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MEC Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba: Opening of eigth Annual Northern Cape Writers Festival

October 19, 2016

Keynote Address by MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba at the opening of the 8th Annual Northern Cape Writers Festival

Programme Director,

Vice Chancellor of the Sol Plaatje University Professor Yunus Ballim,

Acting Head of Department Ms Ruth Palm,

Friends and Compatriots,

Fellow lovers of the word,

Esteemed guests.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Good Morning and thank you for inviting me to be part of an exciting and invigorating programme that focuses on the development of ordinary citizens of the Northern Cape. In fact, my relationship with books continues to this day as it opens up new worlds, reveals new ideas and suggests new opportunities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The 8th Annual Writers Festival comes at time when we as South Africans are vigorously embarking on a campaign to promote, preserve and cherish our heritage. This campaign resonates very well with the Writers Festival as we must ensure that our writers are encouraged to document our heritage in manuscripts, documentaries, novels or in short stories. These books must then find expression and its presence in the libraries of the Northern Cape.

We must also accept that libraries are about the past, present and future, and they are surely then also repositories of humanity’s heritage.

I want to therefore encourage the citizens of the Northern Cape who have not yet joined a public library to do so and I am confident that if they do indeed take up the challenge, they will one day understand that when they got their library card there life has begun.

Once you have joined the library and gain access to more books you will gain access to the understanding of our common heritage.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Reading books and writing is not just an enjoyable past time. It is an integral part of our struggle to be a free and prosperous nation.

Sixty one years ago, representatives from across the country gathered on a dusty piece of veld in Kliptown to adopt the Freedom Charter. In that document, they declared for all our country and the world to know that:

The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened!

As part of Opening the doors of learning and culture, we have successfully opened eight new libraries in the month of July in addition to the 227 libraries we have in the province. Libraries are more than just a building where books are stored and read, it is the place where the birth of our aspiring writers start on their journey of expressing themselves on paper.

It is a repository where you are allowed to break free from the shackles of ignorance and intolerance. They allow a society to free its people to develop, prosper and advance.

Therefore as part of ensuring that you understand and grasp the powerfulness of literature as a tool for social dialogue, social cohesion and nation building, we have entered into a partnership with Sol Plaatje University to promote the development of literature, indigenous languages and the development of capacity to sustain reading and writing activities in the Northern Cape.

The partnership with the University will ensure that an Annual Summer School for Writing is held that will benefit at least 36 local writers for the next three years. The summer school will play an important role in literacy development and we are of the view that it will ultimately enable the writers to develop into renowned writers and authors that can contribute to the building of our nation and society. By doing this we are deepening our democracy and helping to develop a people’s culture.

The partnership with University of Sol Plaatje will also include special programmes and activities where we will create opportunities for the development of marginalized indigenous languages like the Nama , Xhu , Khwee , !Nu , Setswana and isiXhosa.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the month of August , we have honoured Ms Katriena Esau , Queen of the Nll#e tribe for her passionate work in preserving and promoting the !Nu language. A woman who is conscious about the identities of not just the N!uu language but all other indigenous languages and who refuses to portray herself and her tribe in the images of colonial masters and oppressors.

In their actions, they demonstrate that they hold the same view with His Excellency President Barack Obama of the United States of America that, English may be spoken universally, does not imply that it carries the total sum of the world’s wisdom.

Faced with criticisms and rejection, Ma Esau and many other unsung human treasures continue to sing, write, tell stories and perform on stages in their indigenous languages. They understand the value and wealth of preserving our indigenous languages. They understand that knowledge and wisdom doesn’t come from a colonial language.

And as the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Sol Plaatje University we will ensure that we support and assist Ma Esau in her plight to promote and preserve all indigenous languages.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As part of honouring our unsung heroes and heroines of the past and to ensure that their legacy lives on and that the people of the Northern Cape understand the value of what they did for the liberation of this country, we will be commissioning Biographies to be written on the lives of Jerry Modisane, Ulysses Modise and Mma Mittah Seperepere. The first of these biographies will be launched at the 9th Writers Festival to be held in 2017.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the occasion to host the 8th Annual Writers Festival would be meaningless without the recognition of some of our most distinguished writers. This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Sol T. Plaatje’s seminal book, Native Life in South Africa, which chronicles the impact of the Native Land Act of 1913 on the ordinary citizens. The Act allocated the largest portion of the land to the white population while the black majority was left to scramble for only 7% of the land.

Native Life in SA was written as a result of Plaatje’s voyage across different provinces, where he consulted different communities in the Orange Free State, the Cape and the Transvaal about the impact of the Act on their lives. He was part of the South African native National Congress’s delegation (now known as the African national Congress � ANC) that travelled all the way to England to bring the devastating effects of the Act to the attention of the colonial powers.

While both the South African and the British governments turned a deaf ear to their cries, Plaatje was determined to tell the story of South Africa and record it for future generations. During his stay in England, Plaatje wrote several pamphlets, worked on several books, and finally completed the manuscript of what would later get published as Native Life in SA.

The book was subsequently published in England, amidst financial difficulties, and Plaatje became a literary sensation in Europe and America. In his reflection of the plight of Africans in South Africa, Plaatje wrote: Awakening on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native Found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.

As part of our venture to continue honour Sol Plaatje we will be launching the re-print of the Native Life in SA book written by Sol Plaatje. As government we will ensure that this book finds expression and presence on the shelves of all libraries in the Northern Cape.

The launch of the reprint will be held tonight at the Sol Plaatje Museum at 18h00.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are a number of factors that contribute to a poor culture of reading and writing in South Africa. As part of responding and intervening to challenges our children are facing in terms of reading and writing we will be having a Children’s festival at the Sony Leon, Beaconsfield, Galeshewe and Judy Scott Libraries.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is in a nutshell what will be taking place over the next three days at the eight Annual Northern Cape Writers Festival.

When the concept document on the writers’ festival was presented to me I distinctly noted that young people are our key target audiences. I was very pleased with this as now we can outline and re-emphasize to them that our country is alive with untold possibilities. Through books we can achieve them.

With the likes of June Mokoka, Mark Kotze, Rickey Groenewald and Sabata Mpho Mokae they have good local role models who are reading, creating and innovating.

We are grateful to all the authors, poets and artists in our midst who have made themselves available to share their knowledge and skills with the aspiring writers and artists of the Northern Cape. I wish you well in your endeavours flowing from this initiative and I look forward to seeing you again in 2017.

As I conclude, I want to wish you a successful 2016 annual writers’ festival. May your deliberations be successful. I look forward to reading some of the books, poems and scripts that will emanate from this writers festival.

I now declare the eight Annual Northern Cape Writers Festival officially open.

Together we can do more in pushing South Africa Forward.

I thank you!

Source: Government of South Africa