Empowering Hillbrow residents through arts
Writer: More Matshediso
As the head of the Windybrow Arts Centre, the daughter of legendary SA jazz musician Jonas Gwangwa and social activist Violet Gwangwa is getting young artists to engage around social issues.
Keitu Gwangwa has made it her priority to empower young artists in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, by establishing various programmes at the Windybrow Arts Centre.
The head of the centre since January 2018, Gwangwa’s passion is the celebration and promotion of African identity through arts and culture.
She said the historic 123-year-old colonial building is being positioned as the hub of Pan-African art expression. The centre also provides a platform from which to engage the community in arts development, appreciation and expression. It is also the business unit of the Market Theatre.
Gwangwa works with young volunteers based in the city of Johannesburg on in-house arts programme including film, drama, music, indigenous instruments, poetry and scriptwriting.
“We have daily classes and a holiday programme which ends with a showcase,” she said.
One of the programmes is the annual Africa Month Festival which is a celebration of diversity.
The 2019 programme comprised a collaboration between the Market Photo Workshop and the Windybrow Arts Centre in producing Tsioharana Nirina Rabearivelo’s photo exhibition of the Malagasy people.
“This year we also celebrated the rich and vibrant genre of Maskhadi in the Johannesburg inner city with performances from Shwi no Mtekhala, Abafana Baka Mgqumeni and others,” she said.
Gwangwa’s role as the head of the centre is to create a premier space for Pan-African cultural expression in South Africa; to encourage the surrounding communities to get involved in the Windybrow; and to collaborate with artists from the local Pan-African communities, from across the African continent and the African diaspora and to grow the audiences and community participation.
For Gwangwa, the arts industry is important because it forms part of the nation’s identity through the stories and expressions shared by the artists.
“Art is a platform for us to tell our stories. We learn about each other from storytelling and heal certain parts of ourselves when we see different perspectives,” she said.