Public and open spaces are where we grow up, discover the world, make friends, have fun, spend family and leisure time and later in life commute to school, university and work. They are the very essence of community life and have the intrinsic potential to offer opportunities to be active.
In the community of Walmer Township (Port Elizabeth), one of the biggest challenges is the high number of crime and violent incidents, residents of all ages share when talking about their community. SAPS Crime Statistics of 2014 confirms their impression that Walmer Township suffers under a high crime rate:
One of the many direct consequences of such high rates of crime and violence in any community is that people generally feel unsafe – especially in public spaces.
The feeling of unsafety is a major stumbling block in the development of a community: it does not only slow down economic development, and keep much needed investments out of the community, it also keeps people of the streets as from the early evenings which in return reduces safety for those in public spaces even more.
IZIZWE Projects, the Department for Social Development, ASSVE, UVIWE and Masifunde Learner Development, decided to organise an event for children and youth to take back ownership of their streets and parks.
The idea for the ULUTSHA Street Festival was born: a festival in the public, open for all children and youth and their families, in several streets, parks and sport grounds in the community, where everybody can feel safe, happy and proud of their neighbourhood and community.
Umhlali, an early crime prevention project implemented by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) and Masifunde Learner Development, as well as the GIZ’s Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP), the ULUTSHA street festival took place on Youth Day (June 16, 2016) under the slogan “Walmer Youth” Stand up against Violence and Crime!”.
On that day, more than 1,000 visitors experienced their community as a safe space, worth loving and protecting. They realised the talent and beauty of their community and streets and will hopefully contribute to take back the streets and public spaces in the future to ensure the streets of Walmer Township are not only a safer place during the Ulutsha Festival but on every day of the year – day and night!
The Ulutsha Street Festival has provided different platforms for creative expression of local cultures and values:
- the visitors could enjoy choirs (like the Masifunde Youth Choir), songs from local artists like Jolisa and Luno.
- Poems on contemporary and youth related issues from Meneliq and Renqe gave a special drive to that day.
- The artists of Masifunde left a beautiful mark of the event on the wall of the township crèche.
For the smaller artists there was a colouring station. But they could also turn into art objects themselves at the face painting spot.100 kids were trying to shoot goals during the street soccer tournament which was organized by the NPO IZIZWE and a group of international volunteers from Europe and America.
Three street soccer fields were playground for three parallel tournaments for different age groups. Each tournament had a group phase and an exciting knock-out phase with prices, eats and drinks for all young soccer stars.
But what was so special that day? First of all it was the diversity of activities. And secondly also that the streets were not only used for the street soccer tournament, but hosted drama and music performances. Not to forget the “superbe” fashion show, which was making reference to the implications of prejudices of judging a person only from its appearance!
All in all it was a most diverse event, where everybody could find his passion!
There was one thing what was missing: food and craft stands. For the next year it is planned to give more room to the contribution of local Walmer Township economic activities.
A big thank to more than 300 (!) volunteers and performers from Masifunde and IZIZWE, who made it a very special and unforgettable event!