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Artists at 21st annual Port St Johns Cultural Festival pay tribute to 16 Days Of Activism

African print wear on display during festival fashion show


Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape was abuzz this weekend with live cultural performances, fashion shows flaunting African print wear and intricate pieces of handcrafted masterpieces on display.

The vibrant music alerted the residents of the small town on a hill that the Isingqisethu Cultural Festival was back for the 21st year in a row, with the Department of Sports Arts and Culture and Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) at the heart of the festival.

As part of the festivities, traditional dancers, musicians and poets paid tribute to the men, women and children who suffer under the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in the Eastern Cape.

One of the artists, Xolelwa Gamndana, reciting a heart-drenching poem titled Enough is Enough, told the story of women being seen as objects to be possessed and later discarded, but not before they are burnt, murdered while jogging or beaten to a pulp by their partners.

Recently, a 19-year-old Fort Hare University student, Sivenathi Mazaleni, was allegedly shot by her 22-year-old boyfriend who is reported to have turned the gun on himself in Tsolomnqa outside East London.

Gamdana said these acts of brutality were of deep concern.

"The Eastern Phondoland, Lusikisiki, Ngqeleni, Mthatha, and the areas surrounding PSJ, are in the top 30 in the country according to Stats SA, and in my poem, I question where we lost the spirit of Ubuntu, of love and humility."

A member of Qhama Afrika dance group, Ziphozihle Chithwa said his eight-member group came to educate the packed stadium of femicide and GBV through the art of dance.

While the performances fell in line with the 16 Days of Activism, MEC for the Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Nonceba Kontsiwe said this was also a moment to introspect on the milestone of 21 years of the festival.

She said over the years the department and the local municipality, hand-in-hand with the ECPTA and National Department of Sports Arts and Culture, had built the festival from strength to strength, developing the skills of the villagers and pumping into the local economy in the process.

"While the festival is to cultivate the cultural diversity of the province and support local talent, we also want to see Port St Johns grow into a bigger town."

ECPTA Executive Director for Destination Development, Motsehoa Mahlatsi, said the locals were being trained to prepare for the big move to export some of their handmade crafts for more sustainability to the local economy.

"We have trained the kayak guides and the homeowners who turn their homes into homestays in massage therapy so that tourists are spoilt for choice while they enjoy some hotpots like the Blow Hole, Zip-lining and Isinuka Sulphur Pools which are alleged to have healing powers.

Some of the t-shirts and hoodies for sale are stamped with the cannabis print, to showcase the pride of Port St Johns and Amampondo people the motherland of cannabis growers in the province.