Dressing up the African woman

By Kay-Dee Mashile

From the very beginning of time, women have been a fascinating topic of discussion. Yet defining a woman is proving to be mission impossible. From biblical texts when Adam met Eve, the very first woman in recorded history, he seemingly could not find the words to describe her and instead recited a poem about her. Since then, many songs, poems and stories have been written about women, a lot of which are written by men and may be perceived as objectifying. This is by no means surprising as women have been seen as objects of men’s affection and pleasure for centuries. However, feminist and other woman empowerment movements have somewhat managed to liberate women from the legal obligations pertaining to their gender roles and have managed to give women room to express who they are through their individual voices. However, African traditions still seem to hold rigid expectations regarding the role of a woman.

It is an undeniable fact that fashion plays a very significant role in representing the identity of a woman. From a white ball gown representing marriage to a little black dress for special dinners and cocktail parties to a skirt suit for corporate meetings; women seem to have a lifelong journey of playing dress up. While the statement ‘dress how you want to be addressed’ may have been coined for formal settings, it is the everyday reality of many women, particularly the African Woman. Whether she is wearing a miniskirt at the taxi rank, a pair of leggings on Instagram or a pair of pants to church; women are defined by their wardrobe on a daily basis. However, this, like everything under the sun, is not new!

In the 1800s and early 1900s, women used hair and clothing to communicate their status in society. Fashion became the language through which social status and class were articulated throughout the world. In European countries, the elite were as easily distinguished by their attire as they were by their race. Yet, whether rich or poor, women were encouraged to cover up and look “respectable”. While this doctrine is similar in many modern-day African cultures; in some African cultures, such as the Nghuni tribe, young girls were encouraged to walk around in as little as a short skirt and a beaded neck piece. This, particularly in the Zulu culture, is said to be a sign of taking pride in one’s youth (virginity).

In today’s world, however, it is no longer as easy to distinguish between cultures simply by the clothes one wears. The world of fashion clearly reflects the globalised Western notion of dress that can be attributed to colonisation among other reasons. It has thus become even more impossible to define an African woman. Where a white South African woman would consider a black South African woman more African; the black South African woman would consider an East African woman even more African than the both of them. However, cultural attire such as African patterns and prints, beadwork and make-up instantly upgrade any woman’s African cultural status – even if it’s only on social media.

For this and other reasons, holidays such as Heritage Day seem to awaken the African side of most women. However, while fashion places a very important role in the formation and representation of one’s identity, a long skirt and a doek no longer make the perfect package for an African woman. Women have developed the independent right to define themselves otherwise. In today’s world, the African woman’s heritage/custom stretches beyond her ability to bear and rear children in a long dress. With every given and created opportunity, women are redefining their cultures to be more liberal and freeing. This is visible through the revamped African print fashion lines. These fashion trends are a sign of pride in the lessons learned and the values instilled within African women and the drive to use those foundations to build something different. To build a new culture. To pioneer a new heritage. To re-dress the standards through which the African woman is assessed. To do away with the boxes and give African women unlimited room to dress themselves in whatever identity they see fit.

African women have been, and are still going, through a lot. Fashion is the time machine that has carried the evidence of their struggles and victories. Moreover, it is the vehicle that is to drive even more change in the future. So, as women whip out that doek and traditional regalia each year, it is not to say that the calendar calls for them to dress up for a fake role; it is to say that we know who we are, we are aware of the process that brought us here, but we are more than that. We are African – in every sense of the word.

It is said that he who knows not where he comes from is like he who knows not where he is going. Heritage day allows us to dress up our process. It reminds us of the paths we’ve already travelled while encouraging and strengthening us for that which is ahead of us.

Photo credit: Pinterest


Improving and preserving languages

By Bongo Hlongwane 

This past weekend, young people in 5 provinces inspected heritage as a significant part of who they truly are. They did this by delving into the importance of literacy and by indulging in each others cultures and traditional songs.

The event was held at Intuzuma F library convened by the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers Network, in cooperation with Ubuciko Bomlomo Infotainment, Langeni College, Lindelani Youth Forum, Ntuzuma library, Gugu Dlamini foundation, and Africa Unite.

Activator Malusi Mahlaba from Lindelani Youth Forum gave Sanele Hadebe (Activator and facilitator) the platform to welcome the attendees. He started with the traditional song “wemama kanomthandazo awukhulule unomthandazo.”

