Celebrating the AU Year of Arts, Culture and Heritage

By Minister Nathi Mthethwa

During the 33rd Summit of the Heads of State and Governments of the African Union held in 2020, that African Patriot, HE President Keita of Mali proposed that 2021 be declared as the “Year of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

The Assembly adopted the theme and stressed the importance of Arts; Culture and Heritage in the achievement of the objectives set out in African Union Agenda 2063.  In 2013, the African Union reviewed fifty years of its existence and developed a programme for the next fifty years, popularly known as AU Agenda 2063

Aspiration 5 of Agenda 2063: envisions amongst others, an Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics. This calls for an African cultural renaissance that is pre-eminent and that inculcates the spirit of Pan Africanism; tapping on Africa’s rich heritage and culture to ensure that the creatives are major contributors to Africa’s growth and transformation; and restoring and preserving Africa’s cultural heritage, including its languages. 

This was a further advancement to the earlier resolutions taken by the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union. Article II (a) of the OAU Charter which affirms the commitment of the Member States to the coordination and harmonisation of their policies in the domain of educational and cultural cooperation. 
The African Union (AU) has recognised the role of Arts; Culture and Heritage can play as catalysts for the socio-economic development and integration of the African Continent. 

As the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, we are expected to make a positive contribution in this effort of building ‘A better Africa and a better world’. This will be done by strengthening sport and cultural diplomacy, where engagements in both bilateral and multilateral cooperation with key strategic partners in Africa and across the world. The following programmes will be undertaken to realise this. 

The Africa Cultural Seasons: We are aiming at showcasing South Africa’s artistic and cultural talent, promote regional integration and support efforts towards expanded trade of our cultural goods and services. 
The Africa Cultural Seasons by the Department contributes to the implementation of the African Union Charter for African Cultural Renaissance and African Union Agenda 2063, which both put emphasis on the importance of Africa’s total emancipation and development, and call for Africa to unite in cultural diversity and African Renaissance through creative and cultural industries. 
Africa Month Programme: promotes Pan Africanism and African Cultural Renaissance, of which both contribute to united efforts for decolonization and regeneration of the African Continent. It is regarded as a platform to promote the AU institutions and its programs towards the attainment of its vision – ‘An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena’. 
Promotion of Use of African Languages: The maiden African Language Week was hosted by the African Union in January 2019. The African Language Week provides an opportunity to showcase and promote African languages and cultures across the Continent of Africa. Africa is said to be the most linguistically diverse continent in the world. Our language diversity should serve as our strength – a factor for unification and development. 

The Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route Project (RLHR): is the national chapter of the African Liberation Heritage Programme. The RLHR seeks to identify, document, conserve and manage a series of heritage sites that present evidence of a common narrative, memory and experiences relating to the resistance and liberation struggle in South Africa and the continent broadly.  
Commemoration 23rd March as Day of Cuito Carnavale: This is a significant day in the history of the struggle and ultimate liberation of the Southern Africa Countries. It was on this day that the joint liberation forces led by Cuba defeated the apartheid army in Cuito Carnavale; Angola. It is our considered view that this day should be a day where the SADC region, Africa and the globe pay homage to those Cuban forces and the progressive humanity’s contribution made in excellelrating the liberatory process in SADC. 
Popularization of the General Hashim Mbita project: This is the chronicle of the liberation struggles in the Frontline States as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was known then. The proposed project aims to unpack, repackage, and popularize the General Hashim Mbita nine-volume publication across and beyond SADC. The ultimate aim of the repackaging will be to reprocess the volume into a form that can be readily understood and usable by the users. This will pave a way for effective popularization of the publication.  

Commemoration of 60th Anniversary of Chief Albert Luthuli winning the Nobel Prize for Peace: Chief Albert Luthuli was the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Peace for his non-violent struggle against apartheid in 1961. For the first time South Africans will see the prize. 

We intend to celebrate the achievement of this liberation stalwart by hosting a series of public lectures; exhibitions, school debates and essays as part of the anniversary. 
Ratification of the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance in the SADC: Because of the slow pace of ratification, the AU directed South Africa to be the Champion for the ratification of the Charter in the SADC Region. 
Through multilateral engagements, we will add the African voice and of developing countries to global debates at UNESCO and other UN agencies.  Furthermore, the Department will promote the Africa agenda and regional integration using sport and culture to advance the work of the African Union, through among others, participation in the activities of the AU Region5 Sport Council.  

The year of Arts, Culture and Heritage is happening at a time when AU Member States are still grappling with the effects of the COVID19 pandemic. The pandemic is imposing heavy human; financial and economic costs to Africa and the world. The crisis also provides an opportunity to re-examine the continents’ socio economic priorities; including the role of cultural workers; contributing to building stronger and more resilient health and social sectors towards equality; inclusion; social cohesion and African Renaissance as inspired by Ubuntu philosophy. 

Article by Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture and a Member of the NEC and NWC of the ANC. 

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