Established in April 2002, this project provides opportunities for inner-city youth in Johannesburg, South Africa, to express their frustrations and dreams in creative ways, with the goal of empowering them through performance, crafts and visual arts. Housed in an old school building in Joubert Park, Creative Inner City Initiative (CICI) provides facilities for youth to channel their creative spirits in the context of the poverty, crime, drug abuse and other stresses that characterise this low-income neighbourhood. CICI offers training and development in street theatre, visual arts and crafts wherein youth can work in team-oriented activities to develop artistic productions that are presented to the greater community through street theatre and carnival, beautification of buildings with mosaic, art welding, murals, and signage for local public spaces. CICI was initiated by a group of organisations already working together on joint projects in Joubert Park as part of a safety net strategy. These organisations include Lapeng Child and Family Resource Service, The GreenHouse Environment Project, and Joubert Park Public Art Project; support has been provided by the Department of Arts and Culture under its poverty alleviation programme.
Communication Strategies: 

CICI seeks to build the confidence of, and to support creativity within, inner-city youth by providing them with an outlet to express their reflections on day-to-day life in the city. The centre strives to provide an open space for artists, development practitioners, and youth to interact freely and safely, and to discuss issues concerning inner-city youth, such as drug abuse and crime. The informal setting of CICI is geared toward allowing youth to feel a sense of belonging, and aims to encourage youth to express their feelings about their life in the city and thus, release the tensions they might be experiencing. The organisers believe that encouraging such release, particularly in a creative capacity, is a valuable strategy for preventing youth from getting involved in drug abuse, gangs and crime.

Through a work process based on a developmental approach, mentorship, and action research, CICI has worked to create an enclave of artistic creativity and civic responsibility in an area rife with crime and urban decay. As of July 2007, more than 800 artists, crafters, and performers had participated in CICI training, and (according to organisers), most have become self-sustaining. Many continue to visit the CICI and network with each other. In short, CICI's strategy involves building the capacity of artists, connecting them with each other, and then creating a "home" for artists. Since February 2005, the CICI has become an independent non-profit organisation (NPO) with a smaller team of trainers, most of whom have been trained as trainers by the original training providers.

 

The strategy of using entertainment to foster communication and education has also characterised CICI's work. For instance, in 2005, the CICI was contracted by the Gauteng Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture to run the main camp for that year’s Pale Ya Rona parade. CICI pulled together a team consisting of specialists, facilitators, and emerging artists to design and produce the 6 floats and 7 Caribbean-style hero costumes. Based on what organisers describe as the success of that collaboration with the Department, they won the tender to produce and present the 2006 Pale Ya Rona event; they cite thorough preparation, coherent workshop programmes in the regions, and the emergence of a second generation of carnival artists as helping to support that experience.

The theatre group at CICI, Mo Faya, also seeks to emphasise the role of arts in building positive visions of learning and a greater understanding of social harms and their impacts on inner-city youth in Johannesburg. Mo Faya seeks to use comedy and creativity as a communication strategy to build awareness amongst youth about issues such as rape and HIV/AIDS. In an effort to involve the larger inner-city community, Mo Faya performs in the centre of Joubert Park, drawing in audiences and using drama and music to disseminate messages. Through humour and costumes, the performances are designed to attract spectators, particularly youth, so that the drama team can promote awareness about social harms in the inner city such as sexual abuse and unprotected sex.

The visual arts programme at CICI offers training in portraiture, signwriting, textile printing, and mural work. The hope is that young artists can share their visions of social change in this environment through workshops and training sessions that aim to foster expression of feelings and observations. The organisers aim to create a space where artistic skills can be recognised, to the end of empowering youth by providing them with a venue to realise their potential and work with creative individuals.

CICI also uses interpersonal communication to engage inner-city youth in community-based initiatives to help disadvantaged peers. In 2004, CICI hosted a pilot project called the Missing Children's Posters Workshop. This workshop invites youth to design posters for missing children in South Africa. Run by Glenda Venn from Itsago and funded by Hewlett Packard, the pilot is testing the formats for posters developed by young participants for effectiveness in creating awareness in communities. Organisers believe that these creative posters will help to attract more attention on the street about missing children, since generic posters are often overlooked by passers-by.

Development Issues: 

Youth, HIV/AIDS, Health, Conflict.

Key Points: 

As a network that had been in operation since 1997 in the inner city, organisers recognised that many artists who lived in the inner city were struggling to survive, and many were also falling prey to the temptations of crime. Formative research undertaken at the start of the CICI indicated that many artists were under-skilled and lacked resources and facilities. This research also revealed that most of these artists were also isolated - working alone and not able to tender for commissions that required organisations and co-operatives to apply. In this context, CICI was designed to explore and provide ways for emerging artists to become better skilled at their work, and to become resilient and self-sustaining. By involving training providers such as Trinity Session, Artist Proof Studio, the Market Theatre Laboratory, the Curriculum Development Project in Arts Education, BEntrepreneurING, Kagiso Business Training, BDI, and Thesele Creative Society, organisers created a collaborative environment so that participants could take on commissions and assignments, complementing each other's skills, networks, and strengths.

Partner Text: 

Lapeng Child and Family Resource Service, the GreenHouse Environment project, the Joubert Park Public Art Project, Trinity Session, Curriculum Development Project in Arts Education.

Source: 

Email from Carol Liknaitzky to Soul Beat Africa on March 8 2005; email from Carol Liknaitzky to The Communication Initiative on July 30 2007; and Art Throb website, June 7 2010.