Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr. Nathi Mthethwa
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education
MECs for Education
Provincial Heads of Department
Representatives of the Department of Arts and Culture
Our Partners: Motsepe Foundation, SAMRO, and LoveLife
Representatives of Teacher Unions and School Governing Bodies
Ladies and gentlemen
More importantly our participating school choirs
I consider it a singular honour and a privilege to welcome everyone to the national championships of the 2017 edition of the ABC Motsepe Schools Eisteddfod.
Programme Director, Ladies and Gentlemen, the ABC Motsepe Schools Eisteddfod must be understood by its historical context as an act of redress, therefore an act of cultural restitution and restoration. As we know, we come from a situation wherein our indigenous heritage was dismissed and stigmatised as ‘primitive’ curiosities of ‘underdeveloped peoples’ with very little, if any cultural significance. The act of restitution and restoration through choral music is our quest as a free people in our country of birth to promote unity in our diversity, nation-building, reconciliation, and social cohesion among young South Africans of school-going age.
Nation-building and social cohesion shouldn’t be viewed as social constructs without meaning, but should be viewed and understood as a response to the ongoing and unfinished national project, which began with the transformation of South Africa into a constitutional democracy in 1994. That project as the Constitution dictates is the healing the divisions of the past. It enjoins us to establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. Interwoven into the creation of democratic values and social justice is our very own contribution to civilization, i.e. the humble concept of Ubuntu. The concept of Ubuntu is central to the nation-building and social cohesion national project in South Africa. This is an African idea of human equality and care, based on the notion that beings and their values are reciprocal and shared by all. Heritage, as defined by the International Museums Council, is –
“the sum total of wildlife and scenic parks, sites of scientific or historic importance, national monuments, historic buildings, works of art, literature and music, oral traditions and museum collections – together with their documentation”.
In this regard, significant progress has subsequently been made in building a new and inclusive society to which the arts, culture and heritage has made a contribution. The task now, is to determine the manner in which we accelerate, expand and deepen the gains made over the last two decades, and to address the new challenges which will continue to emerge, based on an ever-changing world and society.
The arts, culture and heritage sector is fundamental to the holistic development of a society, in order to possess the creative and innovative means of self-actualisation and social transformation, based on the social practices, values, traditions and histories of cultural communities. Given that all societies are a social, political, economic and cultural construct that maintains and renews itself by drawing on its creative and innovative store of cultural and heritage resources, the remaking of South Africa into a just and inclusive society cannot be accomplished without drawing on the creative, cultural and heritage resources of all our people.
Moving into the future, we are committed to ensure that the arts, culture and heritage contribute to change and the creation of a better life for all. The intention is to effectively contribute to building a cohesive and united society, in which everyone has access to arts, culture and heritage, resources, facilities and opportunities.
Music, like all other forms of cultural expression, is an important weapon of education. Academic research has concluded that, “in arming our students intellectually to challenge social injustice, music serves as a very effective weapon.” [Christopher Andrew Brkich: 2012]. So much is invested in this exercise precisely because it advances the holistic development of the young, preparing them for constructive lives fulfilling to themselves, their country and their people. There is little educational value in the traditional classroom teaching about social injustice, yet, to confront such injustice is an important function of democratic education hence in this country we do it through music, song and dance.
Programme Director, we recently observed and celebrated Africa Month. This celebration is intended to create a platform and opportunities for African artists from the continent and the Diaspora to fundamentally redefine the African identity and relations among all the people of this country in particular and the rest of our continent in general.
I wish to invite everyone present here to familiarise themselves with Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want: A Shared Strategic Framework for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development, released by the African Union commission in September 2015. There are seven aspirations that are uppermost in Agenda 2063. Of particular relevance for this week’s national event is Aspiration Five, which states that The Africa We want, is the “Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics”. Agenda 2063 enjoins all AU-member States to “review [their] curricula to include values and ideals of Pan Africanism, African cultural values and heritage”.
It is for this reason that we strongly contend that learning and education extends well beyond acquiring skills, into acquiring and internalising the values, attitudes and behaviours that contribute to nation-building, social cohesion and national reconciliation. We have to learn from the shameful experiences and behavior of the recent times, including naked Afrophobia and its twin evil xenophobia, which resulted in needless violent attacks and criminality against our African brothers and sisters.
We must, as a basic education sector, do more to set the example for our young people to understand that we live in a world that is diverse, different and forward-looking. It is upon our shoulders as the sector to ensure that the young people in our schools make a positive difference to their own lives and the lives of all, whom they live, work and learn with, irrespective of their race, gender, colour, religion, creed, or nationality. There is no room for cultural chauvinism, racism, sexism, Afrophobia, and xenophobia. These are an anti-thesis of our world renowned Constitution which marks its 21st anniversary this year.
Therefore, I am pleased that this Eisteddfod has taken an initiative to identify our National Anthem, the African Union (AU) Anthem, and the Preamble of our democratic Constitution as part of the prescribed repertoires of the Eisteddfod’s programme. This continues to instill in our learners that South Africa recognises itself as an integral part of the African continent. One of Africa’s finest sons, Comrade Kwame Nkrumah, first Prime Minister of Ghana, puts it succinctly when he said:
“I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me”.
