DURBAN : MAY 4, 2002

Today we bear testimony to the making of history in our country. We have all been privileged to witness an event which has the features of those which are bound to go down in history. I am particularly moved by this event for the obvious reason that my mother’s memory features in it so prominently. This opera is indeed a magnificent celebration of her life and of the legacy she has bestowed on all of us. However, I am keenly aware that the significance of this evening’s performance goes beyond my mother’s life. She sowed seeds which have now flourished into something which is a miracle in itself.

Today, we have seen the birth of a genuinely African opera. This is a monumental step in the promotion of our dream of an African renaissance. I have always believed that the essence of an African renaissance is that of merging our most ancient traditions with the highest standards of world experience. In my mind, opera is the highest artistic form of human expression as it merges in one magical creative moment the beauty and artistry of music, theatre and poetry. This evening’s opera was a genuine African expression with roots which run deep into our history. Yet it was an opera which reflects the evolution of European music and complies with its form and structure at their best. For this reason, this opera shows how the musical evolution of Africa is coming of age, and with it our awareness of and pride in a continent which claims its recognition in the consortium of mankind because of the strength and dignity of our endeavours.

My mother herself was a point of synthesis of many traditions. Her music was quintessentially African and yet she was imbued with the best European traditions of music which she loved, especially church hymns. Her feel for life was deeply choral and she understood that music can express the choral pathos which characterises so much of the way we African people perceive and experience life. It is no coincidence that music remains one of the most valuable tools used by African people to express our being African. Today we have witnessed that there are no limits of form or substance for our musical expression and that our African musicality can confidently venture into and claim its place in the most refined and sophisticated artistic expression of mankind.

There are not sufficient words for me to express my gratitude and admiration to Sandra de Villiers, Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo, Sibongile Khumalo, Professor Themba Msimang and all the other artists who made this miracle possible. Tonight we have been elevated and transported into a universe of beauty and harmony in which our past, present and future have merged in a unique synthesis. For me, it has been an indescribable experience. I experienced not only the resonance of my own childhood, but also saw a powerful portrait of our Zulu soul as it stands out of antiquity and projects itself into its rendezvous with the future.

Tonight, more than ever, I am convinced of the inner strength of my people’s spirituality and am convinced that we shall overcome our present difficulties and fulfil the destiny in which our renaissance may finally take us beyond ancient problems and limitations and present difficulties. Tonight, we have proven our capacity to leap-frog ahead without relinquishing any part of our heritage. These are the foundations of a genuine renaissance which expands to reach out of its shell and embrace the best the world has to offer. Tonight a resonant message rises out of South Africa that this country is merging its many cultures and traditions to begin its journey into the forging of its own new civilisation.

A renaissance of arts and culture often precedes an economic renaissance, and I hope that in years to come we will be able to look back to this magical evening and recollect this event as a turning point in which something, somehow, clicked in our national psyche and gave to all of us a greater sense of self-confidence which placed our country on a sounder and faster course towards social stability and economic prosperity. It has been a great pleasure and honour for me to be with all of you tonight to share this magical event. I hope that the melodies, the enchantment and the spiritual upliftment we have shared this evening may remain with all of us for a long time as we return to our daily preoccupations.