Minister Marais' Speech at launch of Cape Flats Book Festival | Western Cape Government



Minister Marais' Speech at launch of Cape Flats Book Festival

17 September 2019



31 AUGUST 2019


Good morning, goeiemôre, molweni nonke,

It is both a great honour and privilege to address you at this very significant launch today. I am particularly honoured for three reasons. The first being that we are officially launching the first of its kind Cape Flats Book Festival in our vibrant Mitchell’s Plain today. Secondly, we collaboratively launch this much welcomed and needed book festival as we enter into Heritage Month tomorrow and it indeed promotes our diverse heritage through literary expression. Lastly and probably the most humbling, is to share this platform with the esteemed and distinguished Athol Williams who selflessly leads the charge in social justice advocacy for the transformation of South Africa through literacy and by his words and deeds enable and inspire others to thrive. 

South Africa prides itself on our rich cultural heritage and key to the work of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport is to stimulate this social tapestry while embracing our diversity.

Undoubtedly, the very first Cape Flats Book Festival will serve to actively celebrate and personify our cultural melting pot by acknowledging our linguistic heritage. However, in the socio-political landscape in which we currently find ourselves, cultural diversity can only be protected and promoted if human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, information and communication, as well as the ability of individuals to choose cultural expressions, are guaranteed. Cultural Affairs, such as this special book festival is central towards achieving these goals and assists our department in creating the enabling environment for expression to flourish through arts, culture, museum, heritage and language related services.

As we are resolute in our conviction to initiate and strengthen projects supporting local artists, together we will continue to sustainably offer a platform to not only showcase or network but to afford a safe space to tell our once untold stories. However, we can all agree, more concerted effort needs to be made to equip the present and future generations with the ability to empathise, imagine and create, and the key to develop these abilities is a life-long education that is interdisciplinary, cross-functional, cross-industry and cross-cultural. It is therefore pivotal to integrate the arts into our societal discourse as it will indeed reduce the skills gap that the next generation is facing, and subsequently prepare the leaders of tomorrow.

We have to remain mindful that the power of arts and humanities are right at the core of all processes: to enlighten, guide and support the necessary dialogues required for societal upliftment and progress. Yo-Yo Ma makes it very clear when he stated “It’s not enough to outsource culture to the artists and musicians, and receive it as a passive audience. We must engage the full spectrum of human understanding, and every one of us needs to participate in strengthening our cultural resources, all the time.” The arts build trust, the trust needed to bridge conflicting views and interests, to overcome current barriers and obstacles with dynamic and innovative approaches. Festivals of this nature prompt us to have those “calm, constructive and even uncomfortable conversations on the kind of future we want”, as advocated by Professor Klaus Schwab. They are catalysts for these conversations, are constant reminders that we need to engage in them; and a reason, a reminder, and sometimes an excuse, not to shy away from them. 

I wholeheartedly thank each individual who had a hand in the success of this festival as you have indeed helped us in promoting the important narratives showcased here and will highlight the significance of sharing lived experiences especially from different cultural backgrounds and societal contexts. Today, once again, reaffirms that we all are united in our diversity and that more intense collaboration is needed to change the bitter to better. The various measures put in place to divide us based on differing cultural backgrounds and geographical placing fail in its destructive objectives when unfortunate pasts are acknowledged, lived experiences are shared and heritage is celebrated in this way as a platform is created for cultural expression to contribute to awareness, understanding and acceptance. All of which is much needed in our beloved country and world at large today.

Together, we have and will continue to promote multilingualism to redress past imbalances to contribute to social integration and transformation which in turn enhances our arts and culture economy and consequently promotes safe and cohesive spaces through the development of our social infrastructure.  In this way, we then enable linguistic democracy which is needed to make diversity accessible to all as it increases our range of choice and helps nurture human capacities and values. 

In closing, I leave you with the African proverb, “Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter”.

May the Cape Flats Book Festival go from strength to strength and become the renowned space to reflect, question, resist, review and rebuild our social discourse when and where necessary.

I thank you

Media Enquiries: 
Stacy McLean

Spokesperson for the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais
083 504 1171