Jamaican and South African Poet Laureates share stage for democracy and diplomacy
Professor Kgositsile (centre) engage John Clarke, Acting High Commissioner (left) and Professor Morrison (right) in a discussion following the Poetry Reading
by Anneke Clarke
PRETORIA 16 September 2014
South Africans and Jamaicans in Pretoria were treated to a symbolic and historic event as Poet Laureates of Jamaica and South Africa, Professor Mervyn Morris and Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile respectively, shared the stage at the National Library of South Africa at a Poetry Reading in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy as well as 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and South Africa.
This was the first time such an event was being held and the Poet Laureates delivered to a captive and appreciative audience of over 100. Among Professor Kgositsile’s selections were “No Serenity Here”, “No Boundaries” and “Letter from Havana”. Among Professor Morris’ readings were “Give Thanks”, “Connection” and “The Day My Father Died”.
In his remarks, Acting High Commissioner of Jamaica, John Clarke noted that the advent of democracy in South Africa in April 1994 was the outcome of a struggle with which the government and people of Jamaica strongly empathized and supported. In that regard, he observed that the outcome formed the basis on which Jamaica and South Africa also established diplomatic relations in September of the same year.
Mr Clarke emphasised that since then a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding have been signed by the two countries to promote cultural and economic ties. “This evening’s event is the latest initiative under the terms of the Agreement on Arts & Culture as we seek to consolidate and expand the bonds of friendship which exist between our two countries through cultural exchanges and cooperation. The Government of Jamaica is now giving a much greater focus to the cultural and creative industries as part of its economic development agenda. This should impact positively on the opportunities for cooperation initiatives in this area going forward,” he said.
In the meantime, Chief Director for International Relations of the Department of Arts and Culture, Louise Graham, in highlighting the intrinsic value of culture, observed that South Africa is now seeking to establish a cultural observatory “to illustrate the power of culture so that people do not only think of the entertainment value of culture but far more importantly, the economic value of culture and the contribution to GDP”.
The Poetry Reading was facilitated by the National Library of South Africa, the Jamaican High Commission - Pretoria and the Department of Arts and Culture.