DSAC Unveils Digital Heritage Week Dubai Expo Exhibition


11 October 2021

Today, October 11, 2021, the Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture, in collaboration with its Entities, launched the digital heritage week Dubai Expo exhibition. The occasion was presided over by Mr. Moses Themba Makhweyane, Chairperson of the South African Heritage Resources Agency.

Dubai Expo 2020 is a component of the World Expos, which the Bureau of International Exhibitions has conducted every five years since 1931. (BIE).

South Africa has accepted the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government's invitation to participate in this World Expo with over 190 other nations. His Excellency Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, has tasked the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with the responsibility of overseeing and managing the South African Pavilion at the Expo. The Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture (DSAC) has been charged with conceiving and managing South Africa's participation in the World Expo in the fields of sport, arts, and culture.

Heritage week officially begins today, October 11, 2021, and concludes on October 16, 2021, with an opening ceremony and guided Heritage discourse. The debate focused on the history of South African heritage, its evolution over time, and the future of heritage institutions—new techniques for preserving, protecting, and promoting heritage in light of technology and 4IR.

The inaugural event took the form of a virtual panel discussion. It took place at Pretoria's Freedom Park and featured a live-streamed performance by Wouter Kellerman from the Dubai Expo. Wouter Kellerman, a Grammy Award-winning performer, is widely recognized as one of South Africa's most prominent artists, with a sizable and growing worldwide fan following. For nine albums, as well as several high-profile live performances and collaborations, Kellerman has continuously relied on his upbringing's rigorous classical training to develop a trademark sound that has won him both critical praise and a plethora of honors. Among these accomplishments was becoming the second South African vocalist to be recognized by the Recording Academy, following Miriam Makeba in 1966.

The purpose of the facilitated dialogue was to kick off heritage week, provide an overview of the week's activities, unpack the legal mandate and rationale for each heritage institution's existence, highlight each institution's contribution and impact on the transformation of South Africa's Heritage Landscape, and demonstrate the innovative ways in which each institution carries out its mandate, whether it is through documentation, preservation, or education. Highlight specific efforts and programs celebrating Charlotte Maxeke's 150th birthday, as well as the 33rd African Union Summit of Heads of State and Governments' designation of 2021 as the Year of Arts, Culture, and Heritage.

Bongiswa Kotta Ramushwana, an Eastern Cape native, shared a story. She began her storytelling career in 2004 at Johannesburg's Zanendaba Storytelling Company. She has performed at schools, libraries, orphanages, nursing homes, and jails, as well as at storytelling festivals in South Africa, including the Nozinwadi Kwesukela National Book Week and the Ungasali International Storytelling Festival, as well as in Norway, Oslo, and Kenya. Sigana Storytelling Festival She has conducted workshops in India with The Gaatha Company and Traveling Bards and performed at the Vizag Junior Literature Festival, Bookaroo Festival, Udaipur Tales, and Kathai Kalatta. Within the Alamaram International Storytelling Festivals' auspices And in 2020, through Nantsindaba Storytelling and Motivation Company, she hosted her first brainchild Storytelling Festival, KingNdaba. The festival, aimed at preschoolers, was a success. Her excitement stems from a desire to share stories, and she enjoys the company of her audience, especially the children with whom she dances and sings.

Vusumuzi Mkhize, Director General of Sport, Arts, and Culture, delivered the event's opening remarks. When he opened the Dubai Expo 2020 Heritage Week, the Director-General of Sport, Arts, and Cultural Affairs noted that the Department has been given specific timelines for the implementation of sports, arts, culture, and heritage activities over the next six (6) months. Heritage Week officially begins today, Monday, October 11th, and goes through Saturday, October 16th, as part of the October month-long program of showcasing South African identity through culture. "From 11 to 16 October 2021, our one-of-a-kind digital display will have daily themes," DG Mkhize explained.

Following the launch, a moderated discussion ensued. Professor Saths Cooper, Freedom Park Council Member, provided the introductory remarks. Professor Cooper remarked that this was a week during which South African Cultural Heritage will be showcased to the world via technology, right here at Freedom Park. "Freedom Park is a one-stop historical destination, a dedicated precinct dedicated to commemorating South Africa's history, a knowledge center dedicated to developing a better understanding of the country and its people." "It aims to incorporate all of the country's experiences and symbols to tell a coherent story about humanity's struggle for freedom in South Africa - about the struggle for survival, land, and resources and how they shaped the country's social, economic, cultural, political, and historical landscape," Professor Cooper explained.

Mr. Fulufhelo Edgar Neluvhalani, Chairperson of the National Heritage Council, delivered the guided conversation's concluding remarks. Mr. Neluvhalani has left major imprints on South Africa's cultural environment throughout his 29-year professional career, ranging from local and national initiatives to World Heritage. As General Manager of South African National Parks, he made several significant contributions to the sector, including the development of Mapungubwe National Park & World Heritage Site. He is particularly interested in and knowledgeable about heritage management and development in the context of South Africa's people and conservation issues.

