Official opening of the National Symbols Exhibition by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Ms Lulu Xingwana MP, Benoni Museum
10 Sep 2010
Ladies and gentlemen
In June and July this year, South Africa hosted a most successful World Cup and the first such event on African soil.
The event, on the surface, is considered to be a soccer competition. Yet it is so much more than this as any South African who experienced the World Cup knows.
It offers nations a chance to compete on the field and it also offers a platform for the youth of the world to get to know each other, to build friendships and to foster cultural, social and political dialogue. It is also a generator of capital and a big contributor to tourism.
Yet the off-field character of the Soccer World Cup is also about projecting creativity and celebrating identities and nurturing culture. It can also be referred to as a tournament of ‘flags against flags.’
South Africa may not have won the World Cup but in the battle of identities and brands, this country came out tops. The South African flag become the most recognised symbol throughout the event. The South African brand took centre-stage on the television screens of the world.
Thanks to all South Africans who embraced two of their primary national symbols during this period, namely the flag and the National Anthem. Long after the World Cup one can still see flags flying all over the country, on cars and in shopping malls.
A few weeks ago on a visit to Edinburgh, my delegation and I spotted a South African flag hanging at the window of a semi-detached residence on a busy street. In this way we also recognised that the that our flag has made an impact on the people of the world, as too have our vuvuzelas and makarapas that remain in great demand.
It should be noted that this was not the first time we hosted the world in our country. We did so in 1995 during the Rugby World Cup, and later on, during the Africa Cup of Nations.
What is remarkable about 2010 is the unwavering support and sense of pride that was demonstrated by South Africans. This was encouraging because it showed that South Africa as a nation united in our efforts to make this a successful event – from construction workers, to the police, to our youth, to our health services and those in our justice system and to ordinary people, to boys and girls. Yet this success should not be seen as an end, but rather as part of a process.
The Department of Arts and Culture is going ahead with its programmes to ensure that South Africans are exposed to National Symbols, and that they have access to information on the role, history and significance of symbols. In this way we shall continue to intensify the popularisation of the symbols.
The most effective way to reflect the birth of our new nation is its National Symbols. South Africa is still fresh from that emotional and historic moment when our six coloured flag was raised and the old flag, representing apartheid, was laid to rest. The jubilation, tears of joy, and new hopes are still fresh in our memories. That was a turning point in our history.
National Symbols are key to the definition of a nation. Symbols have a significant role to play in the process of nation building. South Africa took a stand to transform the old symbols to create more representative and inclusive symbols and emblems. The flag was the first one to be designed. The brief to the development of the flag emphasised unity and the coming together of a rainbow nation.
In popularising the flag today, the educational sector is the main focus for the promotion of national symbols. The aim is that the flag in particular, be hoisted and lowered within the school premises and that every school should have a flag.
The Department has also co-published the book, “My Country South Africa, Celebrating Our National Symbols and Heritage” with the Department of Education in order to explain and promote all our symbols. The department has also developed and distributed posters and pamphlets on National symbols. A number of exhibitions have been staged in venues across the country, with newspaper and radio advert flighted. These are but some of the popularisation activities that the department has utilised.
It is the objective of the Department of Arts and Culture to ensure that all citizens of South Africa have access to information pertaining to National Symbols. The message that we are putting across is that to us in South Africa, the vision is one of unity, nation building and social cohesion.
Let us be proud of the uniqueness of our flag in the world. Whilst most of the flags of the world are predominantly three colours, the South African flag has six. The central design expresses the idea of unifying what started as two separate streams.
The National Coat of Arms is also a groundbreaking design that takes into cognisance the rich symbolic elements from our indigenous belief system. The results are a unique design that is both South African and African.
Let us also not forget the unity in action we demonstrate when we sing our National Anthem that combines languages and ideas from our diverse experiences yet integrates these as the expressions of one nation.
As you are aware, September is also our Heritage Month. The Department of Arts and Culture and the Kwazulu-Natal provincial government will host the 2010 national Heritage Day celebrations. The event will take place in Durban on 24 September 2010 where the President will address the nation.
The focus of the celebrations is: Celebrating 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup successes: our heritage. This is a call to South Africans to celebrate our collective achievements during the FIFA World Cup.
The celebration of our 2010 FIFA World Cup successes as part of our heritage is necessary to keep the record of our success for current and future generations. Long after this tournament is gone, South Africans will always bear the memory of 2010 as a source of inspiration, hope and strength when confronted with any form of hardship or adversity.
The Department of Arts and Culture has a number of events lined up to mark Heritage Month. Some of them are :
- Heritage on the Highway: a Soccer Travelling Exhibition at the Natal Museum which conveys our sporting heritage,
- The opening of the Social History Centre at Iziko Museum In Cape Town and
- The National Flag Handover Ceremony at the University of Stellenbosch of the flag flown during the inauguration of President Mandela and rescued by a patriotic South African businessman and repatriated to our country.
Later today we also launch the National Book Week, the very first in South Africa. Through this initiative we are adding a crucial aspect of our culture to our national Heritage Month.
The establishment of a National Book Week provides us with a unique opportunity to reinforce our efforts to promote access to books. We intend encouraging a reading culture and a writing culture.
Our objective is to develop National Book Week into a premier platform through which government, the book sector and civil society can establish a dynamic partnership to work out strategies for the promotion of literacy and reading.
But what is of most importance is that our books also tell us our history and our heritage. Through books we learn about the South African stories in different voices and different literary forms, but together this also constitutes the cultural wealth of our nation.
Our flag of course also tells a story as do our new national orders that replaced those of the apartheid government and that celebrate our democratic order and a culture of liberation and nation building.
The following are the new set of national orders:
- The Order of Mapungubwe
- The Order of Ikhamanga
- The Order of Luthuli
- Order of the Companions of OR Tambo
- Order of Mendi for bravery
- The Order of the Baobab
Our heroes and heroines from the struggle and from all walks of life are honoured through these orders, which symbolise their courage, their strength of character and the great contributions that they have made to the shaping of this nation.
More details on the national symbols that I have mentioned are contained in the display that we are about to open today.
You are therefore invited to utilise this exhibition to understand and appreciate our national symbols and to be inspired through these symbols to greater heights as South Africans.
I declare this exhibition open!
Issued by: Department of Arts and Culture
10 Sep 2010
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