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Friday, May 7, 2021



(Above: Sibongile Mngoma)

The Centre for Creative Arts launched its inaugural Artfluence Human Rights Festival this week by paying homage to opera singer Sibongile Mngoma for her activism to defend and fight for artists’ rights. The Centre has awarded her the inaugural Artfluence Human Rights Award.

“Sibongile Mngoma represents the kind of leadership that is required to inspire a new generation of South Africans artists to rise and be today’s voices of hope, courage and resilience that will call for public accountability, good governance and transparency in public affairs”, said Ismail Mahomed, the Director for the Centre for Creative Arts.

Soprano-voiced Sibongile Mngoma has sung at most prominent opera houses in the country and on some of the most respected stages worldwide, accompanied by some of the best orchestras. Despite her path to stardom, she has remained grounded in South Africa and found value in transmitting her skills to local aspirant singers.

In 2019, she launched the IAM4THEARTS Facebook page and has grown it to become a dynamic social movement calling for artists to be treated with respect and integrity.

In 2020, as the National Lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic took its grip over South Africa and almost decimated the entire art industry, affected livelihoods and imploded the rights of artists to create and express themselves freely, Sibongile Mngoma’s voice has championed for artists to be supported strategically and with dignity.

In 2021, frustrated by the lack of transparency over the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture’s administration of an Artist Relief Fund and the maladministration of the Presidential Economic Stimulus Plan by the National Arts Council, Sibongile Mngoma led a 60-day protest sit-in at the offices of the National Arts Council.

Joined by a handful of artists, her determination and courage led to several more artists joining in the sit-in. Soon, the protest gained momentum with protest sit-ins being spawned in the Free State and the Northern Cape; and the evolution of a “People’s Festival”, which evolved organically with thousands of artists across the country calling for State accountability.

After 36 days into the sit-in, the National Arts Council filed an interdict and laid charges at the Johannesburg Police Station in scenes reminiscent of the apartheid era’s treatment of artists who were voices of courage, hope and resilience. Sibongile Mngoma was not going to budge.

On Freedom Day, April 27, 2021, Sibongile Mngoma announced that the sit-in would voluntarily end since the matter is now being entrusted to the Public Protector and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts & Culture.

She dedicated the Award to the Abahlali base NAC group, which she says were at the forefront of fighting for accountability and good governance.

“Over almost 60 days, Sibongile Mngoma mobilised artists from various genres to use their voices and bodies in a peaceful and non-violent protest. Through a series of Peoples’ Concerts, Sibongile reinforced the power of the arts as a greater form of protest than violence; and this makes her a very worthy recipient of our inaugural Award”, added Mahomed.

The inaugural Artfluence Human Rights Arts Festival focusing on arts, constitution, and democracy was presented by the Centre for Creative Arts in partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands. Voices of Hope, Courage and Resilience was the theme for the inaugural festival. It marked the 25th anniversary of the Centre for Creative Arts as a vibrantly creative enabler and advocate for social justice and democracy and the  25th anniversary of adopting the South African Constitution.

The inaugural festival ran from May 5 to 8 and wass streamed live on and