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Monday, January 6, 2014


The South African Season in France came to a close last week in Paris.

Between May and December this year, the multi-faceted collaboration between the two countries hosted over 1,200 South African artists, cultural heritage practitioners, academics, children and sportsmen.

The Season included a wide range of over 250 different projects, performances and initiatives across 150 cities in France. Cultural events, such as dance, music and literature, were combined with an array of projects in other fields including innovation, science and technology, education, business, tourism, gastronomy, sport and literature.

Undoubtedly, one of the Season’s highlights was the Mandela Exhibition: From Prisoner to President which ran from May to July at the Hotel de Ville in Paris. The Exhibition was extended to accommodate an attending record number of people at the venue. During ‘Mandela Week’, and as part of the Season, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated in the colours of the South African flag. To pay tribute to a great icon, the inscription "NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013" lit up the Trocadero facade in illuminated five metre-high letters, over the past 10 days to celebrate his remarkable life.

This week saw the inauguration of the newly-named ‘Nelson Mandela Garden’ in Paris on December 19. The naming ceremony was attended by Paul Mashatile, South African Minister of Arts and Culture. “We are excited at the impact the South Africa - France Season has had on the lives of a wide range of South African participants, who took part. It has been not only a learning experience but also a fantastic platform for them to showcase their talents to an international audience. This initiative is contributing positively to the realisation of our Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) goals of ensuring that the creative industry plays a significant role in the economic development of our country. We are thrilled that the Seasons has also strengthened the people-to-people relations between our two great nations.

“When we started the South African Season in France earlier this year, we did so as a tribute to those who fought for South Africa's liberation. Ahead of our 20 years of freedom celebration in 2014, we were honoured to share with the French public a special exhibition on the life of the late great former statesman, Nelson Mandela.”

Bongani Tembe, Commissioner-General of the South African Season in France concludes, "I count it an honour and a privilege to have worked on the Seasons. There was much accomplished in terms of promoting our culture to the French, and the number of positive opportunities that followed for the South Africans was overwhelming.”

Addressing the French, Minister Mashatile added, “We are so encouraged by the significant increase (16%) in French tourists visiting our country. We hope the Seasons have given you all a glimpse into the arts, culture and heritage that awaits you in South Africa. We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful land, long after the last Season’s performance.”

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