Strengthening Relationships Between South Africa and the United States




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Mar 28, 2020
by Lucy Browett
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Strengthening Relationships Between South Africa and the United States

Salzburg Global Fellows from New Orleans, Detroit, and South Africa collaborate through Salzburg travel scholarship Siphiwe Ngwenya (second from right) and Palesa Ngwenya (far right) with fellow YCI Atianna Cordova (second from left) and Damon Batiste (center), president of New Orleans South Africa Connection (NOSACONN)

A cultural exchange between YCI alumni has strengthened partnerships and had a positive impact on the Fellows’ respective communities.

Palesa Ngwenya and Siphiwe Ngwenya, who run the Maboneng Township Arts Experience (MTAE), and Atianna Cordova of Water Block in New Orleans, traveled to each other’s countries in 2018 to explore local arts projects and network with local artists.

Palesa and Atianna both attended the fourth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in 2017. Siphiwe, meanwhile, attended the inaugural program in 2014.

The exchange took place through a travel scholarship awarded by Salzburg Global and funded by The Kresge Foundation to enable YCI alumni to continue collaborating across borders.

The first leg of the trip, taken by Atianna, brought together 10 women from across the African Diaspora to come together and share their stories.

Palesa and Siphiwe then traveled to the US to fulfill their leg of the trip, where they strengthened tourism relationships between South Africa and New Orleans. They also saw Africa Umoja, a stage show bringing the spirit of South Africa to US audiences. In a joint statement, Palesa and Siphiwe said, “It was a delight to be in New Orleans watching US audiences get introduced to South Africa through the arts.”

They also visited Gentilly Fest while in New Orleans, a community festival started after Hurricane Katrina, designed to celebrate the rich culture of New Orleans

Palesa and Siphiwe included a trip to Detroit in their travels, to participate in the Bank Suey's Civic Arts Series organized by YCI Alissa Shelton. In a joint statement, they said, “Being able to participate in this Civic Arts Series meant that the MTAE team could meet, share with and learn from the nearby YCIs and resilient citizens of Detroit.”

They additionally spent time in Detroit with Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert who founded Power House Productions (PHP), an artist-run neighborhood-based nonprofit organization.

Palesa and Siphiwe said, “This series of gatherings explored creative practice as community building, along with the art of formal planning. We were part of creatives whose practice is used to shape neighborhood futures, employing unconventional and innovative strategies in their work.”

The Fellows’ experiences at their respective YCI programs has inspired collaboration. Siphiwe said, “Palesa and Atianna were in various working groups during their time in Salzburg, providing time to be inspired to create a similar platform to Salzburg Global Seminar.

“This has led to the decision to collaborate to compile a framework that can be used by future YCI of color engaging in high community impact travel experiences that develop young leaders.”

The MTAE turns homes in townships across South Africa into galleries, to promote local artists and encourage local people to invest in their art.

Speaking about the impact this travel scholarship has had on their organization, Palesa and Siphiwe said, “Upon our return to South Africa, our organization poured energy into launching our latest Cinema Home Attractions in Langa, Cape Town as well as Alexandra, Johannesburg with the aim of exposing local communities to South African films, sharing these cinematic creations in people’s homes.

“Our cultural exchange with young New Orleans and Detroit leaders imprinted the importance of consciously dreaming up a future we want as citizens and use emergent strategy to positively transform the South African communities within which we work.”

The Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators empowers rising talents in the creative sector to drive social, economic and urban change. Launched in 2014, it is building a global network of 500 competitively-selected change-makers in “Hub” communities who design collaborative projects, build skills, gain mentors, and connect to upcoming innovators in their cities and countries.

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