Africa, is your time now?

What happens when the South is placed North and vice versa? This is the thematic concern of the Africa Month festival running at the Windybrow Arts Centre in Johannesburg’s inner city.

The concept of pan-Africanism is often taken at a superficial level to simply mean replacement of white with black, which is a departure from its original ideological interpretation. This has spawned populist leaders on the continent with no meaningful transformation agenda for the people. Africa Month creates an opportunity to interrogate the concept of “a time for Africa”.

When the Organisation of African Unity was formed in the early 1960s the intention was unity. Two decades later the African Union has made little progress. 

Poster Bands: The poster announcing the Africa Month programme at the Windybrow Theatre.

The Windybrow Arts Centre calls for unity as it hosts the Africa Month festivities under the stewardship of Gerard Bester.  

Piggybacking on the Africa Day celebrations on 25 May, the organisers of Windybrow’s Africa Month festival have run workshops, school outreaches, comedy and music shows for the duration of the month, culminating in a performance featuring The Brother Moves On, The Friendly Drummers, Emmanuel Paul and Femi Koya. The highlight will be the debut collaboration between The Brother Moves On and the Windybrow choir. 

Flipping the Globe was kicked off with a workshop by linguist, comedian and artist Pule Kanjanolitjie and curator Puleng Plessie of Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria. Kanjanolitjie tackled “local traditions of writing in Afrika”. 

The second half of the workshop was led by Plessie, who guided the participants on a walkabout. Then the participants flipped the script to make it a collaborative effort. 

The session was important for the follow-up exhibition of the works held with Lefika la Phodiso (Rock of healing), an organisation assisting arts and culture educators at primary schools in Soweto through its community art counsellors. 

One of the students of its programme, Dilian Ndlovu, 14, gave a moving speech at the exhibition, during which he said: “Today I am going to talk about how art and drama is helping the children in the inner city. Art is a way to express yourself when going through any situation. It is a way you can escape the inner city. Us children in the inner city see things that can be traumatising.”

Sketch: Comedy night poster for Africa Month.

On the comedic front playwright J Bobs Tshabalala and his crew flipped the perception of a “dark continent” under the banner of The Dark-ish Continent, Flipped. The producers said the aim is “to celebrate the indigenous Mzansi languages and identities, while taking into account the larger diaspora”.

The show’s host is “an African ranger and explorer, who is curious about the experiences of his guests as they relate to their continental travels”. But there’s a flip, because the audience is under the impression it’s a game show called Tales from the Motherland. The repertoire includes stand-up comedy and sketches.

At the exhibition a group statement is pasted on the window: “South Africa’s extensive history has united a multitude of division issues regarding race and inequality. Furthermore, when analysing contemporary problems, we see a direct correlation from the unequal ideology that was placed forth during colonisation.”

Perhaps in going backwards the young artists are going two steps forwards in understanding that inequality rests on an economic bedrock. We ignore fundamental questions that affect people’s lives at our own peril and that young Africa’s vision is blurred by cosmetic changes when what we need are real and lasting ones.

The Music Flip takes place on Saturday 28 May at the Windybrow Arts Centre and will feature local and continental bands headlined by The Brother Moves On. There will be local food and craft stalls.

Tickets for both events can be bought at the respective venues or through Web­tickets on www.webtickets.co.za.

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