Soweto 50 Icons help motivate the youth

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Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
Photo: Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images

Veteran actor Sello Maake Ka Ncube and the Princess of Africa Yvonne Chaka Chaka speak to Nokuthula Zwane on their involvement with the Soweto 50 Icons campaign. 

In the spirit of motivating the youth, veteran artists Sello Maake kaNcube and Yvonne Chaka Chaka have teamed up with Soweto-based businessman Sakhumzi Maqubela to mentor young people.

Soweto 50 Icons, an initiative coined by Maqubela, aims to give the young people in high schools across Soweto the opportunity to be mentored and access to various Soweto-born or raised icons in the arts, sports and entertainment industries.

"Sakhumzi Holdings has embarked on a campaign to celebrate and honour 50 Soweto Icons; the campaign aims to single out 50 Soweto heroes and heroines who have sacrificed their lives, positively contributing to the political and social discourse of South Africa," said Maqubela, the founder of Sakhumzi Restaurant.

South Africans are going through an identity crisis phenomenon; young people are confused about who to role model when there seem to be fewer individuals who display inspiring personality traits. The purpose of the 50 Soweto Icons is to profile the personality traits of the selected icons to inspire the youth and remind them of who we are.

'Giving them hope'

According to organisers, the campaign had been endorsed by Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Chaka Chaka said that an initiative such as this was an extension of the work she had already been doing in previous years, highlighting issues of GBV, teenage pregnancy and drug abuse.

"They [youth] read about you and think it's not easy to meet or see these people. So if we avail ourselves to our children and tell them that I sit on the desk, you know, you can be anything you want to be. So for me, it's just motivation and just giving them hope," said the award-winning musician.

"They [experience] the realities of life. When we go to these schools, we are there to remind them that it doesn't matter where you were born; you don't choose where you were born. You find yourself there, but what you can choose is to find yourself a life better by acquiring as much knowledge as possible."

Launched earlier this month, the first school was the historic Orlando High, which Maake KaNcube attended.

Speaking to Channel24, the award-winning actor highlights why he decided to embark on this journey with Soweto young people.

"Sakhumzi Maqubela himself, being an icon and part of the pioneers of the Soweto economy, blew my mind when he decided to embark on this journey with the chosen few and I was honoured to have made the cut," he said.

Maake kaNcube has performed in countless theatre, film and television projects in South Africa, the US, UK, Canada and Europe. He also narrated the natural history documentary Africa's Outsiders about unusually pigmented (albino) wild animals, which was aired by Animal Planet worldwide.

As much as he is focused on his acting and writing career, Maake KaNcube is now establishing himself in the academic space by establishing a performing arts academy.

"My role is to bring on board my experience and expertise to support the initiative from the creative arts space by being part of the skills development leg of this project. We are also adopting some schools as part of this initiative, and I will be offering drama and artistic mentorship to selected students through the Sakhumzi Foundation Committee."

Maake kaNcube explained that having the opportunity to return to his former high school was a surreal experience, and he was ready to get the ball rolling with this campaign.

"Mine is simple and practical; I was once where these students are, and for example, the first school we adopted is Orlando High school, and I studied there for a while before the 1976 riots.

"Social ills are sadly part of our reality, and my role as a mentor is to guide these children through their hardships of having to grow up surrounded by unfortunate circumstances. I'm planning on using storytelling as a mechanism of having them relate their own stories through an ensemble from their respective schools. Only they know what their everyday challenges are and the beauty of it because some of them may even have answers to the same challenges.

One just needs to be a sounding board where these children will find a safe space to reflect and readjust their own thinking and approach to life.

Organisers said this campaign would run throughout the year, and the next school and icon would be revealed in July.

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