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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

Drumming for change: 1000 drummers to gather at Constitution Hill for Human Rights Festival

On Human Rights Day the drums will be instrumental in a show of solidarity with those affected in Palestine.

Drums are said to be the oldest instrument and they hold a significant place in African culture.

The pulsating instrument is played to communicate, celebrate, mourn and inspire among others.

“We chose drums as even if you have never played a drum in your life before you can do so with a group of people, drums speak beyond language, culture, age, gender religion. We drum together in a single language of resistance when we use drums for social change,” executive director at Mehlo-Maya (eye-to-the-sun) Bobby Rodwell told The Citizen.

Rodwell is the organiser of the 1000 Drums for Palestine event, which is part of the Human Rights Festival taking place at Constitution Hill from the 21 to 24 March.

The free-entry festival unites NGOs, social justice organisations, think-tanks media partners, and more around human rights issues.

“In this safe and special space, people will be able to discuss challenges facing our country and the world, and how best we, the people, can coordinate our efforts to bring about lasting and consequential change based on social justice and human rights,” said acting CEO Siyabonga Hlongwane in a statement.

Three master drummers will lead the people drumming and the 1000 drums are organised by Anthony Nii Addotey, the master drummer who has been working together with Rodwell for more than two decades, drumming for social change.  

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Human Rights

On Human Rights Day the drums will be instrumental in a show of solidarity with those affected in Palestine, but casting their net wide in standing together with other countries and people globally whose human rights are being infringed upon.

“We also stand with organisations in the country that are fighting for equality in South Africa, and emphasise the need to look across the border at our own neighbour where there is unspeakable abuse of human rights, the ongoing war over resources taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the terrible war in Sudan, and start saying enough [is enough],” averred Rodwell.

Last November, Rodwell and her team organised 200 drummers to participate in a similar show of solidarity.

“We thought that on South African Sharpeville/Human Rights Day we need to show our solidarity with the people of Palestine,” she said.

According to Rodwell 950 people have confirmed, and she estimates more than 1 000 people will heed the call.

“As we know South Africans don’t always confirm, right? We are ‘arrivers’,” quipped Rodwell. She expects people from other provinces to be in attendance.

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Human Rights Festival

Taking place for a sixth year, the festival aims to build greater awareness and knowledge around human rights and to promote the importance of an active citizenry.

It aims to build social cohesion, and tolerance of difference and heal divisions in our communities.

The festival was conceptualised to commemorate those heroes who took a stand for their rights in the Sharpeville 1960 massacre, those who taught us to stand up for the power and relevance of human rights for all.

The festival is curated by Mmabatho Montsho who said that she feels honoured to be bestowed this responsibility.

“My role has included sourcing and curating films, panel discussions, workshops, fundraising and initiating long term relationships with relevant partners. Together with ConHill, I look forward to growing the festival and establishing it as one of the defining festivals for filmmakers in Africa in the coming years,” averred Montsho in a statement.

“The debates, workshops and seminars at the festival are all pointing us to look towards human rights as a catalyst for workable and sustainable solutions for the challenges we face,” said Abigail Noko, Regional Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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