Arts programme aims to empower youth

Parents, children and guests gathered at Khwezi community hall to attend the exhibition day of the Arts Aware after-school programme.
One of the facilitators, Akhona Tuku, said she hopes that they can get more funding so that they can continue empowering young people through art.

Arts is as important as maths and science in school.

This was the strong message delivered at Ikhwezi community hall in Gugulethu when Arts Aware, an after-school programme, held an exhibition day on Sunday June 25 for a group of children who had been attending the programme.

The programme was aimed at empowering the youth of Gugulethu with essential arts skills so that they could expand their wings and have a deeper understanding of the arts.

A group of four professional facilitators were then put together to train these young minds in music, performing arts, writing skills, visuals and dancing. The programme is funded by the City of Cape Town’s arts department.

Programme manager, Sinako Nyombolo, said the programme came into realisation when they noted that not every child had an interest in sport – as a result they would roam around the streets after school with nothing meaningful to do.

Ms Nyombolo said they then decided to start this programme so that they could derail them from things that might jeopardise their future and to provide a platform where they could upskill themselves.

Ms Nyombolo said many high schools in the township do not offer arts and culture subjects and those children who love arts and culture are deprived of that opportunity to learn more about the arts and often find themselves lost in school.

She said many schools put the emphasis on academics – not that there is something wrong with that – but it closes the doors to the arts for pupils.

Therefore, she said they thought it was apt that they bring the children together and let them find “a home” and take them off the streets.

She said this programme changed a lot of children’s lives and many who were not confident in performing in front of an audience, feel more confident because of the skills the facilitators have taught them.

“There are now kids who are booked to perform. Now they are going out there to sell themselves and treat themselves as a brand rather thinking that this is just for fun.

“It brings endless joy to me when these children come back and say that through this programme their confidence has been boosted.

“We are extremely excited that the Sello Maake KaNcube Foundation has committed to hold master class sessions,” she said.

Talking about challenges, Ms Nyombolo said many parents do not understand arts and as result some children dropped out of their programme due to pressure from their parents.

She said some parents feel that their children were wasting time by coming there and those children eventually dropped out of the programme. She said when they started the programme it was also quite difficult to get children to trust that there is really someone who cares that he or she sings or dances.

However, Ms Nyombolo said they held meetings with councillors and stakeholders to assure the children that this is indeed a safe space for them and the programme is there to ensure that they progress.

When they started, they had about 20 children and now they have more than 50 children.

Ms Nyombolo urged these children to never stop believing in themselves and that their gifts can change their lives.

Pearl Maake kaNcube, who runs the Sello Maake KaNcube Foundation, said the foundation is mainly focused in the arts space and it is all about empowering the youth, especially the black child.

She said she wanted to support the young people who are doing the programme and the facilitators who have mentored these children.

She believes that if you touch one child’s life you are actually changing the entire family that they come from.

Ms Maake kaNcube said artists are born with a gift and they have to enhance that gift. She confirmed that the foundation will hold master classes with the children.

One of the facilitators, Akhona Tuku, said their hope is to get more funding so that they can continue with this programme, which they can is needed in the township.

She said there were challenges and fears but amazingly things just came together nicely.

Ms Tuku said when these children leave they want them to know that you do not have to be involved in crime but through education and working hard you can still achieve your dreams.

She said they wanted children to know that their past does not define their future.