06.06.2012 - Rio+20

Recycling Art for Sustainable Development

Despite huge advances in democratic processes in South Africa since 1994, there remains a large discrepancy between the haves and have-nots, and geographical segregation persists. In Cape Town, poverty is especially prevalent among major communities. This is particularly blatant in the everyday life of suburban township dwellers.

With the support of UNESCO's International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), Cape Town's Harlequin Foundation, an NGO that promotes youth development and environmental awareness,  trains women, single parents and disabled adults from disadvantaged communities in recycled arts and helps them build micro-enterprises and secure jobs around festivals and carnivals in South Africa. Trainees are encouraged to share their skills and resources with their communities to open up further channels for development and cohesion. Members from these marginalized communities suddenly find themselves with relatively rare and very sought-after skills in creating large art pieces, including floats, puppets and costumes from recycled material, for festivals and carnivals.  These skills, combined with mentorship and training around micro-enterprise establishment and management, are empowering these individuals to create jobs for themselves and others and renew their links with their communities to lift themselves out of poverty and violent or abusive conditions.


Who is affected?

Most of the suburban residents in Capetown’s poorer areas migrated  from rural areas, only to be faced with economic hardship and unemployment upon arrival in the townships. Masiphumelele is one of those areas, home to large numbers of economic and political black African refugees, originating from South Africa and from other countries. There are also large numbers of Xhosa people who hail from rural backgrounds. With no secondary education and no command of other languages than Xhosa, these groups suffer from unemployment. Ocean View is home to a community that came together as a result of the forced removals engendered by apartheid and suffers from marginalization. Apartheid’s legacy is such that those communities rarely come together to create shared cultural expressions by all and for all. Carnivals and festivals offer such opportunities, and this is why the Harlequin Foundation focuses on such events to foster the creation of a diverse yet cohesive South African identity


Why does it matter ?

This project presents a rare opportunity to bring together the arts, creativity, entrepreneurship, human and economic development, social cohesion and environmental sustainability to allow women, single parents and disabled adults in some of Cape Town's most disadvantaged communities to reshape their lives and livelihoods.


What is UNESCO doing?

UNESCO supports this project through its International Fund for Cultural Development (IFCD). This Fund was established to help States Parties to UNESCO's 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to implement strategies and policies to develop their cultural industries. To date it has provided financial support to 48 projects in 36 developing countries.

With this project in South Africa, the IFCD is promoting sustainable development, combining quality education and training for disadvantaged community members with initiatives that encourage job creation, a stable climate through the use of recycled material and security by focusing efforts on population groups that are most impacted by violence and abuse.

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