On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations between Cuba and South Africa, the Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba, H.E. Mr Enrique Orta González, hosted a cocktail event on 10 May 2024.

Welcoming members of the Diplomatic Corps, honoured guests, and fellow Cubans, H.E. Mr González reminded attendees that 30 years ago, two of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, formalised the relationship between the two countries, creating the historical ties that unite South Africans and the Cuban government. As a result, there is now maintenance of political dialogue at the highest level, positive changes in multilateral issues, a growing flow of delegations, as well as a common effort to strengthen economic and commercial cooperation.

Thousands of Cuban professionals have served in South Africa since the first agreement was signed in 1996, with more than 3,000 South African students having been trained in Cuba, most of them through the Nelson Mandela – Fidel Castro programme, where they focused on medicine.

The strong relationship between Cuba and South Africa cannot be understood in its real magnitude without considering Africa’s contributions to Cuban nationality; the African heritage is an inseparable part of the Cuban identity of men and women today. On 25 May, Cubans will also commemorate Africa Day, as it is a date of joy and celebration in Cuba as well.

Fidel once said:

“Cubans are Latin American people.”

The African influence can be seen in all manifestations of Cuban culture, including visual arts, music, food, religion, literature, and dance. Ballet is one of the areas where Cuba and South Africa have cooperated for over 30 years and is a powerful reminder of their shared roots. Dirk Badenhorst, the director of Mzansi Ballet, applied the Cuban methodology of teaching ballet in South Africa, and there are also Cuban dancers in the team. What is referred to as “Ballet diplomacy” happens through movement; for the last 15 years of the 30 years of freedom, there have been annual exchanges with Cuba involving teachers and dancers.

The evening concluded with guests enjoying three pieces performed by ballet dancers, including a piece by a Cuban dancer.

by Marion Kate