectations on the conservation of Diepkloof Rock Shelter, our unique archaeological site on the Cradle of Human Culture tourism route.
I thank you.
Spokesperson for the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais
083 504 1171