Yocaf returns to uplift the youths

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BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
ZIMBABWEAN youths remain the most vulnerable persons due to country’s high unemployment levels and the general economic meltdown.

Youths constitute 67% of the country’s population and most of them have never been formally employed.

Local youth programmes have been either largely neglected or underfunded, perpetuating the vulnerability of this group.

However, amid this seemingly hopelessness, one of the country’s leading arts platforms, Youth Cultural Arts Festival (Yocaf), has over the years proved to be a mainstay of development of arts in the youths and communities.

The cultural youth engagement festival collaborates with government, non-government organisations, corporates, performing arts bodies, institutions and schools to create opportunities for performing artists from all backgrounds.

After a three-year absence due to COVID-19 pandemic, among other factors, the festival, now in its 10th year, returns next month.

Reps Theatre in Belgravia, Harare will be a hive of activities when the festival roars back to life under the theme, It’s Time from August 4 to 6.

Groundwork on the festival that will feature a star-studded line-up of performers, competitions, exhibitions and symposiums, among other activities is going according to script.

As part of the activities, the organisers have for the first time also added Miss Yocaf 2022 whose queen would represent the local youths at various global stages and forums.

“Yocaf was created to be the most successful performing arts movements on the African continent by exposing and nurturing a crop of world class African talent,” said Simbarashe Chikukwa one of the festival co-ordinators.

“These past few years have been difficult for everyone and it is without a doubt, very crucial to bring this initiative (Yocaf) back as the void left is unbearable.”

Chikukwa said the festival seeks to identify, develop and nature youth talent so that they understand that the arts can be a rewarding alternative career path.

“Yocaf over the years has provided an array of opportunities that have enabled youths to build their competencies and become engaged as partners in their own development as well as the development of their communities,” he said.

“This year’s festival will see high schools, universities and colleges compete in theatre. Competitions are also lined up for individuals and groups for different categories including dance, singing and instrumentalists, among others.”

Chikukwa said the festival theme encourages youths to take charge of their own destiny.

“It is time the ideas, dreams and beliefs of today’s youths form the foundation of tomorrow’s communities in our country. Our festival theme is dedicated to helping young people find and develop a creative voice that is uniquely their own,” he said.

“It is time to shine, it is time to follow your destiny, it is time to embrace your gifts, it is time to stand up and rise. Entries are still open for different categories and age groups and can be made online or on email yocaf11@gmail.com.

Yocaf has also been incorporating grooming processes whereby performers learn ways to bridge the gap between personal branding and entrepreneurial thinking and skills.

“Yocaf does not view talent merely as a source of entertainment, but rather capitalises on its capacity to act as a vehicle for self-development, nation building, arts education and the facilitation of social cohesion right from the ground up to building skills of an art entrepreneur.

“This process includes training and various interventions. Performers learn how to articulate their craft and mobilise funding to take them out of their shell and build their business skills,” he explained, further noting that Yocaf has become a beacon for young people’s creative expression and consistent artistic platform.

“The festival’s strategic posture is also focusing on training and educational elements. This approach ensures that once the talent is selected, appropriate coaching and mentoring is also offered to prepare them for a brighter future,” he added.

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