We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that South Africa is part of Africa, but in reality Africa is part of us. Therefore, as a people of South Africa, we must understand that our national interests are intrinsically linked to continental stability, unity and prosperity. Therefore, our national interest is inherently defined by the development and upliftment of all African people. I commend the National Coordinating Committee for this forward thinking step in ensuring that our learners are made conscious of their African roots.
The 2017 edition of the ABC Motsepe Schools Eisteddfod coincides with the 120th anniversary of the hymn, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. As we know, the original Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was composed by Lyricist tat’ u-Enoch Sontonga. In honour of tat’ uSontonga, schools performing in the African category, are rendering this Anthem, replacing the National Anthem of the Republic of South Africa.
Similarly, we pay tribute to the Lyricist Cornelius Jacobus Langenhoven, who in 1918 composed “Die Stem”, which was the official national anthem of Apartheid South Africa. As a separate hymn, Die Stem, which became a critical symbol of Afrikaner nationalism during apartheid, would be 100 next year. Like Sontonga’s Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, Die Stem, in itself is a greater prayer for unity – hence it was included as part of our revamped National Anthem.
Programme Director, Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2017 ABC Motsepe Schools Eisteddfod takes place under the theme: “Celebrating the Centenary of OR Tambo through Music”.
As we know 2017 marks the centenary commemoration of the son of the soil, Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, affectionately known as OR. Comrade Tambo was a leader of the African National Congress (ANC) for close to three decades during the darkest period of the anti-apartheid struggle. He has earned through selfless service to people of South Africa and World a title of being considered as one of greatest leaders and freedom fighters of the 20th century.
Born in the rural village of Kantolo, in Bizana in the Eastern Cape, Comrade Tambo would have turned 100 on October 27. Many have correctly argued that OR Tambo cannot die, for his legacy lives on. Tambo was a colossal figure, but his humility and quiet wisdom gave a sense of indescribable comfort. He was a herder boy, who became a giant; a man with a vision for a better tomorrow; an exemplar of leadership and service to others.
Tambo left a rich legacy that will forever occupy a superior echelon within our minds and our hearts. Not only did he struggle against the injustices of his time, but he established the foundation for a democratic future. Though he would be the last to admit, in many senses, he is the architect of our freedom, democracy and prosperity as a new nation. He led us to the threshold of our democracy. It remains a source of great sadness that he did not live to finally cast his vote for a government, based on the will of all the people. In his own words, Tambo had a dream:
“We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals, in conditions of peace and prosperity. We seek to create a united democratic and non-racial society”.
This colossal – OR, had earlier in his life a much simpler ambition, that is to be an Anglican priest and a choir conductor. Tambo, a devout Christian was on the verge of being ordained as an Anglican priest before he left the country to establish the ANC Mission in Exile. He was known for his love for music, promoting peace and advancement of human spirituality. Tambo’s dream took a turn when the apartheid excesses made it difficult to conduct the revolution at home. He was called into the service of the oppressed, a job he performed with a great skill and humility. Today, through his first love – music, we honour him.
Despite the loss of his mortal self, we nevertheless draw comfort from the fact that the vision to which he dedicated his life – of a free and democratic society – remains at the centre of everything we do. The values that he espoused and the qualities he possessed, continue to inspire and motivate us.
Ladies and Gentleman, the indigenous folklore category will never be the same again. In this category, choristers showcase the diverse cultures in their distinct colours and dance, traditional attire and varying story-lines. The National Coordinating Committee said it’s not enough to just perform “Izitibili”. However they said; OR Tambo was not only the President of the liberation movement, but also a lover and conductor of choral music. It then made sense to honour him in an action song, infused in the Indigenous folklore category – the finale of the both primary and secondary school categories.
I am pleased that the National Coordinating Committee maintains that our learners recite the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. This has become a standing item for the Eisteddfod, as it teaches our children about the sacrifices undergone by our heroes and heroines towards the attainment of our democracy.
For the splendid work that went into hosting this event, I wish to thank the National Coordinating Committee, comprising the national and provincial officials, representatives from the teacher unions and other national organisations and institutions.
We are very grateful to our partners in education for their contribution to the development of human resources in our country and continent. Africa has huge potential for growth and prosperity with the right investment of resources, collaboration and mutual partnerships.
My gratitude also extends to our partners – Department of Arts and Culture and Love life. Your support is highly appreciated. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Motsepe Foundation for the contribution to this programme.
In conclusion, let me extend our gratitude to the school management teams, school governing bodies, and more importantly the teachers, parents and learners for their selfless contribution towards the success of this event.
I would like to congratulate all the learners and schools that have been selected to perform at the 2017 National Eisteddfod. May your performance be your best ever; and the 2017 Eisteddfod the highlight of this year’s school calendar.
Ladies and gentlemen let’s enjoy the best that our country has to offer.
I thank you.