By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
Inner city Johannesburg as well as the surrounding flatland of Hillbrow without a doubt has social challenges that impact negatively the lives of young people, particularly teens, such as the lack of confidence and identity issues. However it is equally true also that there is abundance of talent especially in the area of the arts. The young people in these areas however struggle to find a safe and suitable platform, on which their artistic energy can be harnessed and showcased.
One such platform that will showcase the talent of these teenagers from these economically and socially depressed areas is the upcoming hip hop festival organized by Lefika La Phodiso Community Art Counselling Centre (Lefika) and its partners.
Sane Dlamini who is a project manager with this organization which for years has been working with particularly teenagers from these communities, not only proving a safe space for them by designing intervention programmes in these communities, but also assist these young people to express themselves confidently and being comfortable with their own identities, spoke to CITYLIFE/ARTS yesterday about the upcoming festival’s she said.
“The line-up is exciting, featuring young and talented poets, hip hop artists and dancers. Not only are we providing a safe space for the youth to come together in a safe environment at Con Hill, but also for visitors to enjoy festivities associated with Human rights day and get to witness how the young hip hop artists can express themselves artistically without the use of alcohol and drugs.
An exciting event for teenagers celebrating human rights through hip-hop is taking place on 25 March 2023 at Flame Studios located in the Constitution Hill Human Rights
With funding from the National Arts Council, Lefika La Phodiso Community Art Counselling Centre (Lefika) in partnership with The Windybrow Arts Centre (Windybrow) and Flame Studios will host the one-day Uzwano Festival.
Teenagers who regularly attend after-school groups at both venues are developing hip-hop inspired music and theatrical performances through a therapeutic process exploring the themes of social cohesion and human rights for the event.
They will be joined on the day by graffiti artists, rappers, dancers and DJs who will entertain the audience. There will also be various workshops on offer combining a therapeutic element with various hip-hop modalities, such as creating a graffiti mural.
This project is about exploring the benefits of hip-hop and therapy with the aim of encouraging social cohesion amongst the youth of urban Johannesburg. Fifty teenagers from the Windybrow and Lefika La Phodiso are participating in creative processes over several weeks that will culminate in various performances for the Uzwano Festival. One of the participants, Fortunate (15), says “the hip-hop drama therapy sessions are amazing. I get to express myself and forget about all the trauma I am dealing with. It is the best place ever. It has also been so nice working with the other teens – we listen to each other and it is place of respect. I am really glad about that.”
Drama therapy interns, Sanelisiwe Dlamini, Lebogang Mokgatle and Cia Skosana, are facilitating the Uzwano: Unity through hip-hop drama therapy project. While doing her clinical hours at Lefika, Dlamini noticed that the teenagers affinity for hip-hop culture and music.
She says that Lefika and the Windybrow are both spaces where South African and foreign national teenagers encounter each other on a daily basis – “During a time of sporadic xenophobic violence in Hillbrow I observed how this tension was negatively affecting the behaviour of some of the teenagers. Some were acting out while others were reporting increasing suicidal ideations.” She adds that “History has shown us that societies that work together instead of against each other tend to thrive. I hope that this event will play a role in the fight for peace and social unity”.
Uzwano, in IsiZulu, means to get along and Dlamini is interested in how music and hip-hop can be used as a vehicle to encourage young people from the inner city to get along and to not carry prejudices. “I would like the young people that are part this project and those who will witness it on the day to feel that their experiences and narratives are valid, and that they have a place in the world.”
The festival starts at 10h00 and ends at 17h00. Teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19 years are welcome and the event is free.