Once again, the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation has, demonstrated its commitment to Heritage Month by hosting the Oral History Conference on Friday, 30th September 2011, at the Premier Hotel in Arcadia, Pretoria. Throughout Heritage Month, the department has put Gauteng’s struggle heroes and heroines’ contributions to the liberation of South Africa on the map.
During this past Heritage Month initiatives such as the Pale Ya Rona Carnival, Heritage Day Celebrations, the Liberation Struggle Heritage Route and Heritage Sites have all paid homage to those who sacrificed all they had for a democratic country.
The Oral History Conference is a provincial conference that was conceptualised by the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation to address the issues around the history and memory of the liberation struggle. The keynote address will be given by Lebohang Maile , the MEC – for the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation. He will elaborate on how the Conference will also serve to engage affected stakeholders institutions, interest groups and experts in order to lay a framework for future public programs and projects in the field of oral history.
The MEC’s address will be bolstered by Dr Somadoda Fikeni’s anchor presentation on the liberation struggle and the role of oral history. This will be followed by Professor Phillip Bonner from Wits University, who will deliver new and future research on the status quo of liberation history. The importance of the preservation of oral history will then be highlighted by Razia Saleh from the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
The Conference fits squarely into this year’s Heritage Month theme, which is “celebrating the heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle”. The department will also use it to contribute to the field of public memory and heritage through efficiently organised programmes and projects. These will allow the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation to quantify the impact that these, and others, will have on the legacy of the liberation struggle. In the interest of fostering a collaborative and consultative Conference, the delegates will take part in discussions that cover topics such as audits, partnerships and how much research still needs to be done.
There will be no doubt in all the delegates’ minds that there has always been a need for the Oral History Conference. It came into effect when the department realised that South Africa, more specifically Gauteng – which was the biggest hub of anti-apartheid activity – had been prevented from recording the memory of the liberation struggle by the previous regime. It is for this reason that the Conference’s main intention is to record and preserve public memory of the struggle for the benefit of society at large, and especially for future generations.
Thorough research has proven that, although progress has been made in recording South African history, gaps still remain in critical areas. These include the historic imbalance on the recording and presentation of public memory; episodes of the country and the province’s contribution in the liberation struggle and the abundant history of townships. Then there also events such as the number of violent uprisings and others that are associated with the move to democracy, which do not feature prominently enough in historical writings. The Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation’s Oral History Conference will also bridge the gap between the public and the research work and publications in libraries that are not easily accessible.
The Oral History Conference is an essential part of South Africa and Gauteng’s heritage, as it aims to explore ways of recording and preserving the history of the liberation struggle and the pivotal role that oral history has to apply.
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