The objective of the event was to reinforce culture and encourage young people to preserve their languages. The attendees examined the imperatives of reading and writing with Mr Luthuli, a lecturer at Elangeni College. He quoted Marcus Garvey, “Use every spare time in reading,” asserting that if a person has time to waste, it is advisable to put it in reading. He emphasised that reading gives a person the privilege of living in a world of intelligence. He conveyed that readers are leaders and that readers rule the world whereas ignorance carries the burden. He advised the audience that they should not skip a word without understanding it’s meaning “consult the dictionary,” he said. He added that reading is a stride to thinking and that books are the best companion to success.

Furthermore Lindokuhle Ngcobo stressed that “Culture is a set of values, beliefs and morals that are inherited by the young ones and passed down from elders,” building from that Malusi Mazibuko insisted that culture should be engraved within people’s daily activities, “My culture is my DNA, before I become a Zulu, I am an African,” he added. The songs that were sung set the tone of the day, the poem recited by Syabonga Mthethwa in collaboration with Ofentse Masibi evolve the spirit of togetherness “there is an African child undertaken by poverty”, they recited the poem, “somewhere in South of Africa there is a burning man, he runs accused of stealing a man’s’ wife, a job and a future.”

There was an array of traditional attire and paintings from local artist, Ntuzuma

Lokishi Comrade Martin who co-operated with Malusi to convene the event said it was very challenging to mobilise. He said youth is busy during weekdays, he said the event was utterly impeccable and thanked the network for the support including 23 Activators who contributed to the event.

Ilokishi le iligugu okanye ilishwangusha?

“Mna andifundeli ukuphuma elokishini, ndifundela ukuzifaka zitshone iingcambu zam elokishini kuba kulapho lemfundo yam idingeka khona

Liyibeke olohlobo ityendyana laseBhayi xa lalizazisa kwintlanganiso eyayibanjelwe kwidyunivesithi iNelson Mandela. Kuthe kanti lentetho yalo izakuvusa  eyona yakhe yankulu ingxoxo-mphikiswani ngendima yeelokishi kweli loMzantsi Africa, nto leyo eshiye umbuzo omileyo othi iilokishi ezi ingaba zinako ukubalwa njengamagugu esizwe okanye zilishwangusha?

Iilokishi kweli zabethelelwa ngurhulumente wengcinezelo ngemithetho eliqela equka iGroup Areas Act ka1950, eyamisela ukuba ukuhlala kwabebemi belizwe kwahlulwa-hlulwe ngokobuhlanga, abantu abantsundu bamiselwa iilokishi, ze bonke abo ababengaphandle kwalomida yamiselwa ngulomthetho badudulwa ngenkani bayakulahlwa ezilokishini, lombali yokududulwa iye yaduma kakhulu kwindawo ezazifana neeDistrict sSix kunye neSophiatown ezadilizwayo ngurhulumente. Injongo yokumiselwa kwazo yayikuqinisekisa ukuba abantu abantsundu balahlelwa kude nemithombo yoqoqosho ukuze bakwazi ukulawulwa ngemithetho engqingqwa engenanceba. Ngenxa yalemithetho yangabom iilokishi zaba ziindawo ezingehoyekanga ezibhuqwa yindlala, ezingenamisebenzi nezizele lulwaphulo mthetho.

Umbuzo ke ngulo; njengokuba singena kwinyanga yomsintsi nje, noyinyanga yamagugu nenkcubeko iindawo ezinesisekelo esibuhlungu ezifana neseelokishi zinako yhini na ukubizwa njengamagugu esizwe? uOlwam Mnqwazi nongumphathi weBlack Hat Leadership Academy ebhayi ukhabe ngawo omane ngelithi iilokishi ezi azinako uba ligugu lesizwe kuba azimiselwanga sisizwe, koko zanyanzeliswa esizweni. Ukwathi nokwakhiwa kwazo kwakungekho njongo yokuba zibe ligugu, zazimiselwe ukucinezela, ngenxa yalonto ukuzibiza njengegugu kukusilahlekisa isizwe, kuba igugu yinto esekelwe kwinqubela phambili nesakhayo iphinde isiphucule isizwe. OkaMnqwazi ulebele ngelithi “lisikizi into yokubiza ilokishi esisiphumo zokuhlaliswa ngocalucalulo (spartial planning) njengekhaya, phofu xa sililibele ikhaya yonke indawo iba likhaya”.

