Nelson Mandela’s centenary brought together headline-grabbing A-listers and pledges of over $7 billion towards pressing global issues. Though for some, it didn’t end well.
It was exactly 10 years ago when Australian humanitarian Hugh Evans, along with his friend Simon Moss, launched the Global Poverty Project, committing to end extreme poverty by 2030.
That dream launched Global Citizen, and with that, an eponymous festival in 2012.
“Over 5.65 million actions led to 58 commitments and announcements worth $7,096,996,725, set to affect the lives of 137,368,628 people,” summed up the Global Citizen Festival, held in December 2018 for the first time in South Africa, hosted at the FNB Stadium, in the historic township of Soweto, in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s centenary.
On a hot Sunday afternoon that also saw looming rain clouds, thousands wearing straw hats and shades, trooped into the stadium, some arriving as early as 5AM for what was billed a mega concert.
Presidents, delegates, CEOs, activists, musicians and more gathered for the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.
Among them, a galaxy of international and local celebrities such as Beyoncé, Trevor Noah, Oprah Winfrey, Naomi Campbell, Usher, Danai Gurira, Bonang Matheba, Nomzamo Mbatha, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams, Bob Geldof, Ed Sheeran, and dignitaries such as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina J. Mohammed, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, former South African First Lady Graca Machel and many more were all gathered for the one-day spectacle.
The Daily Show anchor and host of the event, Noah said: “This is 2010 all over again,” referring to the euphoria in South Africa when the country hosted the FIFA World Cup that year.
“Everybody is here in Mzansi to celebrate the work of Nelson Mandela,” he added.
More than 75,000 people were in attendance at the stadium.
On stage, dignitaries committed actions taken to end extreme poverty, achieve gender equality, and ensure food security, education and global health.
“Everyone is a global citizen and how you want to take action in helping others using your voice, reaching out to a representative and holding rallies, coming together, uniting to make a change is wonderful. Everybody has a voice now today,” model and activist Campbell who was on stage told FORBES AFRICA on the sidelines.
“To have a 20-year with the great man, President Nelson Mandela, is something I will treasure for the rest of my life and it’s an honor to be here and see everyone come together, and to see the young generation understand what this man Mandela stood for, what he sacrificed and what he wanted to achieve. And we are still trying to achieve what he wanted to, which is to eradicate poverty by 2030,” added Campbell.
Nigerian musician Femi Kuti, son of the legendary Fela Kuti, who performed and got the crowds dancing, told FORBES AFRICA some of the issues he holds close to his heart are equality, poverty and the importance of accountability by all leaders worldwide.
“Every citizen must take responsibility for tackling these problems,” he said.
“My father is a really good example of this, Bob Marley is a good example of this. If musicians did not talk about such issues, we would probably be naïve.”
One of Nigeria’s best-selling musicians, D’banj, agreed.
He performed his hit song, Oliver Twist, wearing his hallmark dark shades, a pair of metallic gold pants and jacket.
“Before I went on stage, I was so glad that this is Africa, I have performed everywhere in the world but this is my home, and my people are here,” he told FORBES AFRICA.
“Getting out here and seeing my generation, the next generation, the millennials, and everyone coming out, I am just so humbled. I can just say that, from here, the future is going to be bright because the message of us stars coming together will leave a mark.”
The Nigerian artiste is not new to the Global Citizen scene.
In 2015, he performed alongside Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am at the Global Citizen Earth Day in Washington D.C in the United States.
“Global Citizen coming to Africa meant a lot for me… Because after we leave here, we are going to leave a mark that is going to awaken them and everybody is going to want to challenge our leaders to give us the right change,” he said.
Back on stage, the host Noah addressed the crowds about why Africa should indeed be celebrated.
“When it comes to resources, Africa is the richest place on earth,” he said.
“We have more booty than any other continent on the planet. Men and women… The point is, Africa has a lot of natural wealth. But what’s crazy is that even with all this wealth, 40% of all children across the continent are stunted due to lack of access to food. Tonight, we are calling on African leaders to commit three percent of their countries’ budgets to nutrition by 2020.”
All through the concert, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals were unraveled.
The now former president of the World Bank, Dr Jim Yong Kim, said it was important to contribute to issues related to health because, “the crisis is much bigger”. As a result, the World Bank Group invested an additional $1 million to health and education.
Other celebrities and global leaders not present made their own pledges through pre-recorded videos screened at the event.
Businessman and philanthropist Richard Branson pledged a $105 million joint commitment to end the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced an investment of $4 billion made at the G7 Summit towards education for vulnerable women and girls globally.
Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, pledged €63 million ($72.2 million) to Global Citizen over the next three years.
From a South African perspective, the Motsepe Foundation, a hosting and presenting partner of Global Citizen, committed more than $104.4 million towards education, economic inclusion and equality of women and girls, as well as the current debate on land reform in South Africa. Entrepreneurs Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious received a rapturous applause when they appeared on stage.
