Cultural Diplomacy in South Africa

By H.E. Amb. Vika M. Khumalo (Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to Turkey)


A Comment on Cultural Diplomacy by H.E. Amb. Vika M. Khumalo (Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to Turkey)

We have used our different cultures to create harmony within our nation. Prior to 1994, people thought with the ANC [African National Congress] coming into power, there would be chaos- things would change for the worst. But what we did was use the different cultures to unite the cultures; each one of us has a role to play, and different cultures have a role to play. Everybody wanted a successful South Africa, irrespective of their culture, so that was used to make South Africa a success. Hence, we have been called a rainbow nation because of the different cultures, the different people, and the different complexions that you find in the country. We used these cultures in dance and in song to unite people- when they sing, when they dance, when they talk to each other, it makes each one of us proud to see any group participating.

In Southern Africa for instance, South Africa shares the same culture with a number of the countries around us, so that already makes us or creates a common denominator for everybody. We all have the same base, so to speak. We share this culture, so we see ourselves as one people, even though we are separated by superficial international boundaries. So that has helped. And South Africa has not only stopped by sitting at home; we’ve gone out into our neighboring countries to assist in whatever way we could: to build their economies, and to entrench the culture of human rights using our own culture. If we have the same culture, it makes sense then that if human rights are acceptable to us, they should be acceptable to the rest of our neighbors as we have the same culture and we subscribe to the Bill of Human Rights, which does not distinguish the color, creed, or religion of anyone.

For the Shanghai World Expo we brought cultural groups from South Africa that came to perform, that showcased our culture and showed people who we are and what we do, which assisted us in changing negative perceptions. People went into our pavilion and saw the things that South Africa is able to do, and the kind of culture that we have. For example, some of our movies have won international awards, [and we used that] as part of showcasing our culture. We have global culture- things that we can share things that are common with everybody anywhere in the world- and our culture is successful.

[Regarding Cultural Diplomacy as a tool to reduce social inequality,] as we fight to eliminate poverty, the successes we make benefit all of us. It changes the culture, it enriches the culture, it broadens the base, and it opens a lot of opportunities for our people and it makes it easier for people-to-people relations to flourish; Cultural Diplomacy fits in perfectly with that.

Our experience [during the FIFA World Cup] has been very positive. I also mentioned the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was held in South Africa successfully. We also hosted the Cricket World Cup. This brings the focal point to South Africa for the world to see, as we become a window to the world. All those successes changed a lot of perceptions. A lot of people have been surprised how modern the country is. So those that came to South Africa marveled at the development that we have achieved in a short space of time. We have successfully built our country to compete with the best.

- The Ankara Conference on Peace-building & Reconciliation; Ankara, Turkey, April 2012