• South Africa

Overview

Throughout history & across the world, the arts have been a vital tool in shaping responses to social justice
issues. South Africa’s cultural diversity & distinctive social & political history has led to the development of a unique brand of artistic responses to the challenges it faces. Through various forms of expression – including music, dance, theater, fine art & street art – art has given the voiceless a voice & informed social transformation. (This program has a strong service-learning component.)

This sample program can be tailored to fit the faculty leader's needs, or we can design an individualized program for a particular focus.

Highlights

  • Learn about South Africa’s history & cultural norms, as well as its socio-economic & political backdrop.
  • Gain first-hand knowledge of the transformative & connective capacity of the arts & how they shape our own culture & identity.
  • Work closely with local artists & academics in the fields of street art, music, city design & film.
  • Engage with socio-political responses across various art forms.
  • Explore social justice & ethical service-learning issues.
  • Collaborate with local community partners to analyze & ethically support some of the community’s immediate needs.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1: Orientation & the isiXhosa Language

Students will engage in introduction & orientation sessions followed by a lesson on isiXhosa language & culture. Facilitators will teach the basics of the isiXhosa language as well as some culture & custom highlights. Students will also be introduced to South African slang & learn greetings in some of the country’s other 11 official languages. The workshop is complemented later in the program by language recap sessions & tasks that help equip students to engage with local community members during the service-learning component.

Day 2: Art & Social Transformation

Students will begin the day with an exercise in South African stereotypes. Then, facilitators will share an overview of South African history, highlighting various socio-political issues. Students will then participate in an interactive workshop – “Art as a Tool of Social Transformation” – hosted by a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the arts in southern Africa. The foundation focuses on artists, seeking to accommodate & share creative processes across disciplines & research interests. Students are invited to engage, explore, challenge & share their own ideas of how art is, or is not, a tool of social transformation.

Day 3: Community Identity & Art

After an isiXhosa language recap, students will participate in a Community Identity & Social Struggles workshop. Counselors that work with some of Cape Town’s most vulnerable & at-risk communities will share their insight into current social issues & facilitate a discussion about race, identity & the social challenges of marginalized & often forgotten communities. Students are provided a safe space to engage with real case studies & ask tough questions as they grapple with the complexities of these stories.

Later, the group will enjoy a virtual tour of Johannesburg. Students will discover the political history, present culture & future rejuvenation of Johannesburg’s inner city through the lens of its street art. The area is fast becoming a top destination for its street art, which plays a vital role in society as a ‘voice for the voiceless,’ an important medium of protest & a record of the mood of the people.

Day 4: Ethical Service Learning

Students will begin the day with an introduction to ethical service learning that focuses on best practices, cultural norms, child protection policies & expectations for their time on the project. They will then be given an overview of the organization, a site visit & a session to develop a needs assessment. From here, students are encouraged to collaborate with the project team & their peers to problem solve & identify practical tasks that will benefit the community where they need it most. Students will have time to learn more about the organization’s needs through small group discussions.  

The last session of the day will focus on city design & gentrification in Cape Town. Apartheid as such has ended, but what does apartheid-era city planning look like some 20 years later? The calls for social housing, land expropriation, more private security, militarized neighborhood watches & extra policing – what does active citizenship then look like in a society that is still so unequal? Students will attempt to answer these questions during this session.

Day 5: Service Project

Students will begin the day with a language lesson recap followed by an icebreaker activity with their community partner. The group will continue to develop relationships as they work together to develop a service plan with the guidance of the facilitators. The day will end with a debrief & reflection session.

Day 6: Hip Hop & Identity

Start the day with an engaging virtual tour focusing on Hip Hop in the Cape. This virtual tour identifies the migration of this sound-based subculture & unpacks its manifestation on the Cape Flats. Next, student will explore the concept of identity through a creative writing & expression workshop. This session will use the oral traditions of the Western Cape as a departure point for participants to reflect on their own histories.

Day 7: Culture, Identity & the Media

After some more work on the service project, students will participate in a workshop – “Do Film & Media Reflect or Inform Society?” How much of our cultural norms are influenced by what we see & hear in the media around us? How do stereotypical portraits of race & gender on the Hollywood screen reflect our beliefs, customs & practices on the continent of Africa? How do traditional African ideologies influence media in a post-Apartheid era? Students are encouraged to grapple with questions like these that encourage them to question how their own culture & identity is informed by & reflected in the media.

Students will then be encouraged to flex their inter-cultural competency muscles by interacting with local students from diverse backgrounds. 

Day 8: Global Citizenship

After the language lesson recap & some time to wrap up the service project, the group will engage in a panel discussion about global citizenship. Panelists will include leaders from several different types of local organizations.

Day 9: Student Presentations & Stories of Apartheid

Students will have the opportunity to share their service-learning presentations. Later, the group will enjoy a conversation with Lionel Davis, a former political prisoner who served several years alongside Nelson Mandela in the notorious Robben Island prison. He will share the story of how he & his colleagues ended up on the island & offer a rare insider's look at life in the prison & how art saved him from a mental breakdown after his time under house arrest.

Day 10: Program Wrap Up & Final Reflection

Students will take time to reflect on what they learned & how this experience has changed them. They also complete an activity focused on encouraging continued impact.