NUMSA commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Culture

3 December 2007, Posted in News

Using culture to uniteAlthough the apartheid days were dark they sparked a vigorous unity amongst workers, says Yingwani Mashaba. Commenting on discussions at a Ditsela cultural festival earlier this year, he said participants agreed that much could be learnt from the past on how to build unity so as to achieve workers’ goal.

The education, art and culture festival organised by Ditsela earlier in 2007 had participants grappling to find the core meaning of trade union culture in this day and age. One subject which came to the centre of the debate was how do we, as workers, continue to maintain the relationship with comrades turned employers and property owners. Apparently, solidarity and brotherhood (ubuntu) between ordinary people and our brothers in the seat of power seem to have been lost to self-serving and the worship of individualism. “Familiar scenes of oneness displayed in the ugly past are now non-existent,” said Sbu Biyela, a Samwu educator and chairperson of the PEC in the Durban metro. “Our comrades in government would, for example, at a comrade’s burial, order that the whole proceedings be dominated by men in uniform, accompanied by brass music – not freedom songs which was a frequent feature of yesteryears.” Pat Zondi, a cultural activist from Durban added his voice: “The ruling elite pledge millions at events, like rallies featuring kwaito acts who don’t dare care. Their music could not even touch on workers’ struggles, excluding Blondie Makhenas who helped fuel the struggle during the dark days.” The direction that workers should take is determined by the knowledgeable few who seem to know it all. “These guys are law experts,” one participant from the floor said. “Whenever workers want to display their militancy in speeding the wheel of change towards achieving our goals, we are warned, ‘you’ll be dismissed’, ‘you’ll face retrenchments’, ‘you’ll face this and that’! “”We must learn a lesson from workers of yesteryear, they refused to be divided,” said Sonwabo Shibane from Samwu. “When the bosses organised events and classified them as a Zulu dance group, Sotho, Venda, Xhosa etc, Num chose to organise a bigger event and put these diverse cultures under one umbrella. In that way it helped to cement bonds between workers from different ethnic groups. They saw each other as workers belonging to one family, not on the basis of ethnicity,” said Shibane.Many echoed the sentiment that trade union media had a role to play to revive the image of worker culture in South Africa.”Compelling freedom”, a documentary film, portrays the positive spirit and commitment displayed through the trade union culture of the time. It shows ordinary workers going through a hostile environment, yet remaining strong in their quest for worker goals. They achieved all this through speaking with one voice. Not today’s trade unions though. The leadership hierarchy view each other with suspicion. Some eyes remain fixed on the workers’ bigger goal, the others, biblical Judases, are partnered in selfish, secret agendas to deceive the cause of the working people in securing them meal tickets towards the drivers’ seat of the capitalists’ gravy train. The whole scenario leaves workers in a state of confusion. They never know what colours their union leaders are in whom they have entrusted all their hopes. What character will they display tomorrow?It is these divisions of the heart and focus which create loopholes for capitalist institutions to pursue their exploits leaving scores of working people and the poor wallowing in debt and chronic poverty – let alone signing unscrupulous deals without having any knowledge in which direction such deals are leading. Providers of such a service do not dare take the time to explain what such deals are all about. As labour we need to fight to create a situation where will be able to have an upper hand in managing our livelihood and financial security (provident funds, shares and other forms of investments). To rebuild its former image, the labour movement will have to go back to the culture that made it tick in years gone by!

Imbadu Arts Outreach Programme If you live in Port Elizabeth or Uitenhage and know of a young person who is talented in music and dance or interested in arts administration, tell them to contact Swii Arts Amendment, advises Ayanda Billie.

In 2003, a group of artists and art activists from Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan, Eastern Cape, after scanning the environment of arts and culture both provincially and nationally, concluded that a professional and business approach to arts is the only solution. They resolved that Swii Arts Amendment should be established to build a home and hope for the despondent artists. Swii is the Xhosa expression used when someone is completely attracted to or smitten by something or someone else. As one would declare to a woman : I am completely attracted to you [ndithabatheke swii nguwe].This year, Swii Arts is starting the second phase of Imbadu outreach programme sponsored by the National Arts Council. Component One of the programme will be mainly Dance and Music and only 25 artist recruits will be taken. The second component will be arts administration and 15 learners will be taken. The deadline for the application forms is 23 November 2007. Application forms are available from all Uitenhage Libraries. Empowering young people is an investment any nation reaps positively from. It is through development efforts with intensive quality ensured skills that informed audiences are nurtured while consequently providing consumers who will enable the industry to sustain itself. Young people respond readily to performing arts. Over the years their involvement saves them time to concentrate on positive activities. One excellent young person inspires hundreds more. Imbadu Arts Development Programme is designed to transfer skills in the appreciation of music, confidence in dance and arts administration. The Eastern Cape needs this project primarily to instil confidence among young people. An additional advantage will be that of ensuring the Eastern Cape will not be short of skilled entertainers come 2010. Imbadu Arts Development Programme shall integrate arts into culture and reveal culture through arts.After the completion of the programme:* The trainees will acquire skills in Music and Dance and Arts Administration.* Show appreciation of music, confidence in their voices. * Experienced facilitators will get employment as facilitators and accompanists to the young people* Open opportunities for the young people to entrench themselves in the cultural industry* The Eastern Cape province will have an abundance of skilled entertainers come 2010.

For more information about this programme call Mrs Phatheka Nogqala @ 0767804995 or Thandile Kona @ 0844229336