Ityendyana liyiphikisile lentetho ngelithi iilokishi zililo igugu lesizwe, kuba zivelise inkcubeko engummangaliso kwelilizwe; xa sizibona njengeshwangushwa yintoni esizakuyizuza kulonto thina bantu bahlala kuzo? Ewe iilokishi zamiselwa ngenjongo ezazingalunganga, ngurhulumente owayengalunganga kodwa lonto ayithethi ukuba abantu ababakuzo nabo mababambelele kulongcingane. Amagama abantu abazithiya wona iilokishi zabo ayabonisa ukuba babengahambisani ncam neenjongo zikarhulumente wobandlululo kunjalo nje babenethemba lokuba iyakuba ziindawo eziya kuba nekamva, iiGugulethu, ooZwelethemba, ooKhayelitsha, eThembeni, kwaNoxolo, eZibeleni njalo-njalo. Kuyabonakala ukuba uninzi lwabantu abaphikisa iphulo lokubalula iilokishi njengegugu lesizwe asingobantu abahlala kuzo iilokishi, okukugxekwa kweelokishi bakwenza beme qelele benga bakhi-mkhanyo kunjalo nje bethe gcobho ebhotolweni.

Nokuba zithini izimvo ezahlukeneyo zabantu ngeendima yeelokishi, ukungahoyeki kwazo isengu mba otshisa ibunzi, ukuba kude kwazo kwiingingqi zempangelo kunye nendawo zoqoqosho. Ukuphuculwa kweelokishi akuphelelanga ekubeni kwakhiwe udederhu lweevenkile babe abantu abahlala kuzo bengafumani zinkonzo, kunjalonje kungabonakali nentshukumo yokuba basondezwe kumaziko oqoqosho. Urhulumente naye ngokwakhe unendima ebalulekileyo ekumele ayidlale ekuqinisekiseni ukuba abantu abahlala ezilokishini banganeli ukusondezwa kumaziko oqoqosho kodwa kuphuculwe amaziko akhoyo phakathi ezilokishini. Ewe urhulumente uzakhile izindlu kodwa kukho umahluko omkhulu phakathi kokwakha izindlu nokwakha amakhaya. Ukuba iilokishi zibaligugu nokuba ziba lishwangusha yonke lonto ixhomekeke kuthi kodwa umqweno wokuba zibe ligugu ngaphezu kokuba zibe lishwangusha.

Syabamunca Movement: Nipping Drug Abuse In The Bud

By Khaya Memela

This September, #Syabamunca movement, which was established by 2017 Activators hosted their first event in Hammarsdale (Sankontshe). Syabamunca is a movement with a vision of stimulating youth self-development and awareness. It was formed after module 1 of intake 1. The event was to raise awareness about drugs abuse and crime within the community under the theme ‘Khanya Mtomusha.’

The event started in a good atmosphere. The MC of the day, Ratanang Phusoane (RT), from Johannesburg, welcomed everyone with warm hands and eventually began the show. The first guest speaker of the day Thabi Shazi (21) from Africa Break the Silence was addressing the negative role drugs can play on young generation. He emphasised on self-building character, saying by knowing what you want you simplifying chances of achieving your goals. “The youth of today have to think about consequences before they act”, Shazi said.

Building from that, Africa Break The Silence did a full presentation called ‘Talk Show’ about the importance of abstaining in life; the show was a question and answer set. Mpho, who is the president of Africa Break The Silence said, “An unmarried person should abstain because it helps on achieving goals on time and being in charge with your life”.
There was also entertainment which was based on the topic of the day, and one of the Activators Bongo Hlongwane who recited a poem which touched a lot of people’s heart called “Imfundiso Yanamuhla Ihlukile Ay’safani Neyay’zolo”. The young people really did relate to the poem because it was talking about the wrongs which seem good in front of their eyes. There was also a dramatic play from Young Dream Entertainment, the scenes were showing how women are brutally abused for the sake of selling their private parts. “On the play, we are portraying the massage that South African men’s value money more than human beings” said Nkululeko Ngcobo who was also in the play.

Sbonokuhle Nyembe, a facilitator at ACTIVATE! stressed the importance of supporting one another in such events. “Youth have to cooperate and try to find more engaging people or organisation because there are lot of people who can bring about change on their events.

