Like a huge extended family, forever paying it forward, hundreds of artists, curators, leaders in architecture, dance, film, literature, music, theatre and visual arts have participated in this international philanthropic programme. For the long weekend in Berlin, the team at Rolex facilitated unforgettable moments through one-on-one interactions, panel discussions and live performances with the likes of filmmaker Mira Nair, architect David Chipperfield, artist Anish Kapoor, musician Philip Glass, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, artist Joan Jonas, dancer Londiwe Khoza and musician Pauchi Sasaki to name but a few. To witness the results of this intergenerational, intercontinental cross-pollination of skills, ideas and life experiences continues to inspire me and cause gooseflesh moments in my day.
For good civilisation we need good citizens who are civilized towards each other. People who respect diversity, equality and social justice. The arts and culture have an important role to play as key building blocks of civilization but also as sounding boards for society.
I was reminded by Vietnamese visual artist Thao-Nguyen Phan of how grateful we should be for our many freedoms in South Africa. In spite of our recent politics we have a Constitution and liberties worthy of celebration. With so many new media tools and materials through which an artist can find a voice, it is easy to forget that in so many parts of the world, artists have no rights to freely express themselves. Thao-Nguyen’s video work was shown publicly for the first time in Berlin as part of her solo show titled ‘Poetic Amnesia’, thanks to the encouragement and inspiration she found through her mentor, New York multi-media artist Joan Jonas, who also showed her how to see past the restrictions of being an artist in Vietnam. I took note of Thao-Nguyen's exhibition texts in which was said: “I’m concerned with criticising the educational system in Vietnam, where history is erased and there is a big amnesia. History is written by the winners and when the North won the war in 1975, they rewrote history. There was a lot of trauma.”