As history will repeat itself 28 years later when the Springboks take on the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final in France on Saturday, lessons from South Africa’s past took centre stage in a conference showcasing social cohesion in sports, arts and culture.
Overcoming Apartheid: Nelson Mandela and the Rugby 1995 World Cup, was hosted in partnership with the José Cabanis Media Library and Samba Résille in Toulouse from October 15-17.
The conference provided an analysis of post-apartheid politics to its recent developments.
Invited by Toulouse mayor, Jean-Luc Moudenc, Artscape CEO Marlene le Roux, said the Artscape Theatre was showcased as a case study on how a state theatre used the arts as a vehicle to foster peace and common values for peace.
"For five years, Artscape has had a partnership with Samba Résille based in Toulouse, a cultural organisation rooted in Brazilian/African and World music.
“Its main objectives are inclusion through arts, interculturality and civic engagement.
“Artscape facilitated exchange programmes through this programme from all over the Western Cape to take part in,” Le Roux said.
Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis opened the conference with a video clip to endorse the relationship between Cape Town and Toulouse.
One of the key moments on the programme was the conversation between Le Roux and French rugby legend Roger Bourgarel.
In 1971, Bourgarel visited South Africa and met with the then head of rugby, Danie Craven.
Le Roux and Bourgarel, now 76 years old, engaged with an audience of hundreds of artists, community leaders, sports personalities, government and municipal officials and NGOs after the screening of the movie “Invictus”, based on the Rugby World Cup of 1995.
Le Roux highlighted how late former South African president Nelson Mandela’s critical role endeavouring to unify South Africa played out through rugby.
“Mr Roger Bourgarel had very emotional moments as we watched the movie ‘Invictus’ together and the captain was white and only Chester Williams was brown,” said Le Roux.
"He expressed his gratitude over how SA now has a black captain and a diverse team.
“He told me that when he came to SA in 1971, he was shocked as a French player that he could not go out with the French team as he needed a permit to venture out of his hotel.
“He was 22 years old and all that he wanted to do was to play rugby, and found himself in the heart of apartheid.
“He shed a tear with myself, who could facilitate during our conversation as part of the conference on how sport, arts and culture is so vital to unify nations.
“I could feel his relief.
“I felt, again, so humbled that (the meeting) could be used as an instrument to free Mr Bourgarel about a time in his life where he chose his first love, rugby, and then experience the harshness of apartheid.”
The four projects Artscape undertook together with Samba Résille are Diversity in urban space; Cultural building of youth and youth building of culture; Dream up, drum up; and Musicpreneur.
Le Roux said during the conference she also assisted Toulouse in a bid for their candidate to the Unesco Creative Cities network, which targets the exchange of good practices in the field of culture, arts innovation, and inclusion, to fit the UN goals of sustainable development.
Toulouse is a candidate in the music category, and targets partners of cooperation the cities of Cape Town, Salvador de Bahia and Ramallah, which are already members of the Creative Cities network.
Le Roux said the Artscape’s mission to foster inclusion globally continued after the conference as she wants to have an exchange of learners/young people with disabilities.
“Today (Wednesday), I visited a creative school for learners with disabilities (IJA) to form a partnership.
"I want to have an exchange of learners to this school.
“Young people with disabilities never get these opportunities,” said Le Roux.