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Kia van Oerle reflects on the Freedom Charter Portrait exhibition

Navan Chetty's striking portraits currently on display at Constitution Hill stirred a determination in Kia van Oerle to fight for a future she can be proud of.

Speaking at the launch of the Freedom Charter Portrait exhibition featuring striking portraits by Navan Chetty of the people who sacrificed so much to make the rights and freedoms in the document a reality, Kia van Oerle said:

Acknowledging the architects of the Freedom Charter, whose souls dared to dream of a better tomorrow, who through sacrifice and determination joined the struggle for liberation in creating the declaration that served as a beacon of aspiration for those who yearned for a South Africa free of the shackles of apartheid.

Helen Beatrice Joseph.
Helen Beatrice Joseph.

Their ideals of human dignity and solidarity ignited a spark of hope that can not be extinguished, even in the face of oppression. Theirs was a vision of a nation united in its diversity where every voice was heard and every life was valued.

It was them that led us to the birth of our democracy. Let us stand here today and reflect on the journey that brought us to this moment; let us pay tribute to the pioneers of the Freedom Charter – may their legacy continue to inspire us as we as the South Africa of today build a nation that honours the principles they fought for.

As we stand on the threshold of tomorrow let us recognise the leaders of our nations yesterday and today. The leaders of the future; the youth, our hands holding the power to continue the legacy of our democracy. It is up to us to carry forward the ideals that past generations fought and sacrificed for.

As the youth we should learn from the struggles of those before us and let their courage inspire us; we should embrace the lessons of our country’s past because they are the foundation on which our future stands.

Zachariah Keodirileng Matthews.
Zachariah Keodirileng Matthews.

Thirty years of democracy – yet we find ourselves in a contradictory reality; living in a democracy that exists only in name, as the shadow of the vision the activists before us once had.

Despite the trappings of freedom, we are suffocated by the chains of inequality and corruption.

True democracy is not a system of governance but a state of being. One where even amid disillusionment, is a relentless pursuit of justice and dignity for all.

We cannot continue to talk about the problems if we are not willing to be the solutions.

We are the change; 2024 elections are the change we so desperately need. Vote.

Our democracy has faltered and the promise of change remains elusive. Regardless of the end of apartheid, the wounds of injustice still fester as a shadow on our nation’s progress.

The responsibility falls onto the shoulders of the youth to rise above, as we hold the capacity to challenge the status quo, dismantle the structures of oppression and build a future as the 16 names did where every voice is heard and every life is valued.

We cannot ignore the painful truth that the legacy of apartheid still haunts our society, perpetuating cycles of poverty and despair. The fault lines of our democracy run deeper than the scars of our past – they are woven into the fabric of our present and into the halls of power where corruption goes unchecked and accountability is but a fleeting promise.

Let us reclaim the true essence of our democracy.

Navan Chetty and Kia van Oerle at Chetty’s exhibition at Constitutional Hill.
Navan Chetty and Kia van Oerle at Chetty’s exhibition at Constitutional Hill.

As South Africa’s youth we are the guardians of freedom. It is now that we need to seize the moment; seize the power and let our voices scream in defiance; transform our democracy from a hollow word to an existent experience. We need to become the beacons of aspiration for future generations.

Youth, let’s accept the baton and reflect the true spirit of South Africa and strive for the democracy we deserve; shape a future where the dreams of our ancestors are finally realised.

Our country’s future rests in the collective power of the youth – together let us rise, let us lead, let us be the change we wish to see.

In South Africa’s heart beats the rhythm of change, the melody of hope and the symphony of possibility.

Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo.
Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo.

Let this be our compass in directing a tomorrow where dreams know no bounds and justice knows no limits. Let’s take a moment to recognise the legacy of art that Navan Chetty has created in his works portraying inspiration and giving a voice to those whose names go down silent in history.

It is up to us as the youth to highlight and follow in the footsteps of his artwork, his creation; for the hands of us as the youth hold not only the capability to transform but the destiny of a nation reborn.

Related article: Be part of the engaging art experience

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