Ms. Jane Mufamadi, Chief Executive Officer, Freedom Park, Adv. Lungisa Malgas, Chief Executive Officer, South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), Mr. Kepi Madumo, CEO of the National Library of South Africa, Ms. Annabell Lebethe, CEO of the Ditsong Museums of South Africa, and Dr. Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni, CEO of the National Heritage Council Variss, Mr. Souayibou were panel members.

The themes include places, sites, and objects relating to human origins, evolution and the creation of cognitive behavior, resistance and freedom, and our libraries. Thematic digital displays illustrate the country's illustrious history and diversified legacy, which constitute the bedrock of South Africa's burgeoning cultural heritage tourism industry.

South Africa's heritage, dating back to the birth of democracy, bears testament to the human spirit's resilience in the face of adversity. South Africa's democratic transition offered a slew of opportunities for the country's many formal and informal sectors.

Heritage was no exception, having profited significantly from the new South Africa's reform agenda. Most importantly, the foundations for the creation of South Africa's Heritage Landscape were established by the Constitution's new policies, such as the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture, and Heritage.

While the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture, and Heritage was recently revised to bring Arts, Culture, and Heritage into the future, the founding 1996 White Paper's key objectives remain vital for today's debate. Additionally, the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture, and Heritage established an enabling environment at the local, regional, and national levels for promoting, protecting, and realizing the full potential of South Africa's artistic, heritage, cultural, and creative sectors. As the guardian of South African arts, culture, and heritage in the country, the Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture has been instrumental in implementing the transformation of the Culture and Heritage Landscape under the new policy and legislative framework.

According to the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture, and Heritage, heritage is defined as "the totality of wildlife and scenic parks, scientific and historical sites, national monuments, historic buildings, works of art, literature, and music, oral traditions, and museum collections and their documentation that serve as the foundation for a shared culture and artistic creativity."

The preceding description encapsulates our wonderful country's illustrious history and distinct natural and cultural inheritance, which the world must continue to appreciate.   

South Africa believes that Dubai Expo 2020 has provided an exceptional global platform for showcasing the country's past through this weeklong exhibition and program, which has been so elegantly packaged to convey and create awareness about our heritage.

The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, with its soaring basaltic buttresses, dramatic slashes, and golden sandstone walls, is a natural heritage site worth noting. This region is home to pieces of rock art that are breathtaking, if not the envy of the entire world.

Rolling high-altitude meadows, pristine steep-sided river basins, and rocky gorges add to the beauty of this world heritage site. Table Mountain's inclusion in the list of the World's Seven (7) Wonders is not only astounding but also a beautiful gift. As Ms. Patricia de Lille, then-Mayor of Cape Town remarked in 2014, Table Mountain is "a symbol of consistency in an ever-changing globe." It is a testament to the legacy we have been blessed with. And it is a symbol that reminds us how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country with incredible advantages, which instills us with optimism for the future."

The Cradle of Humanity World Heritage Site, which is located in Gauteng and North West Provinces and has been expanded to include the Makapan Valley in Limpopo Province, demonstrates that, while the universe formed approximately 14 billion years ago, the earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old, and life began approximately 3.8 billion years ago. South Africa also has fossils of some of the Earth's oldest known living forms. The Sterkfontein Valley ecosystem, which gave rise to the World Heritage Site of the Cradle of Humankind, has unearthed hominid bones ranging from 2 to 3.3 million years ago. Additionally, there is evidence of humans from the early stone age, middle stone age, later stone age, early and late iron ages, and modern people. Since 1936, hundreds of fossils spanning the last 3.5 million years of human evolution have been found there. These fossils are valuable because they reveal how our forefathers and mothers lived, what they ate, and what animals and plants they coexisted with. Numerous significant fossil discoveries have been discovered at the Cradle of Humanity World Heritage Site, including the world-famous "Mrs. Ples" and "Little Foot" fossils.

Humans and their hominid ancestors are differentiated from the rest of the animal kingdom by their complex culture, which includes the ability to communicate verbally, create art, and construct tools. Apart from the Cradle, Wonderwerk Cave is one of only five sites worldwide with evidence of human occupancy stretching back more than 2 million years. There are indications of religious and spiritual rites conducted for over 10,000 years throughout the cave, with evidence pointing to the existence of Oldowan stone tools, including rock art, in various areas.

Additionally, while bone tools dating back approximately 80,000 years have been discovered in Blombos Cave on South Africa's southern Cape coast, some scientists argue that hominids such as Paranthropus robustus made bone tools much earlier – possibly more than a million years ago – in the Cradle of Humanity. Between 900 and 1,300 AD, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape shows the development and demise of Southern Africa's first indigenous monarchy. Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is an Iron Age settlement and kingdom located near the Shashe/Limpopo confluence in Limpopo Province. Its strategic location in southern Africa at the intersection of north/south and east/west routes enabled it to dominate gold and ivory commerce through East African ports to India and China, as well as across southern Africa. It was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2003. Mapungubwe was the largest inland town on the African subcontinent, and its cultural environment has a lot of information in the form of archaeological sites documenting its history. Mapungubwe's collapse was a result of climate change, and the people were compelled to disperse. Mapungubwe's location as a power stronghold shifted north to Great Zimbabwe and, eventually, Khami.  

