Slain activist Fortuin a loss to the world

By Marlene Le Roux Time of article published Jun 23, 2020

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Cape Town - What a sad week it has been, as we have witnessed acts of femicide, genocide and senseless killings.

It seems unconscionable that a 14-year-old girl could stab a 28-year-old man to death. Kirvan Fortuin was a respected dancer, choreographer, and LGBTIQ+ activist, who ploughed his artistic talents back into his community of Macassar.

The arts are a powerful tool through which to engage communities, empowering them and giving a voice to the voiceless. The arts encourage dialogue; develop creative learning; create healthy communities capable of action; provide a vehicle for community mobilisation and activism; and help to build community capacity and leadership.

Kirvan is the perfect example of an underprivileged young man who developed as a professional and human rights advocate through the arts.

He not only progressed to stardom from his humble beginnings, but generously gave back to his community.

Kirvan travelled the world through his art and inspired everyone with his activism for gay rights.

Throughout his career, Kirvan mentioned Macassar, one of the Cape Flats communities created to further isolate people of colour during apartheid.

In keeping with this, the government ensured music and the arts

were never part of the school system during those years. In such conditions, Kirvan’s journey to become an

exceptional dancer - through a community music and dance project that complemented the school system - was ever more outstanding.

Ironically, this iconic and much-revered choreographer was killed in the very community where he grew up and that he constantly gave back to.

When crimes of this nature occur, our initial reaction is often vengeance and retribution, often supported by a call for the return of the death penalty. Is capital punishment the answer?

Unfortunately, South Africa is a violent society, with Cape Town ranked as the eighth most violent city in the world. Our violence stems from many underlying factors. Some thought leaders blame it on the cruel legacy of apartheid, others on unemployment and/or poverty.

Often we fail to question whether it is just due to a lack of humanity, the erosion of the all-important practice of Ubuntu. The implementation of capitalism has focused on the “I”, while Ubuntu focuses on the “We”. This emphasis on the individual as opposed to the collective is often believed to be the primary catalyst of the historic erosion of the values of Ubuntu.

Thus, when we consider the just punishment for young perpetrators - in this case, a mere child - we should reflect on what leads them to commit such horrific crimes as taking a life. What I am about to say does not in any way excuse this young girl’s behaviour; however, it should be noted that she is from the same impoverished suburb.

Here, we have the classic juxtapositioning of two individuals with different choices and levels of access to opportunity. In response to these inequities, why are we not creating greater opportunity for young people to succeed and give back to their impoverished environments? If she had been given the opportunities Kirvan had, how would she have fared?

As a society, we need to nurture the young, especially the youth staring poverty and unemployment straight in the eye: give them hope for the future, as well as a future to live for.

The Children’s Act, 2005, has provided an institutional framework for safeguarding the rights of children, as contained in the Constitution. It not only guarantees their care and protection, but also defines parental rights and responsibilities and provides for early childhood development.

As for justice for these offenders, should we continue the norm of vengeance and retribution, or do we need to explore restorative justice? This girl of 14 could likely be rehabilitated. If she is convicted and sent to the juvenile section of the correctional centre, one trusts she’ll be taught skills to equip her and all other young prisoners, to increase their economic contribution to society and enhance their humanness. To this end, may Kirvan serve as an example of how youth can succeed through the arts, even under the most difficult of circumstances.

Kirvan will be remembered for having choreographed the life of an iconic Khoi San woman, Ouma Katriena. He made history by combining Khoi San indigenous steps, classical ballet, and contemporary dancing.

It is my view that the community of Macassar has lost a genius, a child of the Earth, a human rights activist with a bright future ahead; and the world has lost a visionary.

Le Roux, Artscape Theatre chief executive, writes in her own capacity.

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