Artists in the Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape have been given a lifeline to showcase their talent.

A newly opened multi-million rand Mendi Arts Centre in Gqeberha will be a breeding ground for upcoming artists.

The building has been named after the SS Mendi ship that sank carrying South African troops in 1917. It had been neglected and vandalised for years.

Consultations to open these facilities started in 2010. The building was previously a liquor store and has now been redesigned to suit the needs of artists. The facilities will be used for the rehearsal and performance of different arts genres.

Protecting and safeguarding this centre is now a key priority for the artists. The site is also expected to be a tourist attraction for the city.

“This is the opportunity we have been longing for in the past. We are glad and we are now going to be taken very seriously. We are glad because our work will now be seen nationwide and now the ball is in our court,” says performing artist, Mongezi Ncwadi.

Another artist, Mninawa Mangweni, adds: “We welcome the opening because it will bring financial stability to us. This is what we had been waiting for. We are so glad and this is a legacy for our children.”

A board will be appointed to oversee the running of this facility. The aim is to unearth and nourish new talent.

“There is no reason as to why we cannot produce John Kani and Winston Ntshona. We have the facilities now, remember back then there were no facilities. Today was historical. Everybody shared the same common vision, we beef up security and nobody is going to destroy these buildings. We all owe these to our young children. Art is important to our society, these facilities belong to all artists not only here in New Brighton, history has been made,” says Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor, Nqaba Mbanga.

The Arts Centre is situated in New Brighton, one of the oldest townships in Gqeberha, where veteran actors such as Dr John Kani, the late Winston Ntshona and Nomhle Nkonyeni hail from.