The theme for this year’s event was the Imbawula, which, roughly defined, is a coal stove made out of a large tin with holes around the container. It is designed to keep burning for a long period of time. The Imbawula was chosen for it what it represents: energy, light, warmth, endurance and a space of gathering – which are characteristics embodied by the ACTIVATE! network.
Two Imbawulas burned bright on the YFC ports field on Friday night during the festival’s opening ceremony. In addition to kickstarting the Festival, more than 200 Activators who had finished their training in 2014 were awarded their certificates of completion and welcomed into the ACTIVATE! network.
The Festival programme commenced at 8am on Saturday morning with nine spaces hosting events concurrently throughout the venue. Each space was designed for Activators to engage with each other and participate in activities centered around challenges face by South African citizens and driving positive change.
A particular highlight was the screening of the documentary Miners Shot Down in the Movie Makers space followed by a group discussion with the director, Rehad Desai, during which Activators expressed their thoughts on the Marikana strike and the resulting proceedings.
Discussions were deep and profound with Desai calling for Activators to stand together against this atrocity by organising screenings of the film in their communities and taking part in the Marikana Campaign between February and March 2015.
While Activators voiced their opinions on this somber topic, across the way at the ACTIVATE! Marketplace, 100 young people raised their voices in celebration as local singing legend, Sibongile Khumalo took them through their musical paces for a performance scheduled for later that day. The mood was festive and the sound of Activators voices in unison was both beautiful and representative of one of ACTIVATE!’s core beliefs – “Together We Are Stronger”.
With these two very different yet meaningful activities happening parallel to each other, ACTIVATE! CEO Chris Meintjes reflected on how significant that moment was for him. “I realised that it’s absolutely fine to be serious on the one side and fun on the other, that’s what the network is about. Being able to hold those two spaces – head and heart – together, not in opposition or contradiction to each other,” Meintjes commented.
Throughout the rest of the venue, Activators kept busy learning, absorbing and connecting with each other and trying to participate in as many activities as possible.
Workshops ran throughout the day at the ACTIVATE! Headspace featuring topics such as Land Politics in SA, Storytelling and Writing and Drug and Substance Abuse. In the Ignition space, Activators discussed and debated the new Youth Draft Policy and ACTIVATE! Programme Director, Landy Wright, ran through an overview of the Community Development Course launched by ACTIVATE! this year.
Business and social entrepreneurship was celebrated at the Switch & Pitch space with 63 project posters on display fleshing out Activators’ ideas and projects for building a better South Africa. Activators could also sign up to take their ideas through a shortened version of the ACTIVATE! Switch process, an enterprise incubator designed to turn ideas into reality.
The ACTIVATE! Café was a huge hit offering materials and resources from organisations such as UNICEF and The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation with representatives from loveLife and enke on site to present the work that they do.
Activators were also encouraged to visit the Connection Hives space, a new addition to the ACTIVATE! resource bank where Activators can upload and download useful resources and connect with other youth who are running similar projects.
The Festival concluded at 8pm with a drumming session where Activators joined together to create one rhythm, signifying the connection between different leaders joining together to create one network.
Reviews of the festival were extremely positive, with the biggest grievance being that that Activators did not have a chance to participate in every activity, as is the nature of most festivals. The overall success of the event, however, was largely measured by the connections forged and strengthened during the event, evidenced by the volume of social media posted both during and after the festival, including a Whatsapp group with over 100 Activators connecting and sharing media.
Activator Nyakallo Mbali Mdlalose summed it up perfectly on Facebook when she posted, “Great people… Great conversations… Powerful sessions… Huge energy… Everything that [took] place this weekend was beyond awesome. It sure feels nice to be part of the bigger circle. Thank you!”
The Imbawula Festival is just one of many events that fall under ACTIVATE!’s Engage platform and brings Activators together in a physical space to connect and engage with each other.