Basha Uhuru Festival: Celebrating 30 Years of Creative Freedom

04 Jul 2024, 10:00
Basha Uhuru Festival: Celebrating 30 Years of Creative Freedom

The Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival is an exciting platform where young people can explore and redefine what it means to be a youth in South Africa, spanning the past, present, and future. Braving the winter chill, young and trendy Joburgers came together at Constitution Hill from June 27 to 29 to express themselves creatively through art, photography, music, and film.

Established in 2012, the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival aims to “immortalise the memory of the youth who fought for their right to choose during the Soweto Uprising of 1976,” says Creative Hub project manager and event organiser Londi Modiko. This festival, as the signature event of Constitution Hill’s museum, provides youth with “the freedom to create.” With its unique setup, Basha Uhuru plays a pivotal role in “fostering the sustainable development of the creative sector,” says Modiko, offering creative entrepreneurs resources and services to build and enhance their business.

Each year, the festival's programme is built around themes that highlight significant historical moments in the country impacting or celebrating youth. “My favourite part of the festival is the Basha Uhuru Creative Conference, which I consider an all-encompassing creative showcase,” says Modiko. This event provides a much-needed opportunity for established and aspiring creatives to gather, be inspired, and showcase their talents, creating a dynamic environment that nurtures and celebrates the innovative spirit of young minds.

This year, as South Africa’s young democracy turned 30, the festival paid homage to our heritage with the theme “Celebrating 30 years of creative freedom.” Evident in the themes of art exhibitions, films and performances alike, it spotlighted the role of the younger generations and their participation in creative and social movements.

The two-day Creative Conference included sessions for young creatives on various curated topics designed to help them thrive in the art world. Morning sessions specifically unpacked the state of the creative economy, the viability of entrepreneurship for young creatives, and the role of business and government in job creation, including brand building and monetisation. Afternoon sessions focused more on wellness, mindfulness, and nurturing creativity.

The evening of the first day featured the opening of the exhibition The New Black – A Rainbow Deferred, curated by Gaisang Sathekge and showcasing 15 artists. Featuring a variety of mediums including photography, painting and mixed media, young artists interrogated the role of Western cultural agency in creating and shaping the black narrative and its place in the historical canon. The following evening was the student edition of the Visions of Freedom Film Festival with a panel discussion, followed by film screenings and awards curated by Mmbatho Montsho. Here, artists used various mediums to represent and comment on the fervour and complexity of South Africa’s journey since democracy in 1994.

The event culminated in a music festival on June 29 which showcased local talents, both emerging and established. Festival goers enjoyed a market with delicious food and bars and a stage bringing jazz, hip hop, and amapiano tunes for endless groove. Some notable headliners included Kabza De Small, Sjava, Amagugu Ezwe, Nadia Nakai, and FKA Mash. 

A dream for creatives and connoisseurs alike, Basha Uhuru is making strides, carving out a new form of cultural engagement in South Africa. Both emerging and eminent artists should be sure to mark their calendars for next year’s edition, which, if the festival’s trajectory so far is anything to go by, promises to be even more inspiring and impactful.

Words by Shaazia Ebrahim for Letterhead