Honour For Bongani Tembe
DISTINGUISHED FRENCH GOVERNMENT HONOUR FOR BONGANI TEMBE
Feather in the cap for the eminent South African artist and arts manager
Pretoria, 14 July 2016 – Mr. Bongani Tembe, the highly respected and accomplished South African artist and arts manager, will be awarded the insignia of the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (Officier des Arts et des Lettres) by the French Government at France’s National ‘Bastille’ Day celebrations on 14 July 2016. The Order of the Arts and Letters is awarded to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the domain of artistic or literary creation or for significant contributions they have made in furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. Tembe will become the third South African national to receive this status of the award since its inception in 1957. He joins an eminent list of previous recipients of the award which include internationally acclaimed artists, authors and arts leaders like singer Elton John (1993), novelist Danielle Steel (2002), pianist Lang Lang (2013) and curator and arts leader Robert Storr (2016).
When bestowing the prestigious award to Tembe, the French Ambassador to South Africa, Elisabeth Barbier, congratulated him is saying, “Thanks to the vision and efforts of Bongani Tembe, our reciprocal France and South Africa Seasons have been an ambitious success and a huge artistic achievement. The Seasons were an exceptional moment in the relationships between our two countries”.
Bongani Tembe, a graduate of the renowned Juilliard School, was the Commissioner-General of the France-South Africa Seasons 2012 & 2013 which was a multifaceted collaboration programme whose main objectives were to strengthen people-to-people relations between France and South Africa and to promote a better understanding of each country’s arts, culture and heritage. The reciprocal Seasons created a lasting avenue for artists, culture and heritage practitioners to showcase their work and collaborate with their counterparts in both South Africa and France.
In 2013, during the South African Season in France, more than 1000 artists participated in performances in over 150 cities across France. Cultural events were combined with an array of events in other fields: innovation, science and technology, higher education, business, tourism, sports, languages and more. The Seasons, which were rich in terms of magnitude and diversity, were a programme of South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture and the French Institute, with Presidents Jacob Zuma and François Hollande as co-patrons.
Accepting the award, Bongani Tembe said “I am honoured by this award from the French Government and wish to thank all those who contributed to the unprecedented success of the France-South Africa Seasons. The Seasons, implemented just before South Africa celebrated twenty years of democracy, were a tribute to the struggle for freedom and the choice of reconciliation over racial division as embodied by many South Africans, including its most famous citizen, the late President Nelson Mandela”. Mr Tembe added, “I have always believed that the role of the arts is not restricted to entertainment. In a world that is polarised and too often divided along racial and ideological lines, society profits by investing in the arts which is an effective vehicle for promoting an appreciation of our differences and helps to strengthen our bonds of understanding and common humanity – what we call ‘UBUNTU’ in South Africa.”