Celebrating Africa Month: The Journey Begins with Us says Bulelwa Basse


By Bulelwa Basse

The commemoration of Africa Month is upon us, once again, and we have the opportunity to reflect on what it means to truly be an African.

This, being an individual and collective exercise for many of us, recalls moments of both pride and a challenge:  the pride of embracing our entire African identity and the challenge of often having to dispel the notion of “either” or the “other” within definitions of who we believe we are.

This intrinsic need to unravel the depths of our distinctiveness is nestled by the communal stage that is in the form of cultural organisations, planted within our communities, whose administrative ethos is embedded in the fundamental understanding of us, as a nation.

And it is this very need, to do the internal homework of arriving to and preserving the Self, which has inspired us, as the advisory board of the Western Cape Cultural Commission (WCCC), to drive home the mandate to preserve, promote and develop culture in all its facets.

Founded on the idea of nation building, the WCCC places operational value on its efforts to fulfil its mandate, through the three committees:

  1. The Cultural Councils Committee, which observes the legitimacy of registered cultural councils who seek organisational/programme financial aid.
  2. The Facilities Committee, which provides continuous maintenance supervision of the seven cultural facilities.
  3. The Initiation Forum, which commits to the support of the traditional initiation practice – in order to ensure a conducive cultural practice environment, which fosters a safe and trustworthy communal impact.

This is, of course, in consultation with traditional and indigenous leaders, as well as with medical expert advice.

This year also commemorates the Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations, which seek to encapsulate the spirit of service Madiba lead by. It was apt for the housing body of the WCCC – The Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport – to mark this year’s Cultural Affairs Awards which took place on 3 March 2018 with a theme inspired by the kind of servitude displayed by the former statesman, who once mused: “Cultural performances have the ability to transport us to dreams…”

This affirms that, indeed, culture is the backbone of society.

In his vote of thanks – which read like a vision statement address – at the Cultural Awards, Chief Director of Cultural Affairs, Mr Guy Redman, painted a compelling picture with words, wherein he drove the idea of Ubuntu as a catalyst to socially connected communities, where titles are not important things that bind us – nor keep us apart but rather “where people’s ideas are what drive us to create arts centres that contribute to our country’s economy”.

“The journey begins with us, to improve the social fabric of our country through history, language and culture.”

It is evident: “Ours is not to entertain, but to play a pivotal social role in reconciling the idea of what it is like to be human.”

Though this commission has come to the end of its term, much groundwork has been established for the incoming WCCC, with considered revision of current policies.

I, as the WCCC Chairperson, have been privileged to work with such impassioned cultural thought-leaders, who have unique leadership qualities, who through much counsel, offered me both the pleasure and challenge to address the strategic overhaul still required by cultural organisations, the WCCC and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, as a housing body.

On behalf of the WCCC: Our sincere gratitude to all the Departmental staff and stakeholders, who’ve made a contribution toward propelling the efforts of the WCCC. It was an honour to serve the cultural communities of the Western Cape, through the public entity, for the last three years.

This was an opportunity, as a full-time Arts and Culture practitioner, to assume a position wherein, those who are in the business of nation-building, through the preservation and promotion of cultural affairs, could be recognised and supported.

Many of the founders of the Cultural Councils tirelessly use their own resources, to selflessly serve the disenfranchised communities which they themselves occupy, to offer some form of resolve in advocating a culturally inclusive mission, which seeks to showcase an assortment of talents – from different backgrounds – in the Western Cape.

May this become the inspiration for all South Africans, to become active citizens who endorse a culture of a socially inclusive generation – who celebrate diversity and “difference”, so that the concept of being “this” or the “other” rather becomes more of a human experience – as Africans, than of politics of melanin. Which, in context, is a legitimate public conversation.

And to echo the sentiments of Cultural Affairs and Sport Minister – Anroux Marais, in her keynote address at the Cultural Affairs Awards 2018: Our political landscape is shifting. We need to make proactive efforts to enhance the lives within our communities – in response to the sense of hopelessness that resounds from them.

As I exit the WCCC, to return, unreservedly, to what – for the longest time – have been dubbed the “trenches”: My mission is to continue to contribute toward a cultural economy, wherein we can pitch identity and inclusivity at all civil society, public and private sector… Where more cultural spaces are both created and discovered within our townships, to underpin Africanism as a bottom-line to Corporate South Africa – and for it to become a unique selling point to the world.

This mission is possible. Because we are the human capital to invest in it. The earlier we come to this realisation, the sooner we can harvest the return on investment. Because Africa is the root of things displayed in our intellectual property – our language, music, poetry, dance, dress, hairstyles and even the signature of our laughter.

I know this, because the legacy of this precious heritage of ours is patented in the better parts of our collective voice, heart and soul. It’s genius beyond talent!

About Bulelwa Basse

Bulelwa is a Play Your Part ambassador, poet, and writer. She is the outgoing Chairperson of the Western Cape Cultural Commission (WCCC) which is a cultural outreach component of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, in the Western Cape.

You can read about some of her work on http://bulelwabasse.wordpress.com