The two-day Diversity Convention has kicked off at SAMRO Place in Johannesburg.

Artists, cultural workers, government and civil society are gathering to discuss how to best protect and promote cultural expression in South Africa.

This international indaba, presented by the Department of Arts and Culture and the Arterial Network, is taking place on 20 and 21 October 2011. Delegates from South Africa, Africa and around the world are poised to chart a way forward to realise the goals set out in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression.

Opening the conference on Thursday, SAMRO Endowment General Manager André le Roux – who is also Chairman of the South African Coalition for Cultural Diversity (SACCD) – paid tribute to the late Dr Kader Asmal and dedicated the event to his memory.

A formidable intellectual and cultural activist, Dr Asmal was passionate about ensuring the state delivered on its cultural mandate. He played a pivotal role in negotiating the UNESCO Convention, which Le Roux said was “one of the most important international legal instruments to promote cultural diversity and the arts globally”.

Le Roux also summoned the iconic words of Bob Marley – “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights, don’t give up the fight” – in crystallising the call to cultural activism that underpins the UNESCO Convention. This international policy instrument is aimed at both protecting and growing local cultural and creative industries, with an emphasis on the developing world.

Mike van Graan, cultural activist, playwright and secretary-general of the Arterial Network, had the following to say on day one of the conference: “The Convention will either serve the interests of mostly wealthy nations in the global north, or will be a dead document because of the lack of political vision and will on the part of governments in the global south – unless civil society organises itself to advocate strongly for the Convention to be implemented locally, regionally and internationally.”

He said the conference had been a good start to educating the creative sector about the UNESCO Convention, “so that by being informed, we can take appropriate action to ensure the implementation of the Convention, which is ultimately about maintaining cultural democracy globally and regionally.”

The event will also serve as the platform for launching the African chapter of the U40 (Under-40) Network, which will assemble a variety of go-getting young cultural experts, graduates and professionals under the age of 40. This new continental arts network is aimed at nurturing and investing in the decision-makers of the future.

The two-day conference includes the participation of delegates from South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Mozambique, Mali, Algeria, Mauritius, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Tunisia.

As a key player in the local cultural landscape through its role as a music rights collecting society and its CSI activities in the arts sphere, SAMRO is providing facilities and logistical support for the Diversity Conference.

The conference takes place on Thursday and Friday, 20 and 21 October 2011, at the SAMRO Auditorium, 20 De Korte Street, Johannesburg. E-mail more details, or visit

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