THE smell of weekend braais wafting across the lawn and the happy sound of children playing freely created a welcoming atmosphere last Saturday, 08 August 2015, at the “Women in the Frontline” fundraising picnic organised by Activator Mlekeleli Khuzwayo.
In addition to celebrating Women’s Month, the event was part of a fundraising campaign to raise funds for a business trip to America to train with American martial artist Billy Blanks.
Khuzwayo is well-known in the INK (Inanda/Ntuzuma/KwaMashu) area for organising a number of free-to-attend Body Workout fitness events which aim to improve the health of his fellow community members.
He started his dance and fitness journey at an after-school programme where instructor, Eric Shabalala, taught township children to dance. Khuzwayo’s career flourished from there as he joined the Phenduka Dance Theatre Company in 2001 and formed part of the choreography team for the renowned Jomba! dance festival in 2005. He has collaborated with a number of South African Dance companies and performed with German-based dance group, Afrika-Afrika, in Europe.
Throughout his career, however, Khuzwayo’s underlying passion has been to advance the lives of his community through dance and exercise.
“The fundraiser is to raise the R45 000 needed for a trip to America where I will train under Billy Blanks,” explained Khuzwayo.
Blanks is a famous American martial artist, fitness guru, actor and creator of the Tae Bo workout routine. He is an instantly recognisable name in KwaMashu where a number of residents have grown up getting fit to his videos. Khuzwayo himself has incorporated elements of Blanks’ routine into his own gym sessions and it has been a lifelong dream of his to learn under the fitness guru.
“It will be a week-long training course and I hope to build a relationship with Blanks to organise for him to come out to South Africa next year for the INK Body Workout. This will benefit everyone in the community.”
Khuzwayo organised the family picnic day with a focus on women empowerment.
There were car washes, braais and a number of performances, all done by women. Children were thoroughly entertained with a jumping castle and face painting on the day.
Sam Ngcobo, an assistant at Triple B gym who helps Khuzwayo with all organisational matters, said they were so pleased with the great turnout.
“We had been promoting the event through the gym, giving members tickets to re-sell,” explained Ngcobo. “Today is all about the women. We have provided a platform for up-and-coming local artists, because Mlekeleli is an artist and he believes in developing local talent.”
eThekwini Municipality also came on board, supporting Khuzwayo’s health initiatives from the start, with the Department of Arts and Culture assisting with the provision of a stage, marquee and sound system on the day.
Activators came out in full support with families and friends in tow. Activator Nontobeko Mbatha, praised the event saying it had an “enjoyable atmosphere”.
“It’s great that people are here supporting someone like Mlekeleli. This is a fantastic event where a young person is trying to activate something constructive. It’s very encouraging,” she said.
Fellow Activator, Brian Mchunu, echoed her sentiments. “It’s been really wonderful, such a fantastic experience. The place is great, the music has been great and the people are great,” said the Pinetown resident.
Heading up the car wash was Mpume Mdlalose, who has been a gym member for eight months.
“Everyone at the gym had the opportunity to get involved today and it’s been really successful,” said Mdlalose, who is currently studying dance.
Another gym-goer helping out on the day was Makhosi Qhobosheane. Serving food to the picnickers, Qhobosheane said she was excited about the event’s success.
“We are helping Mlekeleli while helping other women,” she said.
Local resident, Ntombi Mbatha, who was attending the event with her family, said the experience had been very good.
“I really enjoyed the poetry in the morning. It was by two girls who must have been 14 or 15 years old. They were wonderful.”
Khuzwayo said the fundraiser was a great start towards getting him to the United States in October and that he would also be reaching out to local businesses and organisations for further support.