Cape Town - At the 13th Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture, attendees were invited to follow the beloved archbishop’s adage, “I am a prisoner of hope” amid colossal global turmoil and instability.
This year’s annual Peace Lecture centred on “Unlocking Women’s Power For Peace and Prosperity” and was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday, though traditionally held on October 7, the archbishop’s birthday.
The International Peace Lecture was started in 2011 in response to the South African government not issuing the Dalai Lama a visa to South Africa for the Arch’s 80th birthday. The lectures are now continued by the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation (DLTLF).
The topic of this year’s lecture was also in honour of Mama Leah Tutu’s 90th birthday celebrated last month. To commemorate the milestone, the stories of 90 women who contributed to the liberation Struggle were collated and resulted in the 90 Voices HERstory exhibition.
The very first Peace Lecture was meant to take place in 1985, however the apartheid government banned the gathering. DLTLF CEO Janet Jobson said Tutu’s speech from that day was later published despite the attempts to thwart his voice. At the time of writing it, South Africa was under a state of emergency.
The programme included a strong expression of solidarity with Palestine, as the archbishop was against the violence meted out against Palestinians by the Israeli government and was an proponent of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign (BDS) against
Israel as a non-violent tool against the violence and occupation.
Jobson said: “What we know for sure is the scenes and the scale of the suffering of the Gaza children in particular would have moved him to tears. That he would have spent considerable time in prayer.”
The evening included performances by jazz vocalist Spha Mdlalose, poetry by Toni Stuart and a fireside chat with Melinda French Gates.
French Gates is currently in the country and joined by Michelle Obama and Amal Clooney. In Cape Town their visit focused on gender-based violence and work done to combat this.
“We know that women can contribute to their community and they can contribute to their society and so I believe that we need to make sure women can have their rightful place in society,” French Gates said.
Writer, researcher and award-winning poet Dr Athambile Masola said: “It is the best of times having conversations like this gathering tonight, but it is also the worst of times.
It is a time of mourning. It's hard to gather. The chairperson spoke about this being a tradition and the beauty about tradition and rituals is that on the one hand we’re able to witness and we’re able to mark the moment but we’re able to do it honestly and we must do it honestly.”