“IKAMVAYOUTH is like a home, a place where I go whenever I need help with anything. It gave me excellent opportunities to perform with well-known artists,” said Khayelitsha rapper Snarks Ou.

IkamvaYouth is a dynamic volunteer youth NGO established in 2003 that helps disadvantaged young people in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. 

“The idea is that the youth can work towards pulling themselves out of poverty and into university and employment through peer-to-peer learning and support” said volunteer Joy Olivier. 

The programme boasts a matric pass rate of 87-100 percent since 2005, with more than 70 percent of pupils accessing tertiary education over the past three years. Their success has led to the model’s replication in five townships in three provinces, and numerous accolades include the Mail & Guardian / Southern Africa Trust Drivers of change award last year. 

But on Freedom Day the IkamvaYouth Centre was petrol-bombed and destroyed. Thobela Bixa, an IkamvaYouth board member and an ex-pupil of the organisation, who is doing his MA in chemistry at UCT said: “We are trying to free people from poverty and yet on Freedom Day our office was burnt. This means that people do not understand what Freedom Day stands for, and they do not understand that we’re trying to balance disparities and redress injustice.”

Joy said all their computers had melted, and all equipment, records and resources were reduced to ashes. Digital cameras for their photography project were destroyed, as were new smartphones they were using for a UCT/Nokia project to make documentaries. 

“All the paintings by our creative learners in a project with Alex Krentz were burnt,” said Joy. “And we’re going to have to somehow replace our digicams, film equipment, computers, art materials and so much more. Essentially everything has gone.”

Artists such as Snarks Ou have hugely benefitted from being a bolunteer on the creative arm of IkamvaYouth on the media, image and expression programmes. “It is such bad news and I appeal to readers to help us start again because there are many children here in Makhaza who still need to benefit from this important organisation.” Realising that their dreams “is now going to be inmpossible unless we revive IkamvaYouth”. 

“I need it, we need it, you ned it, because we are all in this together, wishing for a brighter future. IkamvaYouth gives hope to our community youth’s future.”

The rapper said IkamvaYouth was a place where people could go to any time of the day and work on their projects, rehearse and type their CVs. “It’s a place where no one pays to use the resources or for anyone’s help because we are all volunteers. It was a place that, importantly, kept children off the streets. I have been to Durban to perform my music because of this organisation. I have been doing big shows in Cape Town and that didn’t just happen because they liked me or something, but because I was dedicated and have been a learner with IkamvaYouth from the start,” said Snarks, who has written a song dedicated to IkamvaYouth.

“The song will be a bonus track on my album to be released later this year and will also be available as a free download on the IkamvaYouth website, he said. 

Snarks said he was influenced by the hood and dope rappers. Born in the Eastern Cape, he was raised by a single grandmother. It was here that his love for rap music developed and by the age of 12 he had penned his first lyrics on cardboard boxes. His first hit song, Iyelenqe, was produced by Pzho. He has since worked with Mashonisa from BackYard Records, a talented producer in Khayelitsha. He has opened for both Backyard Crew and Teargas and has performed in and around Cape Town in sessions, clubs and music events, sharing the stage with rappers including Driemanskap, Rattex and Backyard Crew. He has also performed with DJ Fletcher, Digital Analog and members of Freshlyground. 

An unsigned artist, Snarks is now looking to take his career to the next level, “but without the back-up of IkamvaYouth, or being signed up, this feels impossible”. 

The rapper will do free mix tapes and will post music to his Facebook page. “Make sure you download that free music. And when my album comes out make sure you buy it! Help me reach my dream!”

Suzy Bell is a writer, poet and columnist runs Red Eye Creative where she and a small team create and curate contemporary cultural projects celebrating Africa in Cape Town.

* IkamvaYouth is urgently calling for donations of digital cameras, film equipment, computers, office furniture or monetary donations to help fund the rebuilding. See www.ikamvayouth.org or call Winile Mabhoko at 0798854372, or email winile@ikamvayouth.org.