Centre for Creative Arts

The Artfluence Festival will amplify the voices of International youth activists

The Artfluence Festival presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Kwazulu-Natal will partner with the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to host a dynamic group of young international human rights activists in a webinar about how the arts have inspired their social and political activism. The session will take place as the closing event of the festival on Saturday 8 May at 7pm.


“In a country such as ours where human rights struggles by youth leaders such as Nkosi Johnson and Hector Pietersen have catalysed transformation and turned the attention of the global community to South Africa, we should remain at the forefront of listening to the new voices of hope, courage and resilience of youth activists”, said Ismail Mahomed, the Director for the Centre for Creative Arts.


Topping the list of young activists who will participate in the discussion is Amanda Haydar, an activist based in Beirut, Lebanon. She is the creator and host of the Let’s Talk Peace podcast, a platform committed to amplifying the voices of change-makers and fostering the values of radical empathy, creative problem solving, and critical thinking.


Particularly fond of utilising art -especially music- as a medium for social change, Haydar is an “Artivist”, working on artivism projects with organisations including The Hague Peace Projects and Youth Against Corruption. With her Psychology, International Relations, and Peace Studies background and working for the Beit el Baraka organisation, Amanda is currently writing a Lebanese history book through a peace-building approach. She is a United Nations SDSN Local Pathways fellow working on Sustainable Development in Beirut and is an IYPF Young Ambassador for Peace.


She will be joined on the webinar by Janna Jihad from Nabi Saleh in Palestine, who is actively involved in documenting her life and sharing the realities of Palestinian children’s daily life under the Israeli military occupation on social media. Known as the youngest journalist in the world who at age 12 was officially registered and handed a press card by the Palestinian journalism syndicate, she started making live news reports from her village at demonstrations at the age of 7 using her mom’s smartphone. Now 15 years old, she serves as the ambassador of Shamsaan, meaning ‘two suns’ in Arabic. This South African initiative promotes arts and culture as a platform for dialogue and positive social change.


Sheila Nell Kiggundu from Kampala, Uganda, is passionate about women and children’s rights. She volunteers with the Girl Up organisation and a child literacy education organisation called 40 days over 40 smiles. Her activism is inspired by literature. She is a  final year student pursuing a degree in civil engineering at Makerere University and planning to pursue a master’s degree in environmental and structural engineering,


Jacques Bona originally from Burundi, Bujumbura but now residing in Johannesburg. Bona is a community and youth activist working as an archive assistant at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. Jacques is a beatmaker and songwriter who produces his own music. Twenty-three-year-old Somto Ihezue Onyedikachi from Nigeria is a published author.


The international youth activists are joined by South African youth activists Raeesah Noor-Mahomed, a climate and intersectional activist and artist, Nasirah Kathrada, a spoken word poet and author, is passionate about social justice and human rights as well as Sinalo Yekani, who founded and coaches a junior football team in her community. Yekani writes poems that she uses to aid her activism.


Completing the panel will be United States citizen Joyia Philips, who serves as youth ambassador for an education program called “The Evolvolution Initiative” and Jade van Huisseling who uses art as a tool to communicate messages designed by and for the intended audience and to advocate for social change.


Neeshan Balton, the Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation welcomed the partnership with the Centre for Creative Arts. He added, “The Arts has a long history in our liberation struggle. We are thrilled to join the organisers of the Artfluence Human Rights Festival in showcasing a new generation of young artists and activists who use their talent towards combating various injustices here in South Africa and around the globe.”


“We are delighted to partner with the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to present these young international leaders at the Festival. It is their voices that must be heard as the global community continues to reconfigure how it sustains itself at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on all aspects of our lives and further unravelled the injustices and inequalities in our societies”, said Mahomed.


The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation was formed in 2008 to continue the legacy of anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada and his generation. The Foundation is an independent, non-partisan entity. Kathrada, a former Robben Island prisoner, served 26 years in jail alongside his fellow Rivonia Trialists for their stance against the apartheid government. Kathrada’s life has been characterised by his commitment to the best values and principles of the South African liberation struggle, particularly that of non-racialism.

The inaugural Artfluence Human Rights Arts Festival focusing on arts, constitution, and democracy will be presented by the Centre for Creative Arts in partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands. Voices of Hope, Courage and Resilience will be the theme for the inaugural festival. It will mark the 25th anniversary of the Centre for Creative Arts as a vibrantly creative enabler and advocate for social justice and democracy and the  25th anniversary of the adoption of the South African Constitution. The inaugural festival will run for four days, from Wednesday 5 May to Saturday 8 May 2021.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will present this programme during the closing of the festival on Saturday 8 May at 19:00, after which also the Artfluence Human Rights Champion will be announced. The festival is freely accessible and can be watched via and

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