Culture is an endless chain

 Members of Umbon’omhle planning the way ahead
Members of Umbon’omhle planning the way ahead

With the local elections done and dusted, many South Africans are now waiting with baited breath to see how their ‘newly-elected’ governments will improve their lives.

However, learning from the lessons of the past 22 years, it has become evident that South Africans need to be more actively involved in shaping their communities.

It is widely agreed that culture and the arts dramatically impacts society’s quality of life and in Langa, a group of activists are moving full steam ahead with an exciting new project – in partnership with the City of Cape Town’s Arts and Culture Department (A&C) – which aims to ‘develop an integrated cultural plan that translates the cultural needs and long-term cultural objectives identified by the community’.

Director of Umbon’ Omhle, Thulani Nxumalo says that the cultural plan aims to address the vision for the ‘future of Langa’s cultural life, to strengthen and expand the cultural and creative capital of the area’.

He says that by gaining an understanding of the current situation, the City can better implement any recommendations made and a more collaborative atmosphere can be created, to benefit everyone.

Nxumalo says: “We have taken on this project as a reflective process and engagement with the community is crucial.

We need our cultural practitioners to get involved and make their voices heard.

There are many people here who are doing great work and we want to understand and know about the obstacles they face, so that we can help each other by sharing opportunities in a supportive atmosphere.

Even if people are using their home space for their activities, residents who are culturally active need to come forward. We want to hear from you.”

“Our initial meetings have been very informative and we already have a better understanding of Langa’s cultural landscape. Many of the same issues are echoed by those we’ve engaged thus far.

The lack of space and resources, and the limited access to useful information, are some of the most common issues mentioned. We are learning from people who have been active for some time. Old and young alike.”

As part of this cultural planning exercise, Umbon’ Omhle has togather information and assess the current effectiveness of the community’s cultural assets and resources

They have convene artists and other cultural dialogue sessions, listening to their needs and developing consensus

And also design a process for cross-organisational collaboration in support of developing a strong cultural plan through relationship building. The organisation will act as a resource and support to the department in implementing the cultural planning initiative in Langa, as well as being the liaison keeping all stakeholders informed of the progress of the initiative.

Umbon’ Omhle has been around for more than eight years, providing support to local practitioners to help develop their organisations so that they are better able to leverage opportunities available to them, and even assisting with publicity for their activities and events.

The organisation will also develop an educational series around things like protecting your intellectual property, how to apply for funding or how to register an organisation, to name a few.

“It is important that practitioners get involved and join these ongoing meetings, which are held every Friday from 09h30 – 12h00 at Guga S’Thebe, so that we can map out all the activities happening in Langa.

Since space remains a core obstacle to activities in Langa, this mapping exercise will help us better understand what people need versus what is available, which will help with our recommendations to the City,” he said.

Earlier this year, Umbon’ Omhle announced the launch of the second Langa Activists Awards initiative, which aims to promote the idea of active citizenship within Langa and forms part of the cultural plan.

With this, the community of Langa can expect a dramatic increase in the number of events to be hosted in the area.

These events are aimed at creating awareness of the various activists and to provide a platform to showcase their work, while stimulating a sense of collaboration in the community. In addition to the smaller activities planned, an activists’ symposium is planned for September which aims to put the spotlight on activism in Langa.

Nxumalo says: “This Heritage Month, we hope to engage the community in a more culturally-focussed way, and while eating burnt meat can be seen as part of our culture, we rather hope to create a platform that empowers people and which demonstrates how everyone is interlinked.

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