It symbolizes an end as well as a beginning. It will mark an end to artists in all sectors being victims of their own circumstances. It will mark a new beginning where artists are architects of their own vision and future.
It was an artist turned politician, the former President of Senegal, Sekou Toure who said:
“It is not enough to write a revolutionary song; you must fashion the revolution with the people. And if you fashion it with the people, the songs will come by themselves, and of themselves.”
Speaking at the Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Rome in 1959, he went on to say:
“In order to achieve real action, you must yourself be a living part of Africa and of her thought; you must be an element of that popular energy which is entirely called forth for the freeing, the progress, and the happiness of Africa.”For us as Government, as the Department of Arts & Culture this gathering signifies a renewal as well as change. For it has always been our dream and vision to see the artistic community, the cultural and creative sector personnel transformed into active citizens who will be agents of the change they want to see.
We will remember that the President of the Republic, His Excellency Jacob Zuma himself was in the forefront of engagements that gave birth to this process.
We have come a long way since the 2009 consultative meeting at the Sandton Convention Centre where both government, including the Cabinet made a promise to work with the sector to change the creative industry to be what artists want it to be.
The country we live in now is different to what it was before 1994. As we gather here, today, we are celebrating Human Rights Month. Let it be said in very simple yet clear terms that artists in their variety hold in their hands the power to abolish all forms of exploitation and oppression in their sector. As former President Nelson Mandela said: “The power is in your hands.”
Yet this freedom to self-determination for which so many died comes with the responsibility to be active agents of shaping and making South Africa to be the country that we all want it to be. We all believe and agree that artists have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, among other rights.
They have a right to take their fate and future into their own hands. They have a right to a decent and dignified life. They have a right to enjoy the benefits of their work.
Let the message go out from this gathering here in Bloemfontein, where the African National Congress was founded in Mangaung in 1912, that the Government of the people welcomes this development where artists organize themselves to elect their own leaders who will represent their aspirations and hopes.
We all know that the cultural and creative sector, especially artists, have been part of the struggle and contributed immensely to the founding of democracy and freedom in this country.
The artists who were born in this country have been bludgeoned and tempered by a history of conflict filled with racism, injustice and inequality. But this is what has made them to be strong, disciplined and resilient.
We are proud that the cultural and creative sector is the custodian of the nation’s soul.
It is only through what artists do that we are able to understand ourselves better and define our identity as a society. It is a significant achievement that we have reached this point where you, as a sector, will be seen to be taking your fate and future into your own hands.
In fact, this gathering marks a turning point in that the cultural and creative sector will be unwilling to witness or permit anything that undermines human rights to which the artistic and creative community is entitled. As Government we remain committed to helping artists to help themselves to entrench a culture of human rights in the sector.
You should know by now that not only do we wish you well but we are saddened every time we learn of yet another artist who has died a pauper, is without a home or lacks sustainable income and thus rendered unemployed.
But we believe that this gathering marks an important beginning to assuring your survival and success. We pledge to work with you in finding solutions to your own problems. We pledge to work with you in ways that promote the ideals and values in our Constitution to help entrench a culture of human rights.
Perhaps it is important to make mention of the fact that recent research has revealed that the contribution of the cultural and creative sector to the national economy is estimated at over R9.5-billion.
It is about time that the federation comes into existence to ensure that the artistic community directly benefits from this revenue. We are looking forward to a democratically elected leadership and a strong organization that will make a quest for economic justice and social equality.
As Government, our role and responsibility remains to create an enabling environment where the sector can seize the moment to be active agents of what they want to see happen. For nothing should be done for artists without the involvement and participation of artists. The solutions for the cultural and creative industries should be defined by artists themselves.
When the Department of Arts & Culture appointed an Interim Committee in February 2014, the motivation was to provide resources to create an enabling environment for artists to assume responsibility for what happens to them and take control of their own fate and future.
Over the last 20 years of democracy and freedom, we have witnessed the continued exploitation of artists and many of them dying as paupers. This was because artists are, largely, not organized in the sense of having a very strong and relevant formation to represent their material needs and aspirations. Fragmentation and division based on individual interest remains a big challenge.
Over the last two decades of democracy and freedom the resounding statement that has come through was the urgent needs for artists to organize, organize and organize. Nothing much will be achieved without proper and effective organized structures.
There has been allegations that not enough consultations have taken place for the democratic process to unfold for artists to seize back the power. Also, there has been charges that no documentation has been provided for interested and committed artists to prepare for critical engagement on the purpose and direction of the establishment the federation.
We wish to reiterate that the appointment of the Interim Committee was to facilitate the establishment of a unifying and independent cultural and creative industries body that will represent the industries’ interests in legislature and policy making as outline in White Paper.
The areas are:
- Cultural and Natural Heritage Sector.
- Performance and Celebration Sector,
- Visual Arts and Crafts Sector,
- Language and Publishing Sector,
- Audio Visual and Interactive Media Sector and
- Design Creative and ACH Technical support Services Sector
It is not up to government or any minister but to artists themselves to determine how CCIFSA will be structured, who will lead it or processes to be followed. We will play an oversight role.
Thus it is up to the various stakeholders in the cultural and creative industries to define the vision that you desire to give birth to at this inaugural elective conference. We are not looking at you trying to please us as the Government but to work together as equal partners in our aim to uphold and promote a creative and cultural industry that is inclusive and participatory.
This will, above all, be determined by your behavior and attitude to self-organization.
The mandate required the Interim Committee to conduct consultations across the country and hold a hold a national conference as soon as possible. It is at this history making gathering that the interim committee would be dissolved and an inaugural CCIFSA committee elected.
Let us be reminded that the interim committee was given until the end of October 2014 to complete its mandate. But by early August there were systemic challenges in meeting this deadline. Significantly, systems were put in place that have resulted in what is happening here today. It has always been our desire for artists to take their own future into their own hands.
It is either you are part of the problem or part of the solution. The easiest thing to do has been for some among you has been to point out weaknesses and shortcomings in how CCIFSA was organized, the appointment of leaders and processes of consultation.
There has been complains about tight deadlines and lack of consultation. But we all know that whatever the future of artists is going to be, it lies in the hands of artists themselves.
As Government we have created an enabling environment and provided the resources for the cultural and creative sector to help itself. We have a serious responsibility to move South Africa forward. It is now up to you to choose to throw stones or use them to build a very strong organization that will represent the sectors’ interests. Artists must take control, now.
So, let us begin anew remembering on both sides that working together we can achieve more to move South Africa forward. Let us emphasize the ties that bind us together instead of difference that divide.
Today is not about what Government can do for you but whether as active citizens you are ready to assume responsibility to do what you have to do to move this country forward and spread a culture of human rights.
We wish you well in your deliberations!
Thank you! Siyabonga! Rea leboga! Dankie!