Letter: Centre for New Brighton

ARTS HUB: The Mendi Arts Centre is taking shape in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, on what was previously the site of a beerhall. Arts activists have long been appealing for such a centre in the township
Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI

It’s been a few weeks since the resumption of construction work at the old beerhall in Mendi Road, which is to be an arts centre.

This arts centre is the fulfilment of the late Oom Raymond Mhlaba’s wish to have a cultural hub for New Brighton talents, a place to nurture the Nomhle Nkonyenis, Winston Ntshonas, Welcome Durus, Fats Bokoloanes, Dudley Titos, Feya Fakus, Phinda Mtyas, Big T Ntseles and others of the future.

The Mendi Arts Centre has faced many and mostly unnecessary challenges, and red tape within government corridors for it to lift off the ground.

I was happy to witness the beginning stages of its construction.

I was also very vocal when the arts community of New Brighton was kept in the dark until there was a public consultation on the Mendi project by architects and constructors.

As artists from this ward where this facility is situated, we thought by January we would be utilising this long-awaited facility.

It was for the first time since the dawn of democracy that the arts fraternity would have been catered for, like the sport fraternity.

You find sport grounds in most of our townships and yet you don’t find a place for the arts.

Late last year a group of SMMEs from New Brighton gathered at Mendi Road and forcefully stopped the construction work, demanding their piece of the cake.

That was resolved through engagement with the municipality, SMMEs and contractors.

Now the work is going smoothly at the Mendi Arts Centre.

But what worries me the most are the opportunistic, selfish and incompetent individuals who are gunning to take control of, or positions, in this facility.

I appeal to all the residents of New Brighton, and more precisely Ward 14, and to the municipality, precisely the arts and culture directorate.

Please let the focus of the Mendi Arts Centre be rested on artists, practising artists and arts practitioners and those individuals should reside in New Brighton.

This facility should be a trophy for the artists who have been practising the arts and who never migrated to other places, because they believed that one day our New Brighton, our Port Elizabeth would be fine.

The Mendi Arts Centre must be used to honour their sacrifice and loyalty in the development of creative industry in the Bay.

The Mendi Arts Centre is one of the tools that will help to curb this norm of artists dying poor, it must generate income and create work for the artists.

This is so their lives can be more valuable than they are now.

Our community does not regard us artists as workers but entertainers.

The Mendi Arts Centre should change this mentality.

The Mendi Arts Centre needs artists and artists need the arts centre.

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