Popular Human Rights Festival back in full force as people can attend the festivities physically

The programme this year includes poetry, exhibitions; film, theatre, and live performances by Solidarity Express, Ms Party and the legendary Vusi Mahlasela.

By Edward Tsumele

The past two years have proved to be hard  for fun lovers as  revelers could not fully enjoy the freedom of attending live physically due the global Covid-19 pandemic that made it necessary to impose restrictions on event that attract a huge number of people. But now the rate of infection has substantially subsided, making it possible for people to attend events.

One of the popular festivals on the Johannesburg entertainment calendar that has been also affected by the restrictions is the Human Rights Festival that takes place annually at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. The festival has proved to be one of the most popular events in Johannesburg, attracting huge crowds. But because of Covid-19, in the past two years the festival was either held online only and as a hybrid event, limiting its impact.

The event is aimed at not only raising awareness about human rights, enshrined in the South African Constitution, but also to celebrate that major event that brought this, the dawn of democracy in 1994, when South Africa transitioned from a segregated past into a new democracy where everyone is equal before the law.

Now in its 4th year, the festival, which is free to the public, takes place this coming Human Rights weekend from 19 to 21 March 2022, and this time around the event will take in its full physical form. This will definitely make the festival’s loyal followers excited. 

Vusi Mahlasela

Over three jam-packed days the Hill will come alive with exhibitions; film; poetry, theatre, and live performances by Solidarity Express, Ms Party and the legendary Vusi Mahlasela.

This year’s Human Rights Festival coincides with the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution.  The Constitution enshrines the rights of all people in South Africa and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality, and freedom.  

 Covid-19 has proved to be the great accelerator and exacerbator of long-standing inequalities in our communities. The programme this year will encourage attendees to interrogate their own beliefs and values and to examine what they are doing to help create a “just” society for all that actively foregrounds economic, political, and social human rights.  

 Integral to the festival is the Activism Village – a series of exhibitions and stalls that brings social justice organisations together at this significant site to interact directly with citizens. Public debates and dialogues which encourage active engagement will address issues of gender-based violence; racism; migration and refugees; minority discrimination; sustainable development; education and more.  

 Constitution Hill is a site of conscience – a place where you can take a stand – where shared ideas of human rights and human dignity can be imagined. “The festivals mission is to evoke a sense of community that we need to make our nation a better place. It nurtures a culture of human rights activism by engaging, facilitating and catalyzing us to take action. The Human Rights Festival is where we come together to take a stand” says Dawn Robertson – Constitution Hill CEO 

 In the face of deepening inequalities and rising exclusion, the Human Rights Festival is an opportunity for all of us to come together and renew our commitment to a just, equal, and non-discriminatory society. “The diverse voices represented through the Festival’s numerous platforms are a vibrant reflection of the action we need to realise human rights for all in South Africa. We must support and build a constituency for human rights and each one of us has a role to play,” says Abigail Noko, Regional Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

 ‘Human rights have never been more important in SA and the world so the festival is coming at exactly the right time. It’s a chance to learn, to share, to debate and most importantly find ways to get active and unleash your own power to fix the world. No one else will do it for us. Maverick Citizen is honoured to be a partner in the festival.” Mark Heywood, Editor at Maverick Citizen. 

 The festival culminates on 21 March which marks the 62nd anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre our commemorative observance of National Human Rights Day, and the

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Constitution Hill will offer free public tours on the 21st acknowledging the immense sacrifices that have been made by countless South Africans in our liberation struggle.

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