Human beings are an integral part of nature. Nature is the first teacher to human beings and as we learn to know and understand its laws, we begin to instruct nature to behave in a manner that enhances our ability to produce the means to sustain life. The act of producing the means to sustain life is primary and precedes all other human activities.
As we survey the storytelling of South Africa’s history of resistance and liberation, we are encountered by a vast array of inner struggles and external hardships that make up the rich tapestry of human existence. An experience of reality that plunges our senses into warm baths of fond memory and icy oceans of deep pain. This reflection of human nature engenders questions around the origins of us as sensory beings, our mother wit, our impression of memory, and the residue of the spirit. And so, an eventual question arises, whether these traits are innate or learnt – the question of Nature vs Nurture.
Thus, at this Inaugural General Assembly of the National Writers Association of South Africa, I would like to take the liberty of proposing an answer to the eternal investigation of Nature vs Nurture, in so far as the perception of human sensibility.
Assembling with writers, poets, authors, creators, thinkers, philosophers, artists, cultural practitioners, comrades and colleagues, I would like to argue that as we ponder over the many answers that deserve lifelong seeking, we could consider for a moment that it is the art, craft and power of writing and storytelling that teaches humanity how to relate to the spectrum of human experience and emotion.
We are born into the world with a brain and a heartbeat, but it is the written word and our journey of reading that reflects, records and realises the great gamut of consciousness.
It is the work of writers that teaches us how to connect with the mind; it is the imagination of readers that allows one to interpret their own unique DNA; and it is the text of great wordsmiths that nurtures at once an individual and a nation to choose the path of the high-road or the low-road.
Thus, when reflecting on the fine needlework of remembrance, and analysing the embellishments of a lived reality embroidered by struggle, loss, and bittersweet triumph, life’s rich tapestry openly reveals itself to be the work of our friend, “Nurture”, in the development of our human nature. And although we give credence to Nature’s might, we can confidently pause and appreciate the potential of our learnt experience through the discipline and nourishment of writers.
It is within reading and writing that we learn how to express our innate abilities. It is within the text of storytelling, critical thinking, and dialogue that we nurture our latent talents.
Writing is a timeless piece of human experience and as the advancements of technology have grown, the essence of writing and its effect on our lives has not faltered. It is in this understanding that we support writers and their work, and wholeheartedly advocate to invest as much as possible into strengthening language and literacy in South Africa.
It is in the capacity of writers that the construction and maintenance of cultural knowledge, and the practice of history is held and preserved.
And so, it is important now, more than ever, to consider the literary trajectory of South Africa and future generations. How can we apply the work of writers to inspire younger generations of potential authors to assemble themselves, to create, to write, and to read?
What does it say about the dream of South Africa if so many of its people cannot access literature?
How do we empower aspiring authors, particularly young people, to find their voice through writing and storytelling?
It is through the efforts of this Inaugural General Assembly, the conviction of the human nature of those gathered, and the nurturing leadership of our veteran writers, that we may take further steps to resolving these questions and supporting the National Writers Association of South Africa.