Help, hope, healing through art
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Durban - Creating hope, providing a sense of healing, as well as practical development and mentorship for creatives living in the informal settlements around Durban.
That’s the goal of the Emjondolo Arts in Action programme, which has just been launched by non-profit organisation Mzansi Arts Development, whose chief executive officer, Lerato Molemong, said the plight of artists, from poets to artists and singers living in informal settlements, became glaringly obvious during lockdown.
“We were fortunate in that we were producing artwork for the new hospital in KwaMashu. Being there opened our eyes and started a conversation.
“Let’s look at others’ lives and let’s not judge. When you are living in a squatter camp, there are already a lot of issues you would be dealing with even before Covid-19 came along.
“There are a lot of poems being circulated, with people expressing their feelings at the moment; there’s a lot of art being produced.
“We thought we must open up post-pandemic for creatives and we are hoping it will also provide healing.
“There are mentors in the programme and we’ll be communicating with artists in the visual sectors who deal with different materials. We’re going to document the whole process and are planning an online exhibition and hoping to produce a booklet.
“The pandemic has affected all of us, but more so those in informal settlements, and we’re hoping this programme will kill two birds with one stone for those people: challenges within the creative space and challenges in their general living conditions,” said Molemong this week.
She said the lockdown was especially tough for the creative industry, particularly theatre, dance and music.
“All visual performances are experienced live and there’s a need to be present. A live performance is an experience, compared with it being screened or streamed, where lots of elements, such as sound, are needed to bring it alive. On a stage, it’s natural.
“When lockdown happened, it was a shock and it’s forced everyone to think of new avenues for the creative industry.”
The Emjondolo Arts in Action programme has already kicked off with a song, We Shall Overcome, written and composed by Mzansi’s creative director, Lucky Cele.
The song, in Zulu and English, is already being aired on some radio stations where it is gaining popularity, and it will form the background music to the documentary on the Emjondolo Arts in Action programme.
Cele said: “We launched the song last week on Vibe FM in KwaMashu and are sharing it with other radio stations to put it on their playlist.
"The song is to motivate people to have hope and also encourages them to stick to the regulations around Covid-19 to keep safe.
“The informal settlements are densely populated and the same people often work in industries which also have a high-density workplace, so it’s been very difficult for these communities to adhere to such things as social distancing.
“The nature of informal settlements and how they try to cope with Covid-19 rules and regulations has meant they’ve been highly affected by this pandemic,” he said, highlighting that adhering to lockdown rules in suburbia was very different to dealing with the same regulations in informal settlements (wearing masks, handwashing and social distancing).
"We want to use art to address ills."
The Independent on Saturday