The organisation affiliated with the program was the Democracy Development Programme (DDP), Africa Break The Silence, Bring Back The Vibe (BBT) and ACTIVATE!.

Activators who supported this initiative and made it possible include; Bongani Nqayi Micco, Thabang Cele, Thobelani Gumende, Goodman Mlitha, Khanyo Kubheka , Zinhle Shozi, Nqobile Dlamini, Sifiso Ningiza Nomthandozo Shabangu, Nothando nene , Melusi Mahlaba, Ratanang Phusoane, Ndumiso Sokhela, and Bongo Hlongwane.

Thabang Cele asserted that the event was a success.  This encouraged the guest speakers of the day to leave no stone unturned going forward.

Activators Celebrating Heritage Month

By Gladys Nomvuyo Sebeko

When we talk about heritage we talk about what we embrace as human beings. In South Africa we have different cultures but one heritage which is respecting each other’s beliefs. In South Africa, we have the joy of having more than just one heritage which makes us such a unique country. As the A! Network we also have or very own heritage which is community development. Since its heritage month, we got some time to speak to some Activators to hear how they will be celebrating this heritage month and what they think about heritage and this is what they said;

Nyadi Ralekhetla, Activator 2017 – Free State

“Heritage month to me is the time when South Africans should celebrate their diverse cultural heritage that makes up a rainbow nation. It is a very important month for us because a part of cultural history is celebrated. This month is a month whereby our people need to understand we celebrate the contribution of South Africans to the building of South Africa, and also they should remember that South African population is made up of many different cultures, which still need to be taught to our growing brothers and sisters.

To teach the small children from my community about heritage and culture I will be hosting an event where by children will be wearing their cultural gear and perform cultural dances while serving lunch of different cultural food. Will also create cultural games and quiz which will teach them more about different cultures.”

Sboniso Hadebe AKA Beef, Activator 2017- KwaZulu-Natal

We always use the word CULTURE, assuming that we all have the same definition of it. I believe culture is a string of traits that we develop to protect what we value as a society. It is ever evolving as the dynamic of society change, we take respect as a value and then we have a string of change that show that value like greeting and Ubuntu.

On this heritage day I will be hosting an event called heritage showcase. On this event I will be haring different cultural gear and food with some information about that certain food or cloths. The community members will be engaging in some cultural games and dance. This event will also represent the stand against Xenophobia. Everyone is invited.”

Selekaya Seribe Bokone, Activator 2017 – Bophirima Province

Culture is something that involves the entire qualities and characters that are irregular to the society to a level that is distinguish another person from the entire society. These qualities include language, how you dress and food just to mention a few, it also include societal norms, values and taboos. To me culture simply means what you do when you celebrate life and how chose to celebrate it. There is no specific way as to how you chose to practices as your culture as long as you are not violating any human’s rights. What I really dislike is people abuse other people all in the name of culture and heritage. As the world change things change and some even change for the better with people understanding that culture does not mean abuse but celebrating how far we have come and where we are going as a nation.

On this cultural day I would be having an event that will be promoting the African knowledge of culture. This event will be teaching people how to love the books written by Africans for Africans and also how to love our cultural dance and poetry, we will also have an open discussion about including our African culture on the curriculum In order for the future generation to learn our history.”

It is important to learn that culture means whatever you chose to practice and makes you happy, it is not just all about who did what when and why but it is about how you and the people around you like to celebrate life. If we take a look at the A! culture for a moment we see that it is one culture that will last from one generation to the next because young people are passionate about community development and that’s our culture we know how we got here and how our ancestors did thing but now it is time to do things differently push new events and new heritage for a better south Africa.


Hein Scheepers – Guidy Worx

Guidy Worx

George, Western Cape

Hein Scheepers

084 7878 033


Web: www.activateleadership.co.za/blog/opportunities-for-underexposed-artists

IG: Ras_Hein

Twitter: Ras_Hein

Guidy Worx provides a platform for under-exposed Artists in the Western Cape by organising arts-based events, such as concerts, exhibitions, open mic sessions and festivals. The project works to mainstream arts and arts-based community development, with the belief that art is one of the most potent tools to transform human consciousness, and make people aware of social issues, while creating solutions to overcome social deprivation.


