South Africa celebrated Al-Farabi’s jubilee together with Kazakhstan

Tshwane, the capital city of South Africa, hosted the special event dedicated to the 1150th birth anniversary of the ‘World’s Second Teacher’ Abu Nasr Al-Farabi, the outstanding philosopher and scientist of the 10th century.

This significant jubilee is celebrated this year all over the world under the auspices of UNESCO. Commemorations in South Africa were timed to the Day of the First President of Kazakhstan, Leader of the Nation (Elbasy) H.E. Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Independence Day of the Republic of Kazakhstan, marked annually on                                 1 December and 16 December, respectively.

The event was attended by about 50 South African citizens, including:

H.E. Honourable Mr. Alvin Botes, Guest of Honour on behalf of the South African Government, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Member of the South African Parliament; representatives of the DIRCO; Honourable Ms. Ndileka Mandela, first grandchild of the First Democratic President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, Founder and CEO of the Thembekile Mandela Foundation; Mr. Mahomed Essop, ANC Councilor of Ward 61, City of Tshwane  Metropolitan Municipality; Sheikh Abdul Kader Kurtha, Program Director of the event, Liaison of the Abu Bakr Siddique Mosque; representatives of the South African business community, clergy and media; the leadership of the National Library of South Africa; principals, faculty (academic staff) and students of several South African universities, schools and colleges, as well as eminent residents of the capital of South Africa.

At the same time, H.E. Mr. Joseph J. Angeles, Dean of the Asian Group, Ambassador of the Philippines; Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Mauritius, Pakistan, Russian Federation and Turkey; Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Southern Africa; Mr. Dino Foi, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Mozambique, as well as the leadership of the Yunus Emre Institute of Turkish Language and Culture participated  in the event on behalf of the diplomatic corps and institutions of foreign states.

H.E. Ambassador Kanat Tumysh of the Republic of Kazakhstan and H.E. Honourable Mr. Alvin Botes, First Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa made speeches at the opening ceremony.

The Kazakhstani diplomat briefed the participants on the main topics of bilateral relations, as well as major achievements of foreign and domestic policy of his country, highlighting the landmark international initiatives of the Kazakh leadership. He dwelled especially on the State of the Nation Address by H.E. Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan of 1 September 2020 and the upcoming truly democratic and competitive Kazakh parliamentary elections to be held on 10 January 2021, for the first time since the transit of power in the country in 2019 from the first to the second Head of State.

H.E. Deputy Minister Alvin Botes in his remarks outlined the following: “Cultural diplomacy is the key element in developing bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and South Africa. Today’s event not only provides connections through the time, generations and continents, but also important in term of its orientation on support to youth by bestowing them with the sense of leadership”.

During the solemn ceremony, the winners of the essay competition on the oeuvre of outstanding medieval scientist and philosopher, organized by the Embassy of Kazakhstan, were awarded. This project was organized on the theme: ‘The legacy of Al-Farabi’. It also contained the following sub-topics:

1- Connectivity and interlinkages between the humanistic ideas and legacy of Al-Farabi and Nelson Mandela

 2- Brief introduction to Kazakhstan’s history and modern reality

3- Recent SONA by Kazakhstani President

4-Central and Southern Asia as one of the valuable centres of civilization

The essay competition was held in partnership with the Kazakhstan-South Africa International Foundation and the International Knowledge Foundation; Yunus Emre Institute of Turkish Language and Culture; The Thembekile Mandela Foundation; The Al-Ghazali College; as well as “The Diplomatic Informer Magazine”.

It was attended by 30 high school students from five South African provinces: Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The winners are as follows:

  • 1st place – Ms. Fatima Karimova (Tajikistan/South Africa, Gauteng);
  • two 2nd places were taken by Mr. Nabeel Ayob (South Africa, Tshwane)and Ms. Asiphe Magayiyana (South Africa, Eastern Cape);
  • two 3rd places were taken by Ms. Zakiyyah Thokan (South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal) and Ms. Tazkia Ismail (South Africa, Tshwane).

They were awarded with commemorative medals of Al-Farabi and valuable prizes.

This was followed by a presentation of Al-Farabi’s book ‘Treatise on the Need to Strive for an Excellent State’, published in Tshwane by the Embassy of Kazakhstan to South Africa in four languages: Arabic, English, Kazakh and Russian. This masterpiece is considered as one of the main scientific works of the scholar, written at the intersection of metaphysics, political science, sociology, and theology. This treatise was published within the framework of the initiative of H.E. Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Leader of the Nation (Elbasy) to modernize Kazakhstani public consciousness. By such approach, the Embassy intended to implement the goals and objectives of the Kazakh State Programme ‘Ruhani Jańǵyrý’/ ‘Spiritual Rebirth’. Yet, the book was released as a brand-new edition, being revised and adapted to modern realities.

At the book presentation a special address was made by the Founder and CEO of the Thembekile Mandela Foundation Ms. Ndileka Mandela, the first grandchild of H.E. Mr. Nelson Mandela, the First Democratic President of South Africa. Speaking about the international ‘Leading like Mandela’ Leadership Development Programme for young people, Ms. Mandela underlined the following: “Al-Farabi’s oeuvre made a huge impression on me, especially in terms of the qualities and skills, required for the head of an excellent state, illustrated in this book by medieval philosopher. We also see the important parallels between humanistic ideas and the legacy of Abu Nasr and Madiba”.

The foreword to the book was written by prominent representatives of education, science and culture from Kazakhstan (Prof. Acad. Sheikh Abdsattar Derbisali; Prof. Acad. Sabit Dosanov; Prof. Akbota Zholdasbekova, Vice-Rector of the Lev Gumilyov Eurasian National University; Prof. Shavkat Ismailov, Member of the Council of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan; Mr. Daniyar Sharipov, President of the International Foundation ‘Kazakhstan-South Africa’), South Africa (Ms. Ndileka Mandela, Sheikh Abdul Kader Kurtha), Tajikistan (Dr. Asadullah Karimov), France (Prof. Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh), Yemen (Prof. Najib Al Soudi), Turkey (Mr. Abdülaziz Yiğit, Director of the South African branch of the Yunus Emre Institute of Turkish Language and Culture, representative of the Kazakh diaspora) and other countries.

Copies of the book were donated to the National Library, universities, schools and colleges of South Africa.

During the event Ambassador of Kazakhstan has also gave an interview to South African channel “ITV” while informing about the purpose of the event and highlighting perspectives of bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and South Africa, including in cultural and humanitarian spheres.

Al-Farabi is most memorable today for his rich legacy as a scientist, philosopher, educator, jurist, cosmologist, music scholar, translator, political theorist, mathematician, chemist, historian, psychologist, metaphysician, ethician and logician. He is the author of at least 150 scientific papers and other works. The 40th General Conference of the UNESCO endorsed a worldwide celebration of the 1150th anniversary of the birth of Al-Farabi, and the UNESCO Executive Council, in its General Resolution 68 of 25 November 2019, included the celebration of Al-Farabi’s jubilee in its calendar of events for 2020 and kindly requested all the UN member states to contribute to this end. The anniversary has been widely celebrated around the world, including celebrations at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.