President Ramaphosa committed R2 billion ($144 million) for youth in South Africa, and announced the government’s intention to spend R60 billion ($4.3 billion) to provide free access to schools for poor children in South Africa.
But with all the pledges announced, the biggest question remained, what next?
The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who was in attendance, weighed in on this.
“What I’d really like to see is we coming up with an integrated action plan so that it is not just raising the money but we absolutely identify how is this money going to be utilized and how we can work together better to support one another and to make sure that it is more likely that these issues will be delivered,” she told FORBES AFRICA.
“What I hope will come out of this is concrete action which will make a difference to the lives of the people who are so desperately thirsting for change.”
At the end of the day, what the 75,000-plus in the stadium had really come for was the culminating act by Beyoncé, one of the world’s highest-paid musicians listed on FORBES.
In one of the outfits on stage, Beyoncé wore a sequined body suit, thigh-high boots, and a dramatic cape that paid tribute to Africa’s 54 countries. It was designed by Mary Katrantzou, who said in an Instagram post: “Her coat has the 54 countries of Africa mapped out and on each country there is a different embroidery representing its diversity.” Beyoncé also wore a colorful beaded mini-dress with an elaborate back-piece, which according to her mother Tina Lawson, featured “one hundred thousand African beads”.
Some of the other designers the artiste wore during the visit included South African designers Enhle Mbali Maphumulo of Manual Rossa Apparel, Rich Mnisi, MmusoMaxwell, Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye’s label Adama Paris, Sarah Diouf’s line Tongoro Studio and Ivorian label Yhebe Design.
Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z brought Africa to its feet to their tunes for the first time. It was a breath-taking, epic production which saw them perform hit songs like Halo, Perfect, Bonnie & Clyde, Formation and Forever Young.
But despite the success of the Global Citizen Festival, it was a chaotic end to a beautiful night for some.
While heads of state and celebrities were escorted back from the concert venue, some festival-goers were left stranded in gridlocked traffic at midnight to face attacks by criminals.
Many took to social media to explain how they were mugged at gunpoint and were victims to violence.
One of the attendees, 23-year-old Kayleen Morgan, who witnessed the attacks, told us: “What was upsetting was for something like this to happen at an event organized on such a huge scale. People’s experiences were not taken seriously…”
A month after these unfortunate incidents, some suspects have been arrested and investigations continue.
It was a night Beyoncé stole, and a night some audience-goers will never forget, for being stolen from.
The Art Of Survival: The Art Of Adire Gave This Textile Artist Global Fame, She Now Educates Generations Of Women In Nigeria
Textile artist Nike Davies-Okundaye worked as a construction laborer and carried water and firewood to survive. The art of adire gave her global fame and she is now educating generations of women in Nigeria.
There was no way Nike Davies-Okundaye could look the other way. For after all, she too had been a victim in her early teens.
Too many women were being pushed down the traditional path of marriage and child-rearing in her country.
Born in 1951 in Ogidi-Ijumu, a small village in western Nigeria known for its spectacular rock formations and traditional art industry, Davies-Okundaye resolved to fight this practice four decades ago.
“By the age of 13, they wanted to marry me off because my father had no money. I had to run away from home and join a traveling theater. I said I didn’t want to marry and wanted to pursue art,” recalls the internationally-renowned Lagos-based artist.
Not wanting to become one of six wives to a minister, Davies-Okundaye found her escape through adire, the name given to the Yoruba craft of tie-and-dye where indigo-dyed cloth is made using a variety of resist-dyeing techniques. Growing up in a predominantly art and craft household, Davies-Okundaye is a fifth-generation artist who decided to take the craft seriously due to poverty.
“I had no money to go to school and the first education parents give you is to teach you what they do. So, when I finished primary six and I had no support to go to secondary school, I said to myself, ‘let me master art so I can teach other women to also use their hand to make a living through their own artwork’.”
Davies-Okundaye was forced to work in the male-dominated construction sector, carrying concrete in pans to builders in order to save one shilling, just enough to buy a yard of fabric to create what she called wall-hanging art.
Her goal was to use the traditional wax-resist methods to design patterned fabric in a dazzling array of tints and hues. The adire design is the result of hand-painted work carried out mostly by women and through that, Davies-Okundaye saw a way to help women to become economically empowered. After all, her first break in life came as a result of that.
“There was no other job I was doing apart from adire. I was lucky the American government came to Nigeria to recruit an African who will teach African Americans how to make traditional textiles or crafts in the state. That is how I was lucky and got picked.”
Davies-Okundaye was the only woman in a class of 10 men who were flown to Maine in northeastern United States in 1974. That is where her whole outlook on life changed.
“Before I went to America, I used to carry three drums of water every day and carry firewood to be able to survive. It was like a breakthrough in my life when I reached America. I said ‘is this heaven?’ I was the only woman in the class and all the men were learning women’s looms and I kept telling them ‘this is for women’ and they said ‘yes, in America, what a man can do, a woman can also do’.”
