Young people advocate for creative arts to address socio-economic challenges

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Creative Youth from underprivileged townships in Cape Town are determined to use their talents to rise beyond their circumstances.

The young people believe creative arts need to be encouraged and used as an instrument to curb socio-economic challenges such as high unemployment, poverty, inequality, high levels of crime, substance abuse and violence.
Youth from townships such as Bonteheuwel and Khayelitsha are using their choreography and music to express their artistic creativity, shape attitudes, raise awareness and inspire people.

Like a “rose among thorns”, the ‘021 rebels group’ from Bonteheuwel brings a glimmer of hope to the township.
The founder, 29-year-old Wesley Bosch, is an avid dancer who followed his passion and took dance classes around Cape Town.

He started the vibrant dance group after realising most kids in his community could not afford the same opportunities.

The Women Energize Women Conference takes place in the context of the Smarter E Europe Fair in Munich, Germany 

The Women Energize Women Conference takes place in the context of the Smarter E Europe Fair, with gender equality high on the agenda. The stage is ready for women renewable experts from several countries, to spotlight their important role in the energy transition and amplify their voices on a global scale.

The aim is to inform, mobilise, inspire, and connect women working to advance the energy space who want to experience inclusive perspectives on pressing global energy transition issues.

One of the speakers is Damilola Asalaye, who is the COO and Co-Founder of Ashdam Solar and Vice President of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria. 

Founder of 021 Rebels Group, Wesley Bosch says, “I started dancing when I was in matric. This is when I first had a passion for dancing. I was a quiet child, and I was bullied and stuff like that. I started dancing, which made me feel comfortable around people. I started teaching. In 2012, I used to take classes all over Cape Town, and I realised kids in my area can’t take classes. I did start my own classes in my yard, and that’s when 021 grew. We focus on kids between 10 and 18, from primary to high school, and that’s where most of the poverty comes from. And in Bonteheuwel, where we come from, there is a lot of gangsterism and negative stuff, and that’s how I grab those kids and show them that dancing is something cool, and that keeps them away from that bad stuff”. 

The group offers different choreography styles such as hip hop, afro-fusion, house, popping, breaking, and Krump. 

Bosch says, “My goal is to mentor kids from different communities, not just Bonteheuwel.” Most of our goals are competitions and events. Six to seven of our kids are going to Johannesburg in three months’ time. So we are raising funds for this. We are a non-governmental organisation, and we raise funds on our own. so they are going to compete, and anyone who can help us can come through”. 

Bonteheuwel, like most townships in the country, was created under the Apartheid discriminatory laws, such as the Group Areas Act, that segregated people along racial lines. 

It’s still plagued by social issues such as high unemployment, crime, poverty, and substance abuse.

Local residents, including Wesley’s mother, take pride in the role that the dance group plays in the community.

Charmaine “mama ghost”, the mother of Wesley says, “Where the kid is concerned, he has sacrificed a lot, and for me as a parent, I do my part and support him in whatever he does because I know what he is going through. his goals and his aims For him, it is all about the kids. He has always had my support. I believe parents should support the child, and the child will have that extra feeling that my mom is there”. 

The parent of a dancer, Anastacia Sihlahla says, “I am happy about what Wesley is doing for our kids. There is a lot that is going on around here. and when our kids are here, we know they are safe and are well taken care of. He teaches them a lot of things and a lot of morals that go beyond than just dancing”.  

The group does not have facilities, and the young members often brave the stormy Cape Town weather to attend practices. 

The teenagers relish the opportunity and cannot wait to take centre stage in a dance competition in Joburg in three months.

Dancer of 021 Rebels Anwar Lodewyk says, “The reason I joined the group is it helps me to get off the streets. It boosts my confidence a lot, even when I am feeling down, dancing gives me peace of mind.”

Dancer of 021 Rebels Group, Ciara Davids, says, “The group started off at NDA, but I heard it moved to multi-purpose. and I just had to join, and it’s nice, and it helps me with my emotions. We come here every day, and we are a diverse group, and we do different sorts of genres, and yeah, it keeps me off the streets.”

Further down in Makhaza in Khayelitsha, a community-based traditional and contemporary African group called Brothers and Sisters is making waves.

The group, which takes on a different tradition, is capturing the hearts and minds of Capetonians in the streets and on different stages.

Co-founder and conductor of Brothers and Sisters, Aqhama Sono, says, “We make our own fundraising by going to town to bask. If we were to be given a platform to get help and get our own theater place and our own drums because the drums we use are unworthy of our style, we would work with what we have to get more uniforms and more jerseys because it’s winter and we can’t live always be in short uniform. It’s really draining, even for us conductors. having harsh weather on top of our heads. Satisfying the people that are watching would really mean a lot to us.

Co-founder of Brothers and Sisters, Asandisa Siswana, says, “I was introduced to this music in 2017, and I feel in love with it. This music is popular in Khayelitsha, so, as someone with a church background, this all made sense to me. I attended an acapella show, and my passion grew for it there, and I never looked back.”

Member of brothers and sisters, Aphiwe Spala says, “This has changed my life and helped me explore.”

“If a member at his home is suffering, we help and donate. We once reached out to a school and donated pads. The group helps you grow spiritually, mentally, and physically”. 

The Social Department in the Western Cape says it has several programmes that target vulnerable youth. 

Western Cape Social Development Minister, Sharna Fernandez, says, “In terms of advice to NGOs is that the NGOs is that we have very helpful NPOs helpdesks, and more importantly, the cycle for 2024/2025 opens in June or July this year. but they either contact the help desk or the relevant programme office, or they will inform them of the specific details related to the sector they are in”.