Minister Meyer's Address at the 2013/2014 Cultural Affairs Awards Ceremony
Speech delivered by the Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Dr Ivan Meyer, at the 2013/14 Western Cape Culture Awards on 10 February 2014 at the Artscape Theatre Complex, Cape Town.
Cabinet Colleague, the Minister of Human Settlements, the Honourable Bonginkosi Madikizela
The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Cultural Affairs and Sport, Mr Mark Wiley
The Deputy Speaker of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, Mr Piet Pretorius
Former Ambassador and former Western Cape Minister of Health, Mr Piet Meyer
The Consul General of Germany, Herr Roland Hermann
The Executive Mayor of George Municipality, Alderman Charles Standers
The Executive Mayor of Saldanha Municipality, Alderman Francois Schippers
The Executive Mayor of Cape Winelands Municipality, Alderman Cornelius de Bruyn
The Head of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Mr Brent Walters and Colleagues, Dr JC Stegmann of Treasury, Dr Gilbert Lawrence of Community Safety, Dr Robert McDonald of Social Development, Mr Thando Thsangana of Human Settlements, Mr Solly Fourie of Economic Development and Ms Joyene Isaacs of Agriculture
The Acting Flag Officer Commanding Naval Base Simon’s Town, Captain G Nkosi
Members of the Board and Chief Executive Officers of national public entities (CEOs of Iziko Museums of South Africa, Robben Island Museum)
The Deputy Chair of Artscape, Prof Mtetwa
The Chairpersons and members of Western Cape Public Entities : Dr Elsworth McPherson of the Western Cape Geographical Names Committee, Ms Laura Robinson of Heritage Western Cape, Prof Rajendra Chetty of the Western Cape Language Committee and Mr Mervyn Smith of the Western Cape Cultural Committee
Ms Irma Albers and Mr Michael Mokhoro of Distell
Ms Hannetjie du Preez, Chief Director Cultural Affairs and Senior Members of Staff – Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport
Ladies and Gentlemen, special guests, nominees
This year marks the centenary of the first concert of South Africa’s first symphony orchestra. The Cape Town Municipal Orchestra, as it was known in 1914, is the predecessor of today’s Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. The origins of Cape Town Opera can be traced back to the early 1920s with the establishment of University of Cape Town’s Opera School at the South African College of Music. The Eoan Group was founded in 1933 by Helen Southern-Holt in District Six. In 1934 the first formal ballet company was established, and dance continues to thrive through the Cape Town City Ballet, Jazzart and Dance for All. The first South African chair in drama was established at the University of Stellenbosch in 1961 by its Rector, Prof. HB Thom. We therefore have much to celebrate.
This awards ceremony takes place at a time when Cape Town is celebrating its status as the World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. Those who will be honoured tonight have demonstrated that the Western Cape’s reputation as the hub of vitality and diverse cultural life is no accident. It is a reputation that has been built up over many decades. Everyone who will be receiving an award tonight has made a significant contribution to our standing as a region of artistic creativity and excellence.
The question is what do we do with this powerful heritage? Well, the significance of our cultural heritage lies in the value it offers to the present and the future.
So tonight, I want to acknowledge and thank you for:
- Contributing to the building of a multi-cultural community.
- Promoting patriotism.
- Emphasizing the cultural commonalities within different cultures.
- Enhancing innovation through the development of world class cultural “products”.
- Contributing to the cultural tourism industry.
- Identifying and developing artistic and cultural ability especially amongst our youth.
- Presenting the Arts and Culture as fun.
However, more importantly, I have on numerous occasions highlighted that what we need in South Africa at this time is cultural warmth. The Arts are uniquely positioned to build cultural warmth. Cultural warmth is the creation of space for other cultures which will inspire (not criticise), respect (not label), value (not eliminate) and dignify (not diminish).
Language is an important instrument for cultural warmth.
Former President Nelson Mandela emphasized the role that language plays when reaching out to others. Commenting on this he says: “Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savour their songs.”
The political sphere is seldom the best vehicle for the creation of cultural warmth. For that reason, government cannot be the driving force behind the social cohesion project. Civil society, meaning you, are strategically better placed to drive the social cohesion project.
Government is simply one of the actors. This dialogue and debate will require great political maturity. We will have to do away with groups hurling political insults at other cultural groups simply because they happen to be the political majority at a particular time. We know that the wheel turns in politics. We must avoid ethnic nationalism and its agenda (“it is our turn to eat”) because it does not promote social cohesion.
One fundamental principal of Cultural warmth is that it is generated when we stand back for a moment and make space for other cultures.
To be ethnocentric is to put my culture, my belief and my language first. This is counter-productive because it creates mistrust, is arrogant and implies the superiority of one culture over another. This is too reminiscent of Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” ideology. Ethnocentrism continues to be a contributing factor to wars and conflicts today. Red lights go on whenever people are fanatical about language, culture or faith. Fundamentalism, ethnocentrism ethnic nationalism is a breeding ground for conflict, anarchy and social disharmony. Our history tells the story of Afrikaner nationalism, African nationalism and, more recently, ethnic nationalism. This road is a dead end.
Former President Nelson Mandela taught us that when you reach out to others they will eventually reciprocate and it creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding of how inter-linked, intertwined our destinies are.
While I am indeed grateful for the work being done by each one of you I am also aware that funding is more often than not, a huge challenge in your sector and every indication is that it could become worse before it becomes better. The Western Cape Government will however continue to, within the constraints of competing demands, fund the Arts to the best of its ability. I do however urge you to confront the reality of a diminishing fiscal by reviewing how you organize ourselves, how you share resources and how you collaborate so that there are mutual benefits for all. The key benefit being the development of the strategic asset, cultural warmth.
Is it therefore possible, for example, to approach funders as a collective as opposed to competing against each other for the same limited resources? I can assure you that the Distell and Checkers of this world will be most grateful if their decision making processes in respect of funding was made easier by the sector.
Tonight, however is also a reflection of the values of our vibrant democracy in which the cultural and linguistic rights of all people are recognised and protected by the Constitution. Unfortunately, these rights are often undermined by the social ills that are destroying many of our communities. Drugs, alcoholism, crime and the like destroys any attempt to build cultural warmth. In fact it is precisely this acknowledgement which has led to Distell who is corporate supporter of the Arts to produce a booklet focusing on Teenagers and Alcohol. This publication of the booklet is in acknowledgement that the “Born Frees” are not so free if they cannot exercise their freedom to enjoy the empowerment that comes with enjoying full cultural expression. Distell has generously agreed to donating copies of the booklet to all libraries within the Western Cape.
This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy, let us tonight do so by celebrating the each other’s success in the arts, culture, heritage, museums, libraries, geographical names, language and archives together. Let’s celebrate by embracing the slogan, your culture, my culture, our heritage.
I thank you.