Young Cultural Innovator Participates in Leadership Exchange in Cape Town

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Mar 23, 2020
by Lucy Browett
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Young Cultural Innovator Participates in Leadership Exchange in Cape Town

Salzburg Global Fellow Atianna Cordova reflects on 2018 trip to South Africa From left to right - Salzburg Global Fellows Palesa Ngwenya, Atianna Cordova, and Linda Kaoma

Salzburg Global Fellow Atianna Cordova, founder of WATER BLOCK, embarked on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa, as part of a cultural leadership exchange.

The exchange took place in 2018 through a travel scholarship awarded by Salzburg Global Seminar and funded by The Kresge Foundation to enable YCI alumni to continue collaborating across borders.

Cordova, who attended the fourth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, collaborated with other YCI alumni, including Palesa Ngwenya and Siphiwe Ngwenya, who run the Maboneng Township Arts Experience (MTAE). Palesa and Siphiwe also took part in this leadership exchange through the travel scholarship, making a trip to New Orleans and Detroit to collaborate with YCI fellows.

During the trip, Cordova took part in a variety of activities to immerse herself in the culture of South Africa. She said, “This travel included small group discussions involving oral history exchanges with elder residents, tours by local community leaders, parades and street festivals to commemorate South African Heritage Month, historic site visits, skill-building sessions on communication and organizational development with local artists.”

Cordova’s experiences were moderated by organizations such as the Robben Island Museum, District Six Museum, and MTAE.

Additionally, Cordova met with 10 women from different parts of Africa for dinner at Timbuktu Café organized by YCIs Linda Kaoma and Palesa Ngwenya. She said, “The communal dinner was a moment for us, as black women creators, to affirm, connect and reflect on our experiences, while sharing best practices and ideas that promote social change.”

The fourth program of the YCI Forum provided Cordova with the initial concept behind the cultural leadership exchange. Cordova commented that the program reinforced the need for those that identify as part of the African Diaspora to intentionally gather outside of program hours to “share challenges and commonalities as art and design practitioners and black people.”

She added, “Our laughter and tears highlighted the need for even more opportunities to connect, collaborate and simply celebrate us.”

Cordova says her experiences in this exchange have benefitted not only her community back home, but also the communities she visited in Cape Town.

“By engaging in this inter-hub exchange, dialogues around cultural identity, self-preservation, post-disaster recovery, traumatic healing, and relationship building allowed us to further develop skills needed to use art and design as transformative tools in communities around the globe.”

“From the group discussions to the historic site visits, this trip broadened my communication and entrepreneurial skill sets, which increased my ability to address challenges in my own community in New Orleans. Although no words can truly describe the magic that happened during this travel, I'm excited about future opportunities to highlight the narratives of black innovators and continue creating access and justice for black people through our respective works.”


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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