Art For Lifeskills

“A society that has lost touch with its creative side is an imprisoned society, in that generations of people may be closed minded. Arts broadens our perspectives and can help us overcome prejudices.” – Globally acclaimed Irish youth development expert, Jessica Carson, once said.

This month, ACTIVATE! shines the spotlight on young people who challenge the status quo and set a new national standard through various art platforms in South Africa by showcasing their challenges and successes during this month. Free State based emerging published poet, writer, performer Multi-media digital designer and Activator, Kabelo Mokoena (known as Proverbial), embodies that and more.

Mokoena is a teacher by profession as well as a co-founder of a Non-Profit Organization (Sisonke) that uses art to impart life skills to school going children. The organization mentors 110 kids (some have competed on national debate platforms like the Mzansi Spelling Bee competition).

The raw and unscripted young leader has been featured in a number of media platforms: Radio, television, and print.  Popularly known for one of his controversial quotes: “Long before the mind was raped, the body was long time raped”, Mokoena uses arts as therapy to heal masked social ills, confront cultural norms and provoke progressive national discussions from all sectors.

Mokoena might not be getting sufficient backing, but the determined young leader has already made tremendous inroads in arts with his recent public engagements and some corporate decision-makers and national government leaders like Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini.

In that engagement, he recited a moving poem rebuking the powers that be for being opportunistic and using stone-age social oppressive patriarchal and western political systems to censor and sideline legitimate and immediate issues of the marginalised people in society. Those views may not have sat well with authorities at the time, but they went a long way in convincing those old leaders who’ve heard the message not just to reconsider their views but to be change agent drivers in policy making processes.


Mokoena specially attributes some of his achievements to the ACTIVATE! Network. “Partaking in the ACTIVATE! programme has helped me with mobilising people of the same interest and equipped me to be able to register an NPO. It is because of ACTIVATE! Leadership’s Community Development Certificate Course  (CDCC) that the organisation is sustainable and continues to grow,” he said.

Moving from the assumption that everyone agrees with the fact that art is one of the very useful universal common language tools, Mokoena’s niche markets are youth from traditional, religious and intellectual spaces. According to him, this well-defined market serves his arts eternal legacy. “My arts mission is to inspire positive social change, provoke discussions, capacitate the already existing viable platforms that enable marginalised voices to be heard and influence South Africa’s thought leaders and their followers’ thinking. This can only be achieved when young people from traditional, religious and intellectual academia spaces are actively involved instead of being spectators as they are right now,” he said.

Unlike many sceptics, Mokoena is convinced that a well-planned arts practice does not just bring much consciousness but also contributes to the economy. That and many other reasons informed the core pillars of his long term vision which is to run at least, “four custom-made gifts business empires (which sells bookmarkers, poetry cards, and branded material).” According to him, “the business is already booming in some of Free State campuses.

Talking about art vested power to move mountains and deliver people to a psychological land of milk and honey, Mokoena said: “Historians may refuse to tell us that some of the key liberators of this beautiful country and from all over the world are artists who, during tough times, used their craft to encourage, and console people. Even during good times, arts becomes that one thing that brings people together.

According to Mokoena, art is a powerful but neglected tool that Africans need to popularise and commercialise. “How often do you hear people proudly telling you they love Italian stylish suits, Indian food, American music etc? All those things indirectly reflect the cultures and artistic expression of those countries. Why can’t the same be done with and for our own arts? Usual scapegoats like government, leaders, elders and educators alone cannot change that which they don’t know. Again I am saying – only when our art is popularly known and commercially attractive will we see arts as the social cohesion and major economic contributor. Artists have to lead the way by producing informative and commercially sounding graft, ” said Mokoena.

Those who are interested in partnering with Mokoena can contact him on 0782176334 or via his email address. He is also very active on social networks. His twitter handle is @Proverbial_Poet. On Facebook he is Kabelo Mokoena (Brother Colin)

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