Address at the University of The State
of Bahia Brazil, 14 December 2000
Your Excellency, the Governor, Dr Cesar Borges,
Madam Rector, Dr Ivette Alves do Sacramento,
Dr Jonatas Nunes Barreto,
Mr Joao Jorge Rodrigues,
Mr Antonion Carlos dos Santos Vovo,
Dr Silvio Humberto Passos,
Your Excellencies, Members of Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
What intelligent contribution does one make to an institution
whose very reason for existence is knowledge? An institution
whose daily task it is to broaden, widen and move the
frontiers of knowledge and narrow the space and scope
of ignorance; an institution whose core business is
the creation of knowledge.
I am confident that our common approach to knowledge
and ideas differ from that of Herr Eugen Duhrring, who
offered his views as ordained truths and deemed himself
to be in sole and exclusive possession of the ultimate
truth, including the scientific method of investigation,
thus declaring anyone who dared to differ to be irrevocably
Hence his judgement of Karl Marx, whom he accuses of
"narrowness of conception... impotence of the
faculties of concentration and logical arrangement...
deformity of thought and style... degrading manner of
language... barren conceptions, which in fact are only
bastards of historical and logical fantasy... buffoonery
pretending to be witty... Chinese erudition... philosophical
and scientific backwardness".
Unlike the self-styled exhaulted fountain of knowledge
that Eugen Duhrring claims to be, we recognise this
institution to be a place of learning and inquiry because
I am sure that you make no claims to the sole and exclusive
possession of knowledge.
Accordingly, I trust that the strength of this house
of knowledge is the space it offers for ideas to be
tested; the transformation of abstract thoughts into
actual processes, the journey into conceptualisation
to take place, for theory to be translated into practice.
Thus would we seek to interpret the surrounding environment,
and make sense of sometimes intriguing reality.
It is that inquiry into society that gave birth to
literary critics such as Silvio Romero (1851-1914) and
the historian Joao Capistrano de Abreu (1853-1927).
These writers were able to protest the slavish imitation
of foreign cultures, and demonstrate intellectual originality.
Joao Capistrano de Abreu argued that the then prevalent
"inferiority, imposed by the unquestioning adoption
of the trappings of a temperate - climate civilisation,
clamouring to be more European than Europeans",
begged for attention. He further argued that imitation
of Eurocentric culture would deny Brazil its "national
soul". Isolated from its environment, the culture
would not constitute the "conscious expression
of the people".
In his monumental 'Historia da Literatura Brasileira
(1888)', Romero emphasises the same theme of literature
being of national expression; he not only laments the
exclusion of ordinary people in the then intellectual
construction, but also regards the inclusion as being
critical to the very integrity of society.
In this effort to link the masses and literature, he
published two anthologies of folk poems and songs, repeatedly
stressing that Brazil was not the exclusive product
of Europe, but the joint effort of Indians, Africans
and Europeans, a legacy of modern Brazil, providing
it with the diversity, that if well cultivated, would
provide us with a proverbial weapon against racism.
These thoughts and expressions are representative of
the House of Knowledge that this University epitomises.
Of importance is the continuance of this legacy and
the challenge of pushing the frontiers of ignorance
This moment is special and significant to us, indeed
we are humbled by it and therefore I accept the honour
you are bestowing on us, on behalf of all South Africans.
Your invitation Madam Rector, is an affirmation of the
cultural affinity that persist between us, born out
of the histories of our societies.
Madam Rector, a long time ago, over 150 million years
back, all the different continents of the earth were
joined together, into a unified super-continent, known
as Gondwana. This, of course we know from the results
of the work of different geologists who have studied
the minerals, the rocks and the distinctive fossil plants
found in South America, Africa, India and other parts
of the world.
As we all know, in our own country, South Africa, lies
buried the remains of the first human beings on earth
- the grandfathers and grandmothers of all humanity.
It was therefore not surprising that when our dungeons
were dark and scary, when our eyes could not penetrate
the pitchiness of the dark, you extended hands of solidarity
to our cause, which you selflessly took up as your own,
embraced our suffering and offered us hope. This was
so because something innate in yourselves urged you
to defend an inalienable part of your own humanity.
It is because in the sub-consciousness of many of the
people who stood up against the oppression of one human
being by another, is the knowledge that we all belong
to the same human species.
