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Infusing youth engagement with performing arts as a tool for social cohesion

The United Nations delegation led by Ms. Nardos Bekele Thomas and accompanied by members of the UNCT and UN staff, were greeted with melodic musical drums and a vibrant welcome at the KwaMashu Community Advancement Projects (K-CAP) on 22 October 2021. The non-profit organization founded in 1993 in KwaMashu, Durban, operates an integrated performing arts development centre in KwaMashu township, providing a space in the township to showcase youth engagement on issues of peace, stability and social cohesion through music and performing arts.


UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Nardos Bekele Thomas on stage with UNFPA Officer-in-Charge, Dr Agathe Lawson and FAO Country Representative, Dr Brave Ndisale and young performers.

To commemorate UN Day and showcase the power of infusing youth engagement with performing arts as a tool for social cohesion, the KwaMashu Community Advancement Projects KCAP, in association with eThekwini municipality, mobilised young people and hosted the UN delegation at their unique Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre (EMAC Centre). Youthful and energetic Programme Director, Nqobile Masondo, articulated how KCAP was leading efforts in the KwaMashu area to nurture young people’s talents within the creative arts industry, while at the same time, promoting social cohesion through performing arts across diverse cultures. In his opening remarks, KCAP Founder and Director, Mr Edmund Mhlongo, warmly welcomed the delegation and gave a brief background on their social cohesion programme of preventing & responding to incidents of racism or conflict between groups through performing arts, particularly in the aftermath of sporadic violent incidences that occurred in Phoenix, following the KZN unrest.

He further suggested that the programmes are shaped by the need to capacitate, value, promote and conserve the rich cultural diversity and integrity of the province, adding that the programme aims to bring arts closer to the community in a meaningful manner. loveLife’s Siphesihle Madonsela noted that engaging in sports, recreation, arts and culture is key to addressing and facilitating dialog around issues of social cohesion and to providing access to sport and recreation for young people. He further acknowledged the critical role played by UN agencies, in particular UNFPA for supporting youth programmes that ensure young people’s potential is fulfilled. It is widely acknowledged that arts and culture strengthens social cohesion through the removal of the barriers that may hinder mutual understanding and communication beyond language, and through the vibrant performances, both KCAP and loveLife showcased how this is practically done. Poetic and musical edutainment came from Chaos Nzimande and Teddy Funwayo performing the SDG poem; formidabile young creative artists performed a poem dedicated to struggle heroine Charlotte Maxeke’s, and drama & Zulu dances expressing young people’s creativity and imagination.

Reflecting on the performances and discussions on social cohesion, the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Nardos Bekele Thomas greeted the performers with enthusiastic approval and hailed the talent of the young people residing in the township.

She further noted that the visit was indeed an opportunity for the UN to show its solidarity with communities and, young people in particular, to promote social cohesion in KZN. Concluding remarks and vote of thanks were delivered by Mampho Moshoeshoe, supported by Zinhle Mkhize, who both emphasised the efforts and important role young people play in promoting social cohesion, through using arts, sports and culture to create channels for them to attain better understanding of each other and develop fulfilling relationships.