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Monday, May 11, 2009



Welcome address to Grade 11 students by Ismail Mahomed, director of the National Arts Festival.

The following is the brief welcome address delivered to Grade 11 students at the opening of the National Schools Festival on May 7 by Ismail Mahomed, Director of the National Arts Festival. (Courtesy of Ismail Mahomed and

After this fun-filled, exciting and inspiring week at the National Schools Festival, I am very eager to see how you define ART.

The thought of having to be speaking immediately after the Director of the Sci-Fest, Ms Vera Adams, sent shivers down my spine. I thought that I would have the daunting task of having to defend the need for an arts education. Instead Ms Adams has expressed in the most beautiful terms why a science education and an education in the arts are equally important so I’m going to dump my planned speech and simply say to you that you are incredibly fortunate to have teachers who have the vision and the insight to take you away from your classrooms to experience one of the most dynamic arts experiences for South African students - the Eastern Cape Schools Festival.

During this week you will be entertained. You might be shocked by some of the things you see. You will be inspired by the passion of South Africa’s artists. You will be challenged. You will be given a window to a world that surprises. You will ask the question is this ART?

What is ART? The definitions are endless! The definitions are personal!

For me, ART is an acronym. Let me share with you what the A –R –T means to me.

The A is for Argue, Ask, Articulate, Accountable, Act, Access! That’s what you need to do at this Festival this week. You need to Ask questions. You need to Argue with what is presented to you. You need to Articulate yourself clearly. You need to Act on what you believe. You need to demand Access. But if you do then you also need to be Accountable.

The R is for Reflect, Review, Reposition, Reason, Respect, Revolutionise, Responsibility, Repercussions. During this week at the Festival you will be exposed to many different kinds of thought. You need to Reflect on what you’re exposed to. You must Review what’s presented to you. You must be prepared to Reposition yourself in this demanding environment. You must be Reasonable. You must demand Respect for your views and show Respect for the views of others. And when you feel that urge is pushing you forward, take the challenge and Revolutionise what you can. And if you do then Remember that you must take Responsibility for it and have the courage to manage the Repercussions.

The T stands for Target, Transform, Togetherness, Thought. During this exciting week at the Festival you must set the Targets. You must Transform what you believe needs to change. You must try to find that spirit of Togetherness that makes us all laugh at the same funny lines, cry because we all have the common humanity to feel each other’s pain, applaud because we all feel inspired, dance to the beat of the music that Tickles your Toes. You must find the Togetherness in the spirit but don’t ever compromise your own Thoughts.

Make ART this week! Honour your visionary teachers who have brought you out of the conventional classroom so that you can learn through the ARTS. Grab this opportunity to Articulate what you feel and to Revolutionise our world so that we can all find each other in a spirit of Togetherness. (Just last month during our national elections you may have witnessed just how much further we still need to go as a nation to find our spirit of Togetherness.)

Enjoy this National Schools Festival. This is your stepping stone to see what you can experience at the National Arts Festival during July 2009. Make the time to visit the National Arts Festival website at and I look forward to see you in Grahamstown.

After this fun-filled, exciting and inspiring week at the National Schools Festival, I am very eager to see how you define ART.

(Ismail Mahomed is the Director of the National Arts Festival. He speaks and writes in his own capacity)