Africa Week Festival 2010 Report

Africa Day Celebrations

“I had a great day with my children, walking in the streets freely with no car disturbance, talking on my cell phone with no fear to be robbed, asking people to take pictures with my expensive camera with no fear they will steal it. This is the Yeoville Bellevue I’m praying for to raise my three kids in. Thank you, guys for organizing such a successful event!!!
Nandi Masilela, Yeoville Bellevue"

The Yeoville Community Development Forum (YCDF) and the Rockey Raleigh Management Committee (RRMC) first proposed the celebrating of Africa Day in Yeoville Bellevue in 1999. However, conditions never allowed for this to happen.

In late 2009, the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) proposed the establishment of an Africa Week, starting with a commemoration of the 2008 xenophobic attacks and ending with a celebratory event on or around Africa Day. Maurice Smithers, executive member of the ADF, who was involved with the YCDF and RRMC in 1999, submitted a proposal to the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) for the celebration of Africa Day in Yeoville Bellevue as part of an Africa Week programme. The proposal was submitted in the name of the ADF, the Yeoville Stakeholders Forum (YSF), of which Maurice is an ex-officio member, and the Yeoville Bellevue Community Development Trust (YBCDT), of which Maurice is Programme Manager.

Africa Day Celebrations in YeovilleThe CoJ supported the idea and agreed to fund the event with a grant of R525 000. An office was established in the Yeoville Swimming Pool with Maurice Smithers of the YBCDT and Talla Niang of the ADF as co-ordinators. An additional 11 people joined them in various capacities as volunteers, two of whom came via the YSF (Jacobeth Ndlovu and Niclette Ingila).

There was not very much time to prepare – the office was only officially opened on 6 May – but, after a number of challenges around the money and getting approval from the Joint Operations Centre (JOC), the event took place and was a great success, judging by the comments and feedback we have received and the media coverage we attracted.

The Festival had five elements – an African film festival, a symposium on freedom in Africa, a ‘six-pack plus 2’ soccer tournament with the six African nations in the World Cup and Zimbabwe and DRC, a pan-African carnival procession and a pan-African street festival. The film festival took place from 19 May and to 28 May, the symposium on 23 May, and the soccer tournament on 15 May and 22/23 May. The carnival procession and the street festival both happened on 29 May.

The aim of the event was to ensure a community character. It was therefore agreed to attract as many Yeoville Bellevue-based artists as possible, as well as to use local people for as much of the work that needed to be done around the events as possible. We were not able to do this completely as CoJ procurement procedures and the time factor meant we could not use the services of local people to provide such things as stages and security. We hope to correct this for future events.

Africa Day Celebrations in YeovilleOf the 71 acts on the stages, 45 were South African, 2 mixed and the balance of 24 from Botswana, Cameroun, the Caribbean, DRC, Malawi, Mocambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe. 147 of the performers were South African, 36 mixed and 92 from other countries. Artiste income was R76 500 for South Africans, R6 050 mixed and R46 500 for the rest. 16 office workers were South Africans and 10 were from elsewhere. Most of the 243 marshalls were South African.

We are also proud that, of the R525 000 budget from the City of Johannesburg, nearly half went directly into the pockets of Yeoville Bellevue artistes and community members. The rest of the budget was for services, transport, office costs and the like. The financial reconciliation is almost complete and copies will be available for those who wish to see it.

The success of the event can be further measured by the response of the CoJ Director: Arts, Culture and Heritage Services, who said that the CoJ would be happy to support a similar event in 2011 and also to change to route of the traditional New Year carnival. This normally goes from Hillbrow to Newtown. He is now proposing that it should start in Hillbrow and end in Yeoville Bellevue. This is a definite vote of confidence in the future of Yeoville Bellevue and our proposal that the area be marketed as a pan-African destination, a place of African excellence.