Duane Kok – Students Lead

Students Lead

Pietermaritzburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal

Duane Kok



Facebook: studentslead  

Students Lead recognises the issue of low academic performance and the lack of career development guidance for vulnerable youth in grades 9-12. The organisation addresses this gap by running after-school support programmes where youth have access to Academic Coaches who facilitate further learning in various school subjects. Through workshops and mentorship, the flagship program (operational since 2014), has been developed to provide exam support for grade 12’s during their National Senior Certificate Exams.  

Aloma Malgas – Rea Thusa

Rea Thusa

Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

Aloma Malgas



Rea Thusa is an NPO operating in a community where substance abuse, crime and a lack of infrastructure leave youth vulnerable and without direction. The organisation seeks to address this problem by providing youth with educational support, hope and guidance through campaigns, fun fares and various community events. It is the hope that by providing youth with resources and support, their minds will be unlocked to realise their dreams and make a change in their community.


Quote a Poet

By Bongo Hlongwane

More than 50 artists attended Quote a Poet Chapter 4 event which was held at Denis Hurley centre in Durban.

UBI (Ubuciko Bomlomo Infortainment) is a youth initiative which was established in 2012 by Ntuzuma youth. Their objectives include promoting social talents, hosting youth dialogues on sensitive issues affecting the youth sector. Activator Lokishi Comrade Martin alleged that UBI is all about touching and changing people’s life through art. He said Quote a poet is all about poetry, artist are obligated to quote their favourite poets before there recite

Usonkondlo Senzo Shampie set the tone at the event, when he recited his poem “We never born hating. We are never born with knowledge of any racial, religious, culture or any other sort of discrimination. My own people your own land, your right, your voice to make decisions.”

Building from that Mazwi Shazi performed “Asikhulume, uthi oxwayisayo qaphelani laba abathembisa ukuphatha kahle izinhliziyo zenu, anozibuza phela nani ukuthi loko bakufunda kanjani, nakulezo zinhliziyo kwenzakalani, ”  (let’s talk, the advisor says be conscious of those who promises to nurture your hearts, ask yourselves what happened to the one they were practising with” this poem challenged the audience to be introspective.

Young woman Sim China Zungu recited her poem, “I shouted out loud, i shouted out loud, till the voice left me (ngamemeza ngamexa kuze kube uphimbo uyangshiya), i can hear your footsteps (ezakho izingi ngisazizwa), there is a man who took my virginity when i wasn’t matured” i can still hear his voice shouting in my ears.”

The artist line-up who did outstanding work on stage include, lady Africa, Sim Chana Zungu, Heavy Weight, BZ Shangase, kush Mahleka, Thando Fuze, Zanele Khoza, Kyle Allan, Zanele Khoza, Thembelihle Shezi, Miss Allene and Juvas Icamagu

The Activators who are affiliated with UBI are Slindelo Martin, Nhlanhla Mkwanazi, Mlu Zuma, Ntuthuko Dlala and Lokishi Comrade Mathini.

Lokishi asserted that women dominating the line-up was intentional. He said they stand for womens emancipation, he furthermore said women are isolated when it comes to art and Quote A Poet is fighting that stigma. He said they will host Chapter 5 in November.


Emulating the Values of Biko 40 Years Later

By Tshepo Wilfred Mabuya


“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Stephen Bantu Biko: Founder of the Black Consciousness Movement

During the month of September, we join the Pan African Movement, the masses of South Africans and the world in commemorating 40 years since the tragic death of the proponent of Black Consciousness. A heavyweight in his own right and hero who stood shoulder to shoulder with the African heroes, Stephen Bantu Biko died brutally in the hands of his oppressors, not because he was a criminal, but because of his ideals of promoting the mental liberation and consciousness of Africans from Cape to Cairo, Morocco to Madagascar.

Despite being imprisoned in Kgosi Mampuru Prison, his spirit was never broken and neither was his vision to ensure the realisation of Black Consciousness diminished because his values continue to linger today, 40 years after his death.

As we remember Biko, let us remember the important need for Africa to know herself, and to unite and organise as Africans and to always remember that through Black Consciousness, we will be organised and will listen to the voice of reason and roll our sleeves as the Mother of all Struggles has begun, the struggle of Total African Independence.

Bantu Biko never died, he has multiplied. His death and, most importantly, his blood watered a strong firm tree which has produced fruits and the names of those are Bikos.

