KZN artists ready to mentor young ones

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Durban - Baxolile Dimane is recording several poems about South Africa's first lady Sizakele Khumalo (MaKhumalo). Through her vibrant disposition she talks about the life of President Jacob Zuma's first wife.

This is just one of her several projects that the young poet, story teller and writer is involved in.
South Africans don't know much about MaKhumalo because she is a woman who stays away from the limelight but she trusts and appreciates Dimane's work.

And if the first lady gives you the stamp of approval, it was a simple decision then for the KwaZulu-Natal Arts and Culture Department to select Dimane as one of 24 artists to mentor the careers of budding performers.

The department had earlier this year, called upon artists, to participate in this programme which is part of several initiatives to promote the arts and nurture the artistic talent of aspiring artists in the province.

The department selected mentors in the areas of poetry, comedy and drama for this programme.

Some of the 24 artists who have been selected include veteran TV actor and theatre producer, Roland Mqwebu, Mhlophe, Dumakude, Ndumiso Dlamini (of popular television comedy series, Family Bonds) and Justice Kubheka (who took part in So You Think You Are Funny).

Dimane is confident that her experience will help the artists that she will mentor.

Despite her experience which includes writing poems for the KZN government to commemorate the likes of Zulu Queen Nandi (King Shaka's mother), she remains open to learning herself.

"This is not just about me teaching or mentoring, I have seen the talent in this country. It is also an opportunity for me to learn, which is something that happens on these types of programmes," says Dimane.

She harbours a great desire to get more women talking and people understanding and appreciating the art of poetry.

"I dream of instilling a love for poetry, because poetry is culture," she says.

Her desire to perform started at school where she was an active member of the debating team. She now performs prescribed poems in schools to make learning more interactive.

Dimane, who hopes to publish a book in the near future adds that this art form is a great way for women to make their voices heard.

"As women, this is a great way to give us a chance and a platform to speak our minds and express our feelings, which some of us don't have the opportunities to do so," says the poet.

She will use her performances to incorporate the people that she will be mentoring. The department has encouraged all mentors to also create opportunities to expose their prot,g,es.

The mentors will conduct six sessions, three to five hours each and are expected to empower developing artists with performance knowledge, skills and techniques.

There will be 15 to 30 participants per genre per mentor, who will be expected to hand in progress reports after the completion of the programme. The programme will start this month and run until the end of July.

The areas that will be covered in this session also includes, character development, costume and stage properties, and South African performance styles.

But mentors will also provide information about development business skills so that artists can sustain their lives through the arts.

Comedian and actor Sandile Makhanya's focus as a mentor will be on getting people who do comedy to use other languages.

Makhanya feels that people he has worked with only express their talent in isiZulu and this limits exposure to a greater audience.

The professional comedian acted on television programmes like Rhythm City and Call Home. He chose to be a part of this programme because he wants to see young artists progress and make a life out of doing something they love.

"I have seen what talent we have and I will ensure that people I mentor will be used in my performances," says Makhanya.

To promote comedy he hosts comedy night once a week in Claremont to give opportunities to up and coming comedians. He also gives them feedback to help them develop themselves.

"I will be focussing on comedy structure, how to deliver their jokes in terms of posture and connecting with the audience," he explains.

Two weeks ago, the department head Stella Khumalo hosted a workshop which was aimed at preparing artists for the mentorship programme.

Popular, poet and storyteller, Gcina Mhlophe and veteran actress, Thuli Dumakude (who featured in the theatre production, Umabatha) conducted the workshops in Durban.

"To ensure fairness and transparency during the selection process, a departmental selection committee with co-opted outsiders (artists and union representatives) was put together to choose potential mentors," explains department spokesperson Vukani Mbhele.

The department has other programs lined up to address social issues among youth.

Khumalo says new and innovative ways have to be found to talk to the technological driven generation, if changes in behaviour are to come about.

"We have to create a platform for them to enjoy themselves but also be educated and art can do that," he explains.

One of the programmes will be to get visual artists to exhibit their work through murals and pictures at schools. The department is expected to unveil more programmes as the year goes on.