It is because of this knowledge of being the products
of the same earth, of shared ancestry and common origin
that we have over centuries fought slavery, racism and
any form of oppression.
Accordingly, it is natural for many of us to identify
with Castro Alves from this State when, in one of his
celebrated poems, The Slave Ship (Tragedy in the Sea)
written in the 19th century, he said:
"It was a dantesque dream... the deck
Great lights reddening its brilliance,
Bathing it in blood
Clang of irons...snap of whip...
Legions of men black as the night
"Black women, holding to their breasts
Scrawny infants whose black mouths
Are watered by the blood of their mothers
Others, young, but nude and frightened
In the whirlwind of spectres drawn
From the anxiety and vein resentment!
"Prisoned in the bars of a single jail
The famished multitude shudders,
And weeps and danced!
"One is delirious from rabies and another is going
Another brutish from martyrdom
Sings, groans and laughs."
Madam Rector, it is our joint responsibility to ensure
that we banish for ever the nightmare of the Slave Ship,
where the great lights redden the brilliance of the
deck bathing it in the blood of slaves.
Together we are faced with the challenge of defeating
the political and economic conditions that, as we speak,
condemn the majority of our fellow humans, particularly
in poor countries, to the conditions similar to the
ones on the Slave Ship. We have to fight this state
of existence where people live as though they are 'prisoned
in the bars of a single jail', where our people seem
to be 'delirious' from malaria, TB, AIDS and many preventable
and curable diseases.
We need to ensure that none amongst our people goes
mad, none sings, groans and laughs to ease the pain
of hunger and poverty, or to mediate the indecency of
war and violent conflict.
Nobody can do it for us. Only ourselves - we who know
the debilitating effects of the pangs of hunger - should
marshal our energies, harness our resources and use
our comparative advantage strategically for our own
development. This is what the African Renaissance seeks
We think we are recording progress in key and fundamental
areas of the reconstruction process, and contrary to
populist pessimism that is being spread about Africa,
something good is coming out of that continent:
As part of our commitment to consolidate the wave of
democratic process that took root especially in the
past ten years, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU),
has adopted a resolution that ensures the banishment
from the OAU of those leaders, and rmes whose ascendancy
to power is contrary to accepted democratic practices.
In the past decade, the majority of the African people
have participated in countless democratic elections,
making sure that the right to vote and choose candidates
of one's preference is a right taken for granted and
not a privilege.
Although there are still many problems that need to
be resolved, efforts by the leadership on the African
continent have seen the end to the war between Ethiopia
and Eritria, and there is substantial progress in resolving
the conflicts in Burundi, Sie Leone and the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC).
Several regions in Africa such as Southern Africa have
witnessed impressive economic growth in the last decade.
There are steady and appreciable investment flows into
our respective countries. These Foreign Direct Investments,
whilst certainly showing some imbalances, with Africa
accounting for the smallest share, are a positive affirmation
and recognition of tstability that our governments have
A casual audit of our public expenditure patterns suggests
that most governments recognise that in order to be
globally competitive we have to ensure a literate skilled
base. National budget appropriations seem to show a
tendency in which a significaportion of social spending
is geared towards education.
It is also true that against this bouquet of promising
indicators, there are serious challenges. These challenges
are considerable but are not insurmountable obstacles.
It is our conviction, Madam Rector, that a solid base
of peace and security for all of citizenry is central
to our agenda of the African Renaissance. Our efforts
must not only be geared towards creating conditions
in which there is absence of war, but must also focus
on the fundamental improvement in the quality of life
of all our people.
In this regard, our challenge is to ensure that our
economies grow sufficiently so as to create the necessary
employment for all our people, that we increase the
skills base, provide adequate housing, raise health
standards and encourage the freedom of choice in all
areas of social activity.
Once more, I would like to say that we are delighted
to be amongst all of you and again reiterate what we
have said in the past visits to your country; that the
1994 victory of the people of South Africa, is also
your victory. This occasion is in a sense, a chance
again to celebrate our solidarity, for it was in that
victory that it was affirmed that bigotry, prejudice,
rampant racism, discrimination and injustice can and
must be defeated.