Mayibuye iAfrika

Long Live Bantu Stephen Biko

Bulumko Gana – Genius at Work

Genius At Work

Gugulethu, Cape Town, Western Cape

Bulumko Gana



FB: Bulumko Stifler Gana

IG: bulumkogana


With the aim of combating youth unemployment by providing capacity building for content creation, Genius At Work introduces Photography and videography as an extramural activity to youth ages 13-18, living and attending school in the townships of Cape Town, who can later enter into the Creative industry as a career. By equipping students with digital marketing skills, they will be encouraged to take up Google and Facebook exams as a means of employability in the digital world, and gain skills that will better their lives.

Deep Roots or Beat Roots?

By Paul Mabote

Bob Marley, the reggae legend from Jamaica, once said that if you do not know where you are coming from, then you will not know where you are going to. Heritage, is defined by some as the big and little things one carries from where he comes from, and passes down to the next generation so that they may do the same. Though it carries a common meaning, heritage means different things to many of us, and one might question the relevance of some of our cultural customs in today’s ever integrating world.

Is Heritage Day a front?

On the 24th of September each year, South Africans blossom as they flaunt their beautiful rainbow colours, adorned in their colourful myriad of traditional garments while merrily enjoying  their delicious assortments of traditional dishes. For the whole day this day, Mzansi celebrates Heritage Day.

When interviewed, Activator Pgel Nilongo shared his dejection for Heritage Day. He feels one day in a year is not enough to fully embrace and celebrate who we are as a nation of different people, cultures and creeds. “There are too many other days and months that we spend too ashamed to say ‘Sawubona’ to another black person in the elevator, and when writers are too ‘modern’ to tell their stories in their mother tongue. We should not have any specified period to celebrate our heritage; instead we should live our heritage, every day.” Could it be that we have melted in so complexly, that it is as hard as ever to tell apart the different ingredients inside the pot?

Streams have become taps, amaBheshu have become Levis 501 jeans and Moropotso (platted hairstyle popular in the townships) has become long, Brazilian weaves. It only seems sensible to keep up with the times. After all, a brand new BMW is better than a horse-drawn carriage on many levels. So where do we draw the line? How far is too far behind to leave our family-trusted ways and adapt to the ways of the “New World”?

What’s Gonna Happen?

Another Activator, Moedi Mokaba, boasts about the world heritage site Maropeng: The Cradle of Human Kind being in his hometown of Mogale City. He is, however, very sceptical about some of the “superstitious rules” him and his siblings were constantly reminded of by their elders while growing up.  “Why should I not sweep the floor or fetch water at night? What is going to happen if I eat standing? And why am I prohibited from eating certain foods as a child?”  It was such questions that often got him into trouble with his grandmother, he says, who would always snarl at him: “that is the way we found things, that is the way things are, and that is how they will always be!”

So what is going to happen, really, if you carry fire outside or keep your hat on inside the house as a man? According to some African traditions, a baby is not to be in the presence of anyone other than close family, until it is 3 months old. Yet today, you visit the local clinic on a good day and you will find it teeming with mothers carrying their week-old infants. Are there any concrete reasons to explain what is going to happen if these “rules” are obeyed, or if they are ignored?

What Is Your Heritage?

I asked fellow Activators what heritage means to them and what they celebrate the most about their heritage. The answers were different; from “I celebrate the unmatched humility of our Venda people” to “I celebrate the Kofifi dance and culture that was born in our streets of Soweto.”  To Matshepo Moatshe, heritage means one’s identity in the world; who you are and what makes you who you are.

I guess I can hold on dearly to my late grandmother’s thick goggles and celebrate them as part of my heritage too. She has, after all, seen more of my life through them, than I have.

Whether it be in a family, local, cultural, national, world or even personal context, everyone has a story. The props, costumes and settings of these stories all form part of our heritage. We live in a world where cultures intertwine and integration is inevitable. How we preserve our heritage is what is most important, as it is what makes it what it is. Whether it’s a pair of goggles, an unexplained commandment or a good fable told around the fire, these small things all form part of a bigger story; the story of who you are and where you come from. The young ones today, and the future generations waiting to breathe, are all relying on our stories, their heritage, in order to understand where they are coming from and most importantly, where they are going.

