KEITULETSE GWANGWA: BRINGING BACK THE WINDYBROW

“My most important goal is to create a platform where being African is not only celebrated, but is also an important topic of informative conversations. For instance, not many people know that traditional Rwandan dance involves head-flipping, because this is part of their identity. Fellow Africans and the rest of the world need to know the significance of such things,” says Gwangwa, who took on her new role in January this year.

As the daughter of famed South African jazz musician Jonas Gwangwa and social activist Violet Gwangwa, as well as being a qualified sangoma, Keituletse’s reputation precedes her. She plans to use this to foster a deep-rooted love and appreciation for what the continent has to offer.

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“I’m proud of what my parents have achieved in their lives, and knowing that what resides in them is also in me reassures me immensely. However, I am my own person and I am spreading what Africans have in common, as well as teaching people about the beauty of our differences. Most people know quite a bit about ballet, but not nearly enough about any of Africa’s traditional dances. This has resulted in the general public prioritising Western heritage and history over African offerings.

“We live in a time when audiences will easily pack an auditorium to see a performance based on a Western tale, but will not even consider an African one that hits closer to home. The status quo is that most things Western enjoy a higher level of recognition, which is, unfortunately, not extended to Africa,” she laments.

Keituletse has never been one to highlight only the ills she notices, but has always spearheaded initiatives aimed at remedying situations. Her new role at the Windybrow Centre will require her to dip into her experience from two organisations she previously lead.

“Simply translated, African Zazi means ‘know yourself, African.” It is a multifaceted programme that informs – particularly the youth – about what it means to be African. It also has a focus on uniting women from across the continent who need support structures. So many societal ills directly impact women’s lives, and this is when one realises that it is more than just about the arts and culture, but about making a difference in people’s lives,” notes Keituletse.

Having cut her teeth as an arts administrator and as a producer/director with the 2004 Standard Bank Young Artist competition, she also identified a need to establish Ndebi Creations, where she offered assistance to entrepreneurs who are in the arts and culture field.

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“There is so much talent in South Africa, but unfortunately not enough guidance to go around. Creatives such as Thembisile Mahlangu, who is inspired by the world-famous mama Esther Mahlangu, could literally be lost to the art world.  Thembisile is continuing in Ma Esther’s path, using traditional Ndebele colours and designs, but opting to use homeware such as trays as her canvases. Unfortunately, talented creatives like her need assistance with business-related issues, such as marketing, setting up a website and operating profitably. The Windybrow hopes to provide solutions to most, if not all of these problems,” says Keituletse.

BOX: The Windybrow Arts Centre (162 Nugget Street, Hillbrow, Jo’burg) has been given a new lease on life. Now a division of the Market Theatre Foundation, the 121-year-old theatre has been refurbished. The centre is home to the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room and to a partnership with local dance organisations. The centre is also the base for the newly launched Windybrow Drama Company, comprised of alumni from the Market Theatre Laboratory.

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