Madam Vice Rector, please permit me to pay tribute
to you in particular. Your ascendance to this position
as the first Black woman rector in this state and country
augurs well in our on-going international struggle against
all forms of discrimination.
Our own renaissance as a people who have been marginalised
and oppressed for centuries, cannot succeed unless all
women are liberated and afforded equal opportunities
in all fields of life.
A society that continues to oppress any section of
its population denies itself the invaluable resource
that human beings are to the development of society.
We are humbled by the historic nature of this occasion
and the generosity of your invitation, being chosen
to receive Doctorate, Honoris Causa, the first awarded
by this University.
We recognise that your desire to be involved in the
Renaissance of Africa, as it aspires to face the challenges
of the 21st century, is one to which we must respond.
One of the fundamental conditions for the realisation
of the African Renaissance is that we, as Africans,
must be fully conscious of our history, culture and
tradition, celebrate our rich historical legacy and
ensure its preservation. We have to proceed from the
understanding that if properly retained and nurtured,
this legacy can and must instill in all of us the pride
and confidence necessary to confront the many challenges
Clearly, Africa cannot achieve its Renaissance unless
it celebrates its Africanness.
South Africa cannot achieve its Renaissance unless
it celebrates its Africanness.
We have referred earlier to some of the most distinguished
Brazilian writers who have argued against the slavish
and blind imitation of cultures that are alien to the
many people of this great country. They have argued
specifically about the need to recognise that the present
Brazil is not just a creation of Europe, but a product
of Africans, Indians and Europeans.
Accordingly, Brazil cannot achieve its full identity
unless it celebrates, also, its historical and cultural
connection with Africa. When we recognise and celebrate
our common heritage, it is not because we are against
anyone, rather, we do so as a fulfillment of everyone.
I am certain that Brazil would not realise its full
potential if there are no Afro-Brazilian scientists,
if we have insufficient economists amongst Afro-Brazilians
and if there are no educational and business opportunities
for the many black Brazilians.
I am certain that we will all agree that when Brazil
is able to meet all these challenges, the African Renaissance
will benefit in many ways.
Let me further emphasise the importance of our visit
and our choice of this State of Bahia. This being the
heartland of African presence, the umbilical knot which
links our historical legacies, it is only correct and
inevitable that we shape our future and take on the
African century with you. The challenge to combat racism
and bigotry, to restore to society its hitherto arrested
potential must be a joint effort.
We have to share in the construction of the future.
Ours cannot just be to present endless complaints. We
too must confront the world with plans to eradicate
poverty and inequality. These concrete plans will ensure
the victory of the struggle of Zumbi and Quilombos,
the struggles of Shaka and Moshoeshoe. When this is
done, perhaps then we shall join Castro Alves in his
poem a "Salute to Palmares":
"Palmares! To you my shout!
To you, granite boat,
Which, in the infinite shipwreck,
Opened the sail to the thunder.
"And you caused the blast
Over the trembling flag
At the howling of seamen
On the tides of slavery!
"Sing, debauched eunuchs,
The marble palaces of kings
And kiss the iron laces
That dares not to shake...
I sing your beauty,
Half naked hunter...
On which leg, the red skin of a tapir floats.
"Creole! Your dark breast
You never gave it to an impure kiss...
Bright, firm, hard
You have kept for a noble love...
Black wild Diana
Who hears voices under the branches?
Those which bring the winds,
Of your strong hunter!
"Hail"! Warring horsewoman
Who in the rocks of the opening
At the shouts of the waterfall
You know how to drink and fight
Hail! - Built up on the hills -
Your nest, in a bold dream,
The condor sleeps... and the bandit!
Freedom... and the jaguar!"
Let us hold hands across the Atlantic and work together,
share our thoughts about the best possible ways of ending
hunger, poverty and homelessness; let us continue our
solidarity and treat the artificial divide of the Atlantic
ocean like that of the river across our common village.
Together, let us demonstrate in word and deed that
the continental drift that curved up the once unified
super-continent has not had an impact on us.
We are still from the same mother-earth, from Gondwana.
We still owe our existence to the same grand-parents
of all humanity. The grand-parents that started their
tentative human steps and practised their earlier civilisation
in Africa. They who left their footprints in the grasslands
and sands of Africa and donated their images to us,
on the many rocks of that continent.
I thank you.