9720 Learners Have Participated in EU Bushfire Schools Festival

By Sizwe Dlamini

To support the creation of a national arts curriculum in public schools, the European Union (EU) Bushfire Schools Festival has seen a massive 9720 learners participate in various arts at the festival since its inception 13 years ago.

The impressive number of participants led to the Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs Bongani Nzima encouraging young people to approach the arts as a field in which they can make a decent and sustainable living.

Nzima was speaking during the launch of the 13 edition of the European Union (EU) Bushfire Schools Festival under the theme, “Art Effect: The Transformative Power of Artistic Expression in the Creative Economy” at House on Fire yesterday.

The Minister began by thanking the European Union (EU) for supporting the arts and culture and stated that his Ministry firmly believed that schools were the best fields from where the kingdom could discover and nurture artistic and sporting talent.

 “As history tells us, some of the best sporting and artistic talent the kingdom has ever seen was discovered during school competitions.  Thus, we believe that investments in school arts programmes are exactly the interventions we need to accelerate the development of the industry in Eswatini. I should, therefore, sincerely thank you, Your Excellency, EU ambassador for your continued support of Eswatini’s arts sector through this hugely important Festival”.

“As per the theme of this year’s Festival, it is important that our investment into the arts is forward-looking, to ensure that our people can draw sustainable living through the industry. We cannot achieve this by taking a top-down approach. Instead, we need vigorous grassroots development programmes that will not only discover talent but also expose our young people to the arts and how it could be beneficial to them”.

“It is important that we inculcate a spirit and culture among our young people of approaching the arts as a field from which they can make a decent living from. By investing in pupils at the school level, we are aligning ourselves with the old siSwati adage that “lugotjwa lusemanti.”

Meanwhile, EU Ambassador to Eswatini, Dessislava Choumelova speaking during the event noted that each year the festival worked hard towards providing sustainable access to the arts and developing a unique platform of creative expression and dialogue for the youth of Eswatini.

“Each year, the MTN Bushfire festival which is an eco-friendly and sustainable event facilitates an interactive programme for young people in Eswatini’s secondary, high and out-of-school art youth clubs, as well as teachers through the EU Bushfire Schools Festival’s dynamic programme of arts education, creative performances, and workshops. Inspired by MTN Bushfire’s ‘Bring Your Fire’ call to action for positive social and environmental change”.

“The EU Bushfire Schools Festival is one of the MTN Bushfires festival’s series of arts development initiatives which have informed the festival’s track record of capacitating local talent and creating entrepreneurial and employment opportunities in Eswatini’s creative sector. Established in 2010, the EU Bushfire Schools Festival facilitates creative performances, workshops, and interactive outreach programs for students as well as teachers”.

“The inclusive nature of the festival has seen 9,720 learners, 616 teachers from all four regions of the country, as well as 63 Facilitators participate since inception. Each year, MTN Bushfire, in collaboration with the European Union (EU) and other partners, explores a specific theme that is used to impart positive social messaging to the students and teachers that come to the festival” she said.

The EU Bushfire Schools Festival will begin with an Open Day on Thursday 30 May, 2024. The programme comprises of storytelling and production training with an on-stage programme featuring drama, gumboot dancing, poetry and orchestra performances by high school student groups and local artists.

There will also be a multidisciplinary exhibition which will serve to launch local youth artists into the broader industry through an exhibition of their work. The youth will have the opportunity to exhibit visual art, film/animation, graphic design, photography, and sculpture and sound installations.

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