Prof Pitika Ntuli and Family;
Honourable Minister Nathi Mthethwa;
Legends and Artists;
All dignitaries here present.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of this celebratory occasion of your induction as a “Living Legend” in the arts, culture and heritage sector by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.
Prof Ntuli, hear my word:
Today we congratulate and celebrate you for your massive contribution to the political, artistic and spiritual discourse of South Africa that has shaped the way we think, the way we see, and the way we feel.
This is a time of multiple pandemics, climate change, economic turmoil, health and social crises, and a fundamental change in the way we as humans interact. As history will tell, whether during times of relative certainty or during times of national disaster, it is the most vulnerable who are overlooked, who fall through the cracks and escape notice. So as the world experiences extreme disruptions that test the strength of our communities, leaders, policies, cultures and beliefs, we are left with an equilibrium that reveals some unpredictable and often difficult truths. But what, we may ask, is the expression and articulation of these truths? How can we perceive, interpret and foresee them?
Enter, the artist.
From documenting the history of humanity to conveying our collective emotions, artists are indeed creative contributors, providing audiences with not only inspiration and sensibility but provoking thoughtful critique to political, economic and social systems.
They urge us to engage, causing us to take a step, and in doing so, revealing the horizon of social progress. Artists are a vehicle for the personal, the social, the political, the creative, the original, the visual, the spiritual and the universal.
Reflecting the core of existence, portraying the rich complexities of aesthetic beauty, moulding the natural world, and interrogating our intellect. Such are some of the changing roles of an artist in today’s world. They are our teachers, inventors, philosophers, visionaries, historians, entertainers, pragmatists and futurists. They express the outlandish into a tangible or visible manner; they unveil, expose and declare that which is hidden from our eyes; and they allow us ordinary people to view the world from a fresh, unexpected and novel perspective – they give us a power to see what we otherwise would not.
Human beings, like all other living organisms, must eat, be clad and have shelter. When they act upon nature to meet these basic needs, such activity is called production. The necessary condition for society is that human beings should associate to produce their material means of subsistence. Production is primary in this precise sense. Social life begins with it, it is present continuously through social life, and that no other social activity or social relation can occur unless this primary activity, this primary social relation, sustains it.
It is in the course of acting upon nature that the physiological deficiencies of the human body are exposed and therefore, give rise to the contradiction between nature and human beings. As a result, tools or instruments of production are then created to remedy these deficiencies.
According to Ernst Fischer, art is a form of work which is an activity peculiar to mankind. Therefore the totality of the means to sustain the spiritual and physical needs of human beings and society, is what we call culture.
Culture is a historical phenomenon and its development is determined by a succession of socio-economic formations, beginning from communal society, slavery, feudalism, capitalism and society still in motion. The next socio-economic formation is in a state of becoming.
In further understanding the role of culture, writer, Meredith Tax, in her essay entitled “Culture is not Neutral, Whom Does it Serve?”, states:
“culture is not neutral politically, and that it is impossible for it to be so as it is impossible for any other product of human labour to be detached from its conditions of production and reception.”
Prof Ntuli, we have seen your magic at work: your audiences captivated by spellbinding imagery, enchanted by your poetry.
It is in the book entitled, “The Necessity of Art” by Ernst Fischer, where we understand how
“Man takes possession of the natural by transforming it. Work is transformation of the natural. Man dreams of working magic upon nature, of being able to change objects and give them new form by magic means. This is the equivalent in the imagination of what work means in reality. Man is, from the outset, a magician.”
In the book of Ezekiel 37, the Bible tells us of the valley full of dry bones. And like the Lord, we know that you breathe life into dry bones, bringing them together and proving that these dead bones, can live again.
Once again, Professor Pitika Ntuli, we congratulate you!
I thank you.