This was in stark contrast to what she knew to be true in Nigeria at the time.
“If your husband is an artist, you are not allowed to do art. In the 1960s, if your husband has a PhD, you are not allowed to also have a PhD. You had to give room for your husband to be your boss.”
She decided to beat those age-old stereotypes.
As one of 15 wives to her then-husband at the time, Davies-Okundaye, with her newfound knowledge gained in America, started a revolution at home. She encouraged the other wives to create their own art business using adire.
“I said ‘if you learn this, you can earn a living by yourself and get your power because your money is your power’ and that is how they also started learning it. I didn’t stop sharing the knowledge there. I gathered girls on the streets who were selling kola nuts and peanuts and started training them. I said ‘if this textile can take me to America, let me teach other people’,” says Davies-Okundaye.
And that has been her calling ever since. Davies-Okundaye is the founder and director of four art centers, which offer free training to 150 young artists in Nigeria in visual, musical and performing arts.
One of the centers is the largest art gallery in West Africa comprising over 7,000 art works.
“They used to get the police to arrest me because they said I was trying to teach feminism in Nigeria because I went to America. They said I was going to corrupt our Nigerian women but I believe God sent me to liberate a lot of women who have the passion for what makes them happy but are afraid to do it because of what people will say. I say do what makes you happy always!”
Why This Photographer Looked Up During The Lockdown
Steven Benjamin chose to focus on the bird life in his garden in Cape Town to escape the confines of the lockdown.
During South Africa’s five-week shutdown (the country is still on Level 4 restrictions), Cape Town-born underwater photographer Steven Benjamin more used to sharks, whales and dolphins, used the period to look up instead – and indulge in bird-watching, another passion of his.
“Ever since the age of five or six, I have been interested in birds. I was dyslexic as a young child and I still have my first bird book where I ‘ticked’ backwards. I was trying to identify the birds that flew into my pre-school class and begged my mom to let me mark off what I’d seen, so birding has always been a passion,” says Benjamin, who also runs a seal-snorkeling business.
He has spent his life capturing South Africa’s marine world, and now, Benjamin had to redirect his focus to his Kalk Bay garden during the lockdown to photograph Cape Town’s resident birdlife.
He says photographing these feathered beauties is a way to bring joy during these uncertain times.
“They are so beautiful but incredibly difficult to photograph because they are shy and extremely fast. Photographing birds is a challenge but it creates a mental space to observe and admire nature.”
Soon after the lockdown started, Benjamin put white sugar in his bird feeder every morning and enjoyed the sight of local birds and documented them. He posted the images on Instagram and that garnered some online attention.
“The lockdown has made me relax and take the time to do things I would never have gotten around to doing. I settled on this project, which I work on every day. I’m always adding something new to the scene and there are always new birds and interactions happening. It’s made the days fly by,” he says.
During the lockdown, there was only one male Cape Sugar Bird that landed in his garden. This spectacular bird is unique to South Africa and mostly only found in the Western Cape. All of this will go into an exhibition Benjamin is working towards in Cape Town.
‘Our Home Became The Film Set, Blankets Became Props, Windows Became Locations’
A poem exclusively penned and performed in lockdown in the US for the readers of FORBES AFRICA, by Rwandan artist Malaika Uwamahoro.
Malaika Uwamahoro, an artist born in Rwanda, and a Theatre Studies BA graduate from Fordham University in New York City, has performed her own poetry on stages around the world including at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and at the African Union summits in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Kigali (Rwanda).
In 2014, she made her Off-Broadway debut at Signature Theatre in the world premiere of Katori Hall’s Our Lady of Kibeho.
Currently resident in Portland, Maine, in the United States, she speaks to FORBES AFRICA about her life in lockdown, and about a poem she penned exclusively for the readers of the magazine: “To fight this pandemic, essential workers and medical doctors are doing their best on the frontlines to ensure everyone in need gets the necessary support and best care possible… Before we are all choked and out of breath just by thinking about this, I extend this poetry piece as an invitation to look inward.”
How did she come up with the poem, titled I Don’t Mind!, and its accompanying video?
“It was late in the night, my fiancé was fast asleep, and I thought to myself, ‘how do I really feel about all this, what are my true thoughts about this pandemic, what can I do’? I opened my notes and the words began to flow.”
A few days later, she shared the poem with her fiancé, Christian Kayiteshonga, a filmmaker.
“We had previously been pondering ways to make art in our home. This poem seemed like the perfect push to set us in our new path. Our home became the film set, using blankets and cake mix as props, windows and office space as locations, myself as the talent, him as the crew, and now you as the audience,” says Uwamahoro, who also performed for the ‘In the Spotlight’ segment at the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit in Durban, South Africa, on March 6.
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