PBH: Art keeps youth off the streets

PBH MURAL

Having found refuge at Percy Bartley House, a Woodstock home for boys in need, these youngsters are now gaining renewed inspiration for life through art; a medium that has not only transformed their home, but most recently their lives too.

Supported by Ogilvy Cape Town and Write on Africa – the boys have been attending weekly art classes this year where they have been learning not only different artistic styles and techniques, but valuable life skills too.

“We have been supporting Percy Bartley House since we moved into the community in 2006. Following the rejuvenation last in 2010, this year the focus has been on helping the boys develop their own creative skills as well as a healthy form of self expression,” says Gavin Levinsohn, Managing Director of Ogilvy Cape Town.

Further encouragement for the youths has also been found in their teachers, Mkwela Juma and Willard Kambeva, who have both triumphed over hardship. Both Zimbabwean born, the two suffered years of difficulties in South Africa as a result of the 2008 xenophobic attacks and met at a place of safety where they were appointed the group’s leaders. It was there that they made a decision to make change happen and have since been working together, using art to bring about social development in various disadvantaged areas.

“Doing what I love always makes me smile and feel happy, it was a dream which has now turned into a reality and it gives me so much confidence,” explains Juma. “I believe that it is the beginning of being a part of the change that I want to see.”

“In working with Percy Bartley House, we have encouraged the boys to believe in themselves. Whether it is teaching them a new painting technique or how to draw, they can now express any idea or thought through art,” adds Kambeva.

This feeling is echoed by the budding artists, one student commented: “Art keeps me away from bad friends and off the street. It gives me peace in my soul!” Most importantly, the boys gain encouragement in expressing themselves through their artwork and aim to relay meaning in each piece they produce.

“It is an inspiration for the boys to be taught by people who themselves have seen art bring about change to their lives,” says Farlane Nsinale, director of the home and ‘mother-figure’ to the boys. Nsinale explains that the classes are helping the boys get in touch with their emotions and learn other skills at the same time: “Not only are they learning to appreciate and respect each other more every day, but they are even using the dictionary to look up words for graffiti style art!”

We at Ogilvy Cape Town see the support of the home, as well as the on-going upliftment of the Woodstock community, as a key part of our creative contribution and, as part of the long-term plan we will be assisting in the rebuilding of a burnt down section of the home. The new section will create a larger space to welcome more youths in need, with the walls acting as creative canvases for reflecting their dreams and ambitions.

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