Open letter to Nathi Mthethwa, minister of condolences and congratulations

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Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa  (Photo: Getty Images)
Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa (Photo: Getty Images)

Dear Minister Nutty,

I hope this letter finds you in good spirits.

The matter of spirits is an important one, as I intend to address what may turn out to be a thorny matter that requires a certain degree of coolness on your part. 

You must be aware that since you took to Twitter a few years ago, they call you Minister of Condolences, Congratulations & Other Witchcrafts. 

In this letter, I will limit myself to the craft of congratulations, specifically on Twitter, relying on observations made every time you have with much excitement congratulated an artist in that platform.

I think you will agree, Minister, that your congratulations have not been met with the celebratory fervour you wish to inspire. In fact, the general response has - with reason - tended to elicit much contempt. You’re irritating us, Minister, and you don’t listen. I've seen you catch a few subs, the most recent being from Your Girl, B.

It is not that you cannot congratulate artists on their achievements -indeed, this is a kind gesture- but the question, a valid one, arises: did you enable said artists to achieve the success being congratulated? In most instances, Minister, it turns out you and your department have not. Therefore, being the first to congratulate the artist is more bitter than it is sweet.

So, I have the following advice for you, Minister:

Before you congratulate an artist, ask yourself: in what way have I created an environment that enables this artist, this sector, to succeed. When you get to this point, resist the temptation to lie--to yourself and especially to us. If you find that this is one of the under supported sectors, as most art mediums are, then make a note to cause correct.

In the meantime, on Twitter, follow the artists. Not just the famous ones, but especially those who are still making a name for themselves. If, let's say, Trevor Noah bags The Daily Show gig, and you find that you cannot congratulate him since you did not contribute to his development, then find out who the emerging Trevors are. Follow them. Immerse yourself in their work. Retweet them. DM them. Have meetings with them. Talk to your team about policy and implementation that enables these Trevors. So that in three years’ time, when another Trevor shoots up, they will have the department to thank and you will be well within your rights to take some credit for their success.

Otherwise, Minister, don't congratulate artists you have not supported.

I suppose this approach will help you even with the condolences. If you take care of the artists, you can condole with the loved ones upon their passing. But it is insulting to the memory of the artist and wounding to the family, friends and followers when a government that could have made the artist's life more bearable, even flourishing but failed to do so, now wants to break the sad news of a death. It is unethical and will probably have you haunted by the unsisters.

You should have a database of artists in different artistic mediums, different phases of their careers, and be on the ball concerning support. This, ONLY THIS, grants you the right to share in their success or to condole with.

I could go on, Minister, and I probably should, but I am choosing to make it short and sweet. Next time, perhaps, we might have a moment to chat about your conscience as a humanities minister who oversaw the Marikana Massacre.

Yours firmly in the arts,

Mfumane Mabonakude

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