Additionally, spectacular rock art sites in South Africa include Bushman's Kloof in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape, the Kamberg Rock Art Center in KwaZulu Natal, the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project in the Western Cape, the Drakensberg Rock Art in KwaZulu-Natal, and the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Center in the Northern Cape.

South African Museums and Heritage institutions, in addition to telling the story of evolution, human origins, and the emergence of cognitive behavior, house collections that depict South Africa's journey from first contact with colonists to the attainment of democracy through a series of connected multi-dimensional sites at the local, provincial, national, and international levels in a way that promotes the values enshrined in the South African Constitution. The Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route (RLHR) is a national memory project dedicated to remembering, honoring, teaching, promoting, protecting, and conserving South Africa's path to independence, as well as providing a permanent memorial. The RLHR is a useful tool for recognizing the significance of this type of heritage since it is ingrained in the collective memory of several once persecuted South African communities. The project aims to conserve and preserve both the tangible and intangible legacies associated with various eras of resistance to colonialism and tyranny, as well as the struggle for liberty. It is a critical component of growth and social identity. Additionally, it has the potential to generate critical social capital necessary for the regeneration and reconstruction of history via re-interpretation and re-signification.

As a key tenet of the growing state, heritage may be exploited to further national objectives. The Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route has tremendous potential for nation-building and social solidarity, as well as for promoting creative industries, entertainment, and cultural tourism. As key groups clarify their roles, research and existing literature on the subject of resistance and independence in South Africa agree on three distinct phases. Racism's origins, prosperous African kingdoms, the initial encounter between European settlers and indigenous inhabitants, slavery and the slave trade, and the resistance wars that began in the seventeenth century constitute the first phase of the liberation struggle. The second phase, from 1910 to 1948, includes the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the formation of political organizations in response to the colonization of indigenous populations, and the emergence of prominent African intellectuals, as well as resistance characterized by peaceful methods such as delegations and spontaneous uprisings. Between 1948 and 1994, the apartheid state intensified racial discrimination and economic exploitation by establishing 'Bantustans,' resorting to armed conflict, escalating repression, escalating the liberation struggle, and mobilizing international solidarity.

The Museum's exhibits emphasize, to varying degrees, the atrocities associated with each of the preceding periods, including, in some cases, the dehumanization and loss of dignity of slaves as a result of their capture, subjection, and treatment as objects by the slave trade. The plight of victims of the slave trade who have lost their identity as a result of being stripped of their identities and given slave names and/or their masters' names. Certain sites depict various forms of resistance, including rebellions, resisting and evading arrest and bondage, suicides, and murders (killing of masters). Numerous lynchings occurred as a means of retaliation against those who opposed slavery. The Resistance and Liberation Heritage Project attempted to express the horrors of the capture, torture, burning, killing, and disappearance of anti-apartheid activists through its collection, exhibition, and programs during the apartheid years and its increasingly stringent apartheid laws against black people.  

Additionally, the museum exhibits detail the numerous atrocities committed by the apartheid state against the population. Exhibitions depict the history of those who resisted being hanged, with a cross-reference to the story of the gallows at Kgosi Mampuru Prison, the location of the hangings, and cemeteries where the remains of activists were buried in paupers/unmarked graves, further dehumanizing and violating their rights even in death. The Kgosi Mampuru site demonstrates the victims' courage in the face of execution, like in the Kalushi Solomon Mahlangu events. Certain victims were subjected to a range of forms of torture that deprived them of their human dignity; they were brutally beaten, mutilated with military equipment, electrocuted, and subjected to violent deaths, including horrific activities at places such as the infamous Vlakplaas.

The exhibits detail the numerous raids and bombings in neighboring countries that murdered activists and civilians, as well as the instability of those countries and their peoples as a result of their assistance to the liberation movement. Numerous institutions and museums document the story of resistance and freedom, notably the renowned Freedom Park, which will also host the Dubai Expo 2020 Opening Event and Heritage Week Launch. Robben Island Museum, one of South Africa's World Heritage Sites, presents the story of the triumph of the human spirit over oppression.

"As a result, I encourage the international community to visit the South African Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 to witness the Legacy Week exhibition and a variety of other events that celebrate our distinct culture and legacy," DG Mkhize said.

The country's history and heritage have shaped its tourism offering, and I hope that I have succeeded in conveying to the world the highlights of what awaiting a visitor to our great country in this Opening Address.

The Department encourages all South Africans to not only celebrate who they are but also to learn from South African history to remain rooted in culture and tradition while pursuing innovative and modern solutions to today's problems.

The digital exhibition continues throughout the entire week of 11-16 October. Interested parties are encouraged to log in to YouTube; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGNlVIBgLDg to follow the digital exhibition at the Dubai Expo.  

Media Enquiries:

Ms. Zimasa Velaphi, Head of Communications and Marketing (DSAC)

Cell: 072 172 8925

Email: zimasav@dsac.gov.za

For information on DSAC, please do visit our website at www.srsa.gov.za

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Issued by the National Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture