June 2019 marks 43 years since the 1976 Soweto uprisings. Scores of youth arrested during the ’76 protests were incarcerated in the prisons on the Constitution Hill site in Johannesburg. For the past seven years Constitution Hill has commemorated the youth of ’76, through a celebration of creative expression at its annual Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival, which took place this year from the 26th until the 29th of June 2019.
Basha Uhuru was created seven years ago as June 16, 1976 is a day that is synonymous with South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. "It is the day that symbolises the rising of our nation’s youth against oppression. It is the day that changed the course of our country’s history. It is the day that our country’s youth claimed their rightful place in our country’s narrative.” Says Constitution Hill’s CEO Dawn Robertson.
The Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival not only showcases art, design, film, poetry and music, it also provides inspirational workshops and entrepreneurial support programmes for young creatives. Basha Uhuru 2019, the foremost urban, creative youth festival in South Africa, was brought to you by Constitution Hill in partnership with Nando’s, the Department of Arts and Culture, Brand SA, Gauteng Tourism, Gauteng Department Of Economic Development, Business Arts South Africa, Gauteng Film Commission and the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller. All events were free, aside from the concert.
The festival ended on Saturday, 29th June with The Sounds Of Freedom concert starting at 13:00 and ending at 01:00 am that featured hip hop, house, gqom, kwaito, amapiano and afro soul’s finest in the form of Riky Rick, Msaki, Langa Mavuso, Thebe, Khuli Chana, Mthuda & Njelik, DJ Kent, DJ Dimples, The Brother Moves On, Urban Village, African Rhythm Productions, Ikati Esangweni, Coppashot & Bobotical, DJ Zero, Rosie Parade, Deniece Mars, Sistamatic, P Kuttah, Scott The Girl, Tha Muzik, Ace of Spades, DBN Gogo and FOSTA and The Charles Géne Suite who were developed at Bridges For Music, a Nando’s supported non-profit organisation.
Constitution Square, with our nation’s highest court as the backdrop, was filled with eclectic up and coming sounds, smash hits and the bustle of the Makers Market which brought together the finest local food, drink, art and craft producers in the area.
During the week, before the concert, there was an array of culture available for free to JoBurg residents for youth month. Says Robertson. "This year we are celebrating 25 years of Creative Freedom. In this, the 25th anniversary of our democracy, we at Constitution Hill will demonstrate our commitment to building a stronger and fairer society by exploring issues relating to human rights, democracy and social justice...We believe in artistic activism - that the arts can change lives and communities by transmitting fundamental human values and inspiring us to embrace and celebrate our freedom.By challenging young creatives to explore notions of freedom we use the festival to highlight current issues prevalent in society that impact the lives of young people.'
Nando’s fired up Johannesburg’s hottest creative gathering, the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival, for the third year running, bringing the heat with some of Mzansi’s best art, design and music talent at The Basha Bacha Creative Uprising: a three-day creative summit packed full of workshops, talks and an industry pitch session, plus the Sounds of Freedom Music Festival on the 29th of June. "Nando’s has been investing in creativity in Southern Africa for many years because we’re passionate about nurturing and showcasing Southern African creative talent. Our partnership with Basha Uhuru is the idea platform to help upskill emerging creatives and to showcase local talent in a creative collision. This year’s Basha Uhuru was a celebration and expression of 25 years of creative freedom of the youth of South Africa. Creativity and freedom are both ideas that fire up our soul at Nando’s and we’re thrilled to once again be part of the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival,"says Kirsty Niehaus, Art & Internal Communications Manager at Nando's.
The fine art programme, Expressions of Freedom, opened to the public on the 27th of June with two exhibitions that ran until the end of July. Both focused on young emerging artists from two major art collections. The Spier Arts Trust in Partnership with Constitution Hill showcased an exhibition titled I See U, Imagining a Space for Freedom. This exhibition brought together a selection of artworks from the Spier Arts Trust collection, which spans over 35 years and provides an insight both into our country’s past and our present. Twenty-five years after the official ushering in of freedom, the Art Bank of South Africa marked Youth Month by curating the Homing in on Freedom exhibition, an exhibition of artworks by youth (18-35yrs), artists selected from the Art Bank of South Africa’s Contemporary Visual Art Collection. The works were chosen to highlight multi-layered themes of home, identity and expression that concern today’s young people. Artists showing include Lungisa Matubatuba; Qhama Maswana; Lebo Thoka; Hannah Cornelius; Zwelinjani Radebe; Thalente Khomo; Sifiso Samuel Gumede; Banele Khoza; Manyatsa Monyamane and Sthembiso Zwane.
Nando’s has more than 21 000 pieces of Southern African art in its collection. That makes them one of the largest collectors of emerging Southern African art in the world. Their art initiative is displayed in more than 1 200 restaurants in 24 countries around the world, and we support 300 artists on an ongoing basis. This year at Basha Uhuru, Nando’s in partnership with Spier Arts Trust, hosted a series of art workshops; a panel discussion with the Nando’s 2019 Creative Exchange artists, Sepideh Mehraban, and the Spier Arts Trust curator, Tamlin Blake; as well as featuring a showcase of Creative Block artworks from the 2019 Creative Exchange artists. Creative Exchange was first established in 2011 to recognise emerging, South African fine artists who demonstrate exceptional ability. Artists work in a group to get ready for a public exhibition of their work, providing access to market and exposure to gallerists, buyers and the art industry. This year, the Creative Exchange artists who will be showcased at Basha Uhuru are Adolf Tega, Thembalethu Manqunyay, Wonder Marthinus and Robyn Pretorius.
The Basha Bacha Creative Summit on the 26, 27 & 28 June at The Women's Jail provided three days of design thinking and activism, inspirational workshops, enterprise support, networking, talks, pitching and other opportunities with creative innovators, business leaders, technologists and entrepreneurs. Basha Bacha Creative Uprisings aims to strengthen the creative economies greatest assets - people - to encourage collaboration, critical thinking and the ability to take a risk.
This year at Basha Uhuru, Nando’s, led by their Creative Director, Tracy Lee-Lynch, hosted various design talks, workshops and an industry pitch session at Basha Bacha. Also taking part were:
The best rhymes were also on show when talented poets gathered at Words Of Freedom at The Women’s Jail on the 28th of June at 18:00. South African poetry witnessed a shift over the past two decades and a half, from only occupying journals into existing within the live entertainment realm. The line up at the Word Up Poetry Fest showed this growth by showcasing a diverse array of talent in the poetry world today: Makhafula Vilakazi; Dr Sarah Godsell; Mutle Mothibe ; Nomashenge Dlamini ; Xabiso Vili; Busisiwe Mahlangu; Sibulelo Manamatela; Belita Andre; Masai Sepuru; Dillan Park; Prince Shapiro and Vus’umuzi Phakathi performed.
Since 1994, movie making has flourished, and this was certainly evident at Visions Of Freedom at Constitution Hill’s Women’s Jail on the 27th and 28th of June when five new South African films, from romcoms to period dramas and everything in between, were shown. Screenings were followed by discussions with actors and directors. Films included Norman Maake’s Love Lives Here which stars Thando Thabethe and Lungile Radu. Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s apartheid era Western starring Ezra Mabengeza, Sew the Winter to my Skin and An Act of Defiance about anti apartheid lawyer Bram Fischer will be watched too. The Khanyi Mbau and Aubrey Pooe vehicle Red Room screened, as did Into Infinity, whichy stars Thishiwe Ziqubu, Nandi Nyembe and Treasure Tshabalala.
“Constitution Hill is not a static space stuck in time but rather a movement that connects the past, the present and the future through sparks of experiences like Basha Uhuru. Through this festival, we preserve the past and the sacrifices made by the youth of ’76 making it accessible to young people today whilst transforming the future through real inspirational engagement at multiple creative intersections,” says Robertson."Constitution Hill is a National Heritage Site and provides a space for us to remember our past, understand our present and imagine our future. It reflects a profound sense of humanity, activism and a deep yearning for justice. The Constitutional Court - the highest court in our land - presides over the site ensuring the rights of all South Africans as enshrined in our constitution. The precinct represents a collision of law, history and art with the Hill consistently providing a platform for artists, lawyers and activists.”