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South Africa, which has long been a friend of Jamaica, is looking to further collaborations with the island under the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Arts and Culture.

The agreement, which dates back to 2009, is aimed at encouraging co-operation, as well as facilitating the exchange of knowledge, experience and achievements between both countries in the fields of arts and culture.

It covers cultural exchanges, in which artistic people and/or groups including theatre groups, visual artists, actors, dancers, musicians, writers and journalists will participate in festivals, fairs and other events staged in each country, and the swap of cultural professionals across institutions.

“We have facilitated discussions and have started talking about further collaborations. So that’s very exciting,” says South Africa’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Mathu Joyini.

She notes that already, under the agreement, a number of Jamaican artistes have gone to South Africa to perform, and Jamaican cuisine has been exposed and highlighted in the African country.

In addition, she informs, Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile has visited the island, while Minister of Higher Education and Training, Hon. Dr. Bonginkosi Nzimande, led a high level delegation to Jamaica on a four-day visit in November 2012.

Last year, principals from the universities of Pretoria, KwaZulu-Natal and Zululand attended the Commonwealth University Conference at the University of West Indies (UWI) Mona campus, and the High Commission is organising a reciprocal visit from educators from the UWI and the University of Technology (UTech).

High Commissioner Joyini tells JIS News that her country’s Government is also looking to take the collaboration beyond arts and culture and into other areas such as sports.

“The one thing that Jamaica does particularly well is sports from the school level. It is something that we can learn,” she states.

Jamaica and South Africa established diplomatic relations in 1994, following the election of a representative majority government in post-apartheid country. The Jamaican High Commission in Pretoria was opened in late 2006.

Since the formal establishment of diplomatic relations in 1994, Jamaica and South Africa have deepened their relations.

There is an active Jamaica -South Africa Friendship Association (JASAFA), and Jamaica observes the annual United Nation’s Nelson Mandela International Day, which is dedicated to furthering tolerance, peace and reconciliation.

Mr. Mandela visited Jamaica in 1991 as head of the African National Congress (ANC), and in 2003, President Thabo Mbeki, became the first South African Head of State to visit Jamaica. The ANC was has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa since 1994.

The current President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Jacob Zuma, was a guest of Jamaica during the Golden Jubilee celebrations on August 6, 2012.

“I think the visibility of Jamaica has gone further since the visit of the South African President and some of the work that we have been doing. Jamaica has become quite visible in South Africa so all of that has been quite significant in moving forward the relations between the two countries,” Mrs. Joyini said.

Jamaica was instrumental in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and was one of the first nations in 1957, together with India, to declare a trade embargo against apartheid South Africa.

Successive prime ministers of Jamaica were persistent in stating that apartheid South Africa represented a threat to international peace and have fought alongside the ANC for the liberation of the South African people.

Jamaica hosted the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid in May of 1979, where an important declaration calling for new strategies to eliminate apartheid in Southern Africa, including mandatory sanctions against the apartheid regime was adopted.

The Right Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey has been an inspiration to the African continent, and had an influence on the founding fathers of the ANC, amongst them, Sol Plaatjie.

For his role in the liberation of the people of South Africa, former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson was presented with the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo, on South Africa’s Freedom Day, April 27.

The Order, named after the late Oliver Tambo, who was the ANC’s president-in-exile for many years, is one of the country’s highest honours.

Late former Prime Minister, Michael Manley, was posthumously recognised with the Order in 2004, for his contribution to the fight against apartheid.

By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter