The Spirit of 1956 Women in Arts Dialogue launches in Johannesburg

By CityLIfe Arts Writer

 Women in the arts sector On Monday, 1 May, 2023, gathered in Johannesburg to commemorate workers day by launching The Spirit of 1956 Women in Arts Dialogue. 

The event was held at the Gauteng department of Community Safety in Johannesburg. The gathering attracted actors, dancers, musicians and arts administrators. The Spirit of 1956 Women in Arts initiative is made up of various women organsations who met to share ideas.

Speakers of the day included legends of the industry like Mandisa Dlanga, Tonique Phala, Bright Mathonsi, Mercy Phakela, Thandeka Shongwe, Precious Manaka and Gauteng MEC of Safety Faith Mazibuko delivered a keynote. The day comprised of dialogue, performances and speeches. 

 According to one of the organisers, Phumzile Manikela  the dialogue is a buildup to a bigger event set to take place in August. Speakers of the day all call on women to stand together to fight exploitation, sexual abuse, gender-based violence and gender discrimination. In fighting the issues, speakers urged women in the arts to stand together and speak in one voice. 

Manikela said: “Today Izimbokodo staged a table talk under the banner of Sukuma Msebenzi to encourage unity in the sector and come up with ways to better women’s lives. Art reflects the society and it’s about creativity and being alive and has provided a lot of positive things in the social fabric with every society whether its democratic or totalitarian government.” 

Gauteng MEC for community of safety, Faith Mazibuko encouraged women in the arts to stand-up against gender-based violence. Mazibuko said she was aware that there was a lot of sexual harassment and exploitation in the industry.

“Sexual harassment is big in your industry band I urge to stand up for your rights. You need to stand up together and speak in one voice. If you continue speaking as one you will succeed in achieving this goal. Whenever you see a successful woman in the arts and music and music industry you ask yourself how much pain did she endure to be where she is.” 

During the dialogue women themselves were able to point flaws that have hindered them their growth such failing to support each other and supporting each other.  
National Organiser of South African Association of Arts Administrations (SAAAA), Precious Manaka urged women in the arts to have the same courage as women of 1956 if they ought to be taken serious. 

“Today, we are making history as we gather here in order to transform the industry.  The women of 1956 were together and had one goal. There was no social media but more than 20 000 people turned out because they mobilised. I am challenging women that are here today to come up with their own slogan. Theirs is Wathinta Abafazi Wath’intimnbokodo. What is our slogan? 

“We need to document and honour each other while we are still alive. But I will have to be honest that sometimes when 
opportnities come as women we are scared to take them and run. I don’t know if we don’t believe in ourselves. But I also call for women to do empower ourselves with digital skills so that we are not left behind.” 

Former backing singer for Juluka and Johnny Clegg Mandisa Dlanga pointed that the whole musicindustry was devided.

Dlanga said : “I am grateful that an initiative like this was started today. But it will all be a waste of time and resources if women do not stop criticising and looking down upon each other. 
Truth be told, we are not together and we do not love and support each other. As we begin this new journey, let be the start of new things where we will support each other. We need to share information and uplight each other as women.” 

C’stahood president, Nozi Nguse  said: “The arts Sector, for the first time commemorates Workers Day. Lets’ break the syndrome of reliance and do things on our own.” 

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