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Documenting Grahamstown's unheard voices

Date Released: Thu, 4 September 2014 09:22 +0200

Grahamstown is a city known for its churches, its arts festival, its student
life, and even its donkeys, but what about its own people?

Twenty-five Rhodes University students paired up with 25 youngsters in a
participatory journalism project that aims to capture the everyday voices of
Grahamstown. Geared towards documenting and portraying the stories of the
Grahamstown youth, 25Voices is a collaboration between the third year TV
journalism students and the Upstart Youth Development Project.

The film screening at the Barratt Lecture Theatre Wednesday 3 September
showcased the 25 short documentaries produced by the Upstart and Rhodes

Ranging from issues of housing and education in the locations around
Grahamstown to traditional Xhosa culture and identity, the documentaries
give the viewers an opportunity to view life outside the student and
suburban bubble.

While the project has been taking place for a number of years now, recently
appointed Rhodes University TV journalism lecturer Leila Dougan is trying to
take the unheard stories of Grahamstown's youth to a broader public.

"Grahamstown has this reputation as a student town, but there's so much more
beyond just the university and the surrounding areas," said Dougan.

"There are stories that need to be heard and these documentaries aim to
capture these stories and present them to a larger audience as snap shots or
a sort of microcosm of life here." Upstarters worked with Rhodes journalism
students from the conception to the production of these documentaries
showing the daily struggles and triumphs of the often unheard youth.

Some of these stories were humorous and heart-warming and spoke of a young
boy's dream to become an astronaut or a girl's love for her dogs, while
others were more serious, highlighting the problems of alcohol abuse, sexual
violence, gender identity and the high drop out rate in high schools.

The Upstart pupils came from a number of high schools, including Mary
Waters, Archie Mbolekwa and C.M Vellem, each with a unique story to tell.
Upstart director Belinda Shange said that the partnership is a great way to
bridge the socio-economic gap while drawing attention to it at the same

"The [Upstart] students have the stories and the experiences and the Rhodes
students have the technical ability and resources to convey them in
documentary form to a large number of people," Shange said.

"It's great that these historically disadvantaged voices are being heard and
that they aren't all negative, too. Some of them are very uplifting

Dougan said that besides being available online, the documentaries will be
given in DVD format to all of the Upstarter and their families, as well as
to the various schools to be used in their Life Orientation lessons and
other relevant subjects.

Article by: Dave Mann

Article Source: Grocotts Mail

Source:GROCOTTS Mail