The Exclusivity Summit

By Zazi kaSintu Weyi

Innovation is a beautiful concept and Theodore Levitt puts it beautifully: ‪”Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”
From the 6-8th of September, one of the biggest spaces for innovators in their fields filled up the Cape Town stadium to demonstrate, share experience and network on ideas they’ve started, seen them to their fruition, or even rub shoulders with pockets of investors that came to fund some dreams.

In its simplest, the word innovation directly talks to change, shift and transformation. Transformation is the topic I need to zoom into, especially when it comes to events that happen in spaces such as Cape Town and surroundings. This city seems to always carry an air of separatism in terms of class and race. The age-old saying, “the poor get poorer, while the rich get richer”, should be its official soundtrack.

Even with all the data garnered, the reality and the poor human element always seems unimportant. In a country where the majority still lives beneath the poverty line, this place revers the “saviour” stance of those that have money to tell how the poor should live without as much as recognising the irony.

Some of the speakers merrily spoke about prioritising education as the tool for innovation. The same education that “normal people” can’t afford. Not once did I hear how fees could innovatively be dropped so that access, or in this case, the lack thereof, couldn’t be the issue.

“Data is the new currency”, one speaker proudly explained in his presentation. I’m sorry what, sir? How is data the searing light that’s meant to save us? As futuristic as these idea are, how are they assisting the data rates to drop?

Black people problems are always popular, palpable conversations in white spaces speaking about innovative ways of improving “their” ways of living, when all they know about black struggle is their annoyance when “Nancy” is late for work because “those taxis in the townships are up to their nonsense again” when actually Nancy woke up at 4 to take 4 modes of public transport to get to your home and take care of your children while hers don’t even remember how her smile looks like.

In a country where the population sits at about 79% black people, there are still spaces that are still occupied and owned by 99% white people. This probably explains why advertisements still portrays old, black women dancing when their loans are approved. Exorbitant bank loans that enable them to lead a basic lifestyle. We also see the cool, black creatives that allow these atrocities to continue.

Our worst fallacy, as a people, to date is thinking governments can spearhead the vision of the people.

Poor people’s pain should stop being mined to be appropriated and gentrified for the middle and higher class’ entertainment. There’s no honour in being a guinea pig to poverty experiments and there’s certainly no honour in being poor. The parading of “solutions” that are masqueraded as beneficial to the regular Thabo on the street should commit all the way.

Sustainable solutions means that your job doesn’t end at dropping off computers at a township to alleviate unemployment. It’s great, but does it address the ability to use the fancy machinery?

Real innovation and transformation will only kick off when we are all clear of the disparities in the system.

Using innovative ideas to give back to communities

Often innovation is associated with technology and the for-profit sector. However, in the ACTIVATE! network there are many young people using innovative thinking to address some of South Africa’s pressing challenges through social entrepreneurship. And this is what attendees at this year’s Innovation Summit will experience. The SA Innovation Summit as an annual flagship event on the South African Innovation Calendar, is a platform for nurturing, developing and showcasing African innovation, as well as facilitating innovation thought-leadership.

From 06 – 08 September, 27 young people from across South Africa will be amongst industry giants showcasing their innovations around social impact. These 27 young people are just a few out of a network of more than 2000 young people who are using innovative thinking to overcome issues such as unemployment, skills development while giving back to their communities. The Innovation Summit is one way how young people are demonstrating how using innovative and creative ideas can contribute to give back to communities for the public good.

Here are a couple of Activators you can expect to meet at the Summit:

Activator Silindile Ncube, a young person from the KwaZulu-Natal has come up with an innovative idea that equips young people to write and deliver polished presentations and through this project, she has been able to assist young people to gain confidence in themselves to speak at any platform so as to unlock potential. Her project is called “The Speaking Academy.

Activator Bulumko Gana is the brains behind the ‘Genius At Work’ initiative which aims to equip young people from townships between the ages of 13-18 with digital skills that allow them to attend to videography and concept-creation needs. A young person who has undergone his programme is better able to take Facebook exams for the purpose of securing employment in the digital world.

Activator Aloma Malgas runs an NPO called Rea Thusa that addresses the issues of substance abuse and crime prevention in a community that lacks infrastructure and has young people who are said to be without direction. The NPO organises community based events and campaigns that aim to show young people that there is more to life.

Activator Nkokheli Mankanyi is the founder of Masakhane Youth in Action, an organisation that focuses on the marginalisation and advocacy of LGBTIA community rights as well as creating inclusive access to services and systems for sexual and gender diverse persons through community engagement.