Arts activist Sibongile Mngoma honoured with a human rights award

By Edward Tsumele

Soprano and cultural activist, Sibongile Mngoma who has recently ended a two monts sit in with a group of creatives at the National Arts Council  in Newtown, Johannesburg was yesterday honored with an inaugural Artfluence Award at the Centre of Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The Artfluence Festival, which is taking place for the first time this year, is a human rights themed Festival that incorporates music, dialogue, poetry, theatre, dance and other art forms. It is also aimed at recognizing those who are committed in fighting for human Rights.

The Centre for Creative Arts’ citation accompanying the award states: :Artfluence Human Rights Award  presented to Sibongile Mngoma in recognition of stalwart activism  to defend artists from exploitation and for exposing gross maladministration in the disbursement of the Presidential Economic Stimulus Plan.”

I smail Mahomed the Director of the Centre for Creative Arts had this to say about Mngoma:  “Sibongile Mngoma represents the kind of leadership that is required to inspire a new generation of South Africans artists to rise and be today’s voices of hope, courage and resilience that will call for public accountability, good governance and transparency in public affairs”, said Ismail Mahomed.

Mngoma has been at the forefront of activism in the creative and cultural space advocating for more recognition for artists by especially authorities from the beginning of 2020. Even during Covid-19  hard lockdown-she and a group of creatives and activists  mobilized other creatives virtually to come together and form  two organizations, Im4the Arts and an umbrella federation representing different sector arts organizations, called the South African United Creative and Cultural Industries Federation, (SAUCCIF) of which she was elected President of both during the coronvirus  lockdown in 2020.

On March  3, this year, dissatisfied with the manner in which the NAC handled the Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP) meant for the creative sector struggling to  become economically active again after the decimation of the sector caused by Covid-19, lockdown, Mngoma led a group of about 40 creatives to occupy the offices of the NAC. Defiantly sleeping in the NAC board room for 60 consecutive days, their plight touched the hearts of many in South Africa and abroad, who expressed their support to this group who called themselves Abahlali Base NAC while they were there. Not even a court interdict obtained by the NAC Council deterred them until they voluntarily elected to leave on their own terms on Sunday,still in a defiant mood and promising to take more action in the near future.

The creatives who made a number of demands and vowed not to leave the offices which were evacuated by management and the newly appointed NAC Council, only left the building this past Sunday, April 2, 2021. They left after the Public Protector intervened in the standoff between the artists and the NAC as a mediator, a process expected to unfold soon. The Special Investigations Unit, the Hawks are said to have an interest in the matter as well.

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