Durban - Inmates from correctional centres throughout KwaZulu-Natal displayed their artistic talents in different types of art genres at the province's first Inmates Arts Festival.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture teamed up with the Department of Correctional Services and Nicro, to organize the Inmates Provincial Arts festival, which took place at the Westville Correctional Services recently.
Inmates got to show their talent in maskandi, kwaito, hip hop, gospel and isicathamiya, among other art forms. They also got an opportunity to display their artwork.
Arts and Culture Department spokesperson, Vukani Mbhele, explained that the festival is a result of a rigorous selection procedure that has been taking part at regional level over the past few months.
"The aim of the programme is to afford inmates an opportunity to use the arts as a form of escapism from anti-social behaviour. It is also aimed at rehabilitating inmates in order to become responsible citizens when they finish serving their sentences and be able to use the arts to make a living," he said.
KZN MEC for Arts and Culture, Wesizwe Thusi, said she has learnt through experience that there is a lot of talent at the correctional centres.
"It is a sad but true fact that hundreds of people enter the prisons system for various crimes in our country annually... Very few people ever consider what will happen when these people leave prisons to rejoin their families and communities.
"It is a known fact that our prisons are mostly populated by repeat offenders, who found no support on the outside and resorted to the only life they knew, the life of crime," said Thusi.
This initiative is one way that government is trying to assist inmates to become empowered and to also ensure that when they leave correctional centres, they stay away from crime.
Families of the offenders were allowed to attend the festival along with community members.
"Government has reached out to communities to educate them about rehabilitation and the importance of ex-offenders being welcomed back into their communities," said Thusi.
The department has a series of programmes that targets young people to prevent them from falling into the crime trap.
Essay writing, school cultural competitions, intercultural and intergenerational dialogues, and beautification of public spaces are some of the projects the department runs to help the youth engage their creative spirits.
The MEC said she was in awe of the talent she witnessed at the festival.
"We believe that offenders leaving correctional centres with new skills and possible means of earning a living will make a difference in the fight against crime, which is one of our government's priorities.
"We want the offenders to use the skills they have learnt here to become role models for the youth in their communities. We need to put behind us the era of worshipping crime for the sake of it, we need to begin to worship the work that comes out of correctional centres," she added.