“We need an arts and humanities-informed sustainable youth development agenda to nurture a vibrant youth culture” – Consolidating learning youth workshop (13-17 June 2021).
The University of Pretoria’s Department of Historical and Heritage Studies lecturer, Dr Glen Ncube, recently co-hosted a youth research and learning workshop with the University of the Free State’s Dr Faith Mkwananzi, in Pretoria, from 13 – 17 June. This marathon workshop was convened under the collaborative project theme: Youth Agency, Civic Engagement, and Sustainable Development: Ideas for Southern Africa.
Led by Dr Mkwananzi (principal investigator) and Dr Ncube (co-investigator), this project is an opportunity to consolidate learning from each of the four Changing the Story (CTS) youth projects in southern Africa, including one project in Binga district, Zimbabwe (Epistemic Justice in Zimbabwe), and three projects in South Africa (Izwi, Lenyaniso, Lomhlaba; Mapping Community Heritage with Young People in Rural South Africa; and Change Makers). “Changing the Story” is the name of a global project coordinated by the University of Leeds (UK) to support “the building of inclusive civil society with, and for, young people in post-conflict settings” such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Colombia, Kosovo, South Africa, etc.
In 2019, the UP Department of Historical and Heritage Studies received CTS project funding support for the “Mapping Community Heritage” project, which is a multi-disciplinary collaboration with academics from the University of Sheffield, Pala Forerunners (a non-governmental organization). This collaborative project has been spearheading development among poor communities bordering the Kruger National Park (KNP), and community youth researchers from Utha, one of the communities created for black people following the KNP forced removals of the mid-twentieth century.
Using co-produced participatory, humanities research methods, this project has worked with young people from Utha to undertake work that focuses on the mapping of intergenerational memory and community development concepts. The aim is to understand how young people grapple with their elders’ community memories and development perspectives, and how they deploy these complex stories of change in re-imagining and devising their own new versions of (intangible) heritage-based community development.
The project galvanized and demonstrated capacity for youth-led community research, and also catalyzed interest in creating a local community archive that could act as a sustainable, community-owned repository for exploring identity, culture and development. The project also generated interest in intergenerational knowledge sharing initiatives such as the development of indigenous foods recipe books, and recordings of local music, folklore, idioms, and cuisine.
A manuscript telling Utha’s history from the youth point of view has also been produced.
Three of the young people who were integral in the carrying out this project participated in the recent joint workshop which was scaled down and partially hosted online in line with COVID-19 protocols. This four-day youth-tailored workshop provided space for engagement among young people, together consolidating learning derived from the various CTS projects they were involved in across the region. NGO/CSO project partners also participated.
Organized around three sub-themes – youth agency; (political) voice; and participatory arts for development – the workshop deliberated on emergent issues from across the projects, before exploring possibilities for the development of a sustainable youth development agenda. It also broached the possible establishment of a regional network to foster continuous interaction and sharing of ideas and lessons.
As a conclusion to the workshop, youth participants were given an opportunity to co-produce a short (15-minute) documentary using the interviewing, story-telling, critical reflection, and filming skills acquired in the various projects. With this, the workshop firmly established the need for an arts and humanities-informed sustainable youth development agenda that could serve to nurture a vibrant youth culture in the region.
The six youths who attended in person were also taken on a tour of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, and the Market Photo Workshop founded by world-renowned photographer, David Goldblatt.
Dr Glen Ncube and Dr Faith Mkwananzi