A youth development organization
Umbiyozo is an umbrella youth development organisation uniting and servicing 18 community-based, traditional song-and-dance troupes across Cape Town’s townships. The alliance—or “Umbiyozo Family”—enables inter-troupe support and solidarity. The services—such as programming, merchandising, and marketing—equip troupes’ youth with the resources and opportunities to successfully transition into adulthood and contribute to their communities. Umbiyozo transforms troupes into sustainable agents of youth development.
Enable pre- and early-adolescent youth within South African townships to overcome the domestic, cultural and psychosocial turbulence in their lives and set aside the self-defeating beliefs that stand in the way of their greatness by way of their mere choice to participate in a local community-based, traditional song-and-dance troupe.
A South Africa in which township youth proactively engage their worlds, empower their peers, and leverage traditional arts to overcome the identity-related and structural challenges posed by apartheid and globalization.
At the age of 17 (2011), on a holiday to visit his Capetonian grandparents, American musician Jason Woolf set out to do something ambitious: produce a documentary film that would unite the youth-based busking troupes rife in Cape Town’s city centre so that they could sell it while performing to increase their income. Recognising the multiplicity of challenges these troupes face, Jason has spent the past five years investing in himself as a social entrepreneur and growing Umbiyozo into a fully-fledged nonprofit organisation. To honour these talented youths and their rich customs, Jason has gone to lengths such as living in Khayelitsha (South Africa’s second largest township), learning to speak IsiXhosa, and negotiating with venues such as the V&A Waterfront to allow youth troupes to utilise their busking spaces. Each troupe within the Umbiyozo alliance has its own unique story, which can be found within the respective troupes’ profiles
Theory of Change
Broad Problem: Black townships youth of today in South Africa are more disillusioned than ever before, 22 years after the end of the apartheid era. It is shortsighted to explain their plight in purely structural or institutional terms, for instance, poverty, poor education, violence, and so forth. This rough terrain, although an undeniable disadvantage, is capable of being navigated with the proper resources for identity expansion, the contemplation of meaning, and ultimately the deepening of the resolve to pursue one’s dreams
Broad Solution: Use music and dance to cultivate these resources by way of its opportunities for intercultural integration, community building, and revitalisation of the human spirit.
Narrow Problem: Township youth lack extracurricular programmes that effectively provide rolemodels and deliver fun, healthy recreational activities to participate in, resulting in their participation in the alternatives of deviance or idleness.
Solution: Bolster traditional song-and-dance troupes’ leadership, finances, performance-skills, exposure, marketing, inter-troupe support, and governance and thereby improve their effectiveness as extracurricular programmes that attract, retain and nurture youth. “Participation [in organized activities] is associated with academic success, mental health, positive social relationships and behaviors, identity development, and civic engagement … benefits [that], in turn, pave the way for long-term educational success and help prepare young persons for the transition to adulthood” (“Organized Activities as Contexts of Development,” Joseph Mahoney, pg.10).
Jason, 23 years of age, is a musician (called Volofu), an empowerment specialist, and a community builder. A dual citizen of South Africa and the U.S., he has long grappled with the paramount issues of our globalized age—historical myopia, identity negotiation, pressures to become an entrepreneur, the increasing commodification of life across cultures, the increasing ubiquity of the internet—and has developed powerful techniques to negotiate this terrain. The testing ground has largely been his pet project of 5 years, Umbiyozo Foundation, an umbrella youth development organisation uniting and servicing 18 community-based, traditional song-and-dance troupes across Cape Town’s townships. Successes for Umbiyozo include the production of The Umbiyozo DVD (2011), a six-month pilot of a youth busking programme at the V&A Waterfront (2015), and the impending 2016 Umbiyozo Heritage Day Concert on the V&A Amphitheatre. In 2015, Jason received considerable national attention—including appearances on the front cover of The Voice and on the Expresso Show—for living in Khayelitsha for 12 months and learning to speak IsiXhosa. Today, Jason espouses a vision of Volofu becoming—through its fusion sounds and inspirational lyrics—a vehicle for Umbiyozo’s growth and intercultural integration in South Africa and the world. Jason graduated from Watson University (the first ever degree-bearing accelerator for change-makers) as part of it’s inaugural class (2013), attended University of Cape Town for one year, and graduated from New York University’s 2016 class with a self-designed major.
Deon Nebulane, 38 years of age, is a Cape Town-based, freelance actor, poet, interpreter, production assistant and community worker. He is very passionate about community development, diversity and the integration thereof. Deon was born in Bergville, KwaZulu Natal, a location linked to the system of migrant labour during apartheid; he started school is Lady Frere, Eastern Cape; and he was raised in Mbekweni township outside Paarl, Western Cape. He's very fond of his ancestral background in the Eastern Cape yet very proud of Paarl, the place he calls home. Deon was nurtured by cultural activities during school, performing in many festivals—primarily drama, gumboot dance and isiXhosa/isiZulu dance festivals. After gaining theatre training from such NGOs as Community Arts Projects and Young People's Theatre Educational Trust, Deon enrolled at UCT and graduated with a Performer's Diploma in Theatre (PDT). Thereafter his career blossomed with appearances on local TV dramas and adverts, as well as a string of local and international theatre performances. Deon recognises that a freelance career must be backed up by multiple talents: Deon is an experienced isiXhosa teacher and an English-Xhosa translator at Ubuntu Bridge, where he has been since 2009. The clients he’s trained include the City of Cape Town, Old Mutual, Compass Biscuits, Cape Town Tourism, Traffic Management Technologies, Grand Slots, Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, Metropolitan and many more. Deon has been staying in Khayelitsha since 2010 and has no intention to relocate anytime soon.