Works of art can inspire and uplift you, challenge and provoke you, introduce you to a different world, and perhaps reset your thinking. Soon, an organisation that works with underprivileged schools will discover whether art can also help troubled teenagers to become more ethical leaders.
It sounds like a big ask, but Columba Leadership is opening a residential centre at Nirox Sculpture Park in the Cradle of Humankind to host courses designed to help youngsters unlock their full potential. The natural beauty of the surroundings, the man-made sculptures and the opportunity to be inspired by the vision and creativity of the artists will allow the youngsters to picture a different future for themselves.
The organisation works by equipping grade nine learners with the skills and imagination to find innovative solutions to problems in their own lives and in their communities. It focuses on no-fee schools in under-served communities and selects a diverse group to participate, including at-risk learners and under-performers. A week-long residential course is the first vital step, inspiring them to recognise their potential, gain self-esteem and learn the skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and ethical leadership.
‘Their aim is to take people from disadvantaged backgrounds and transform their view of their own inner potential and their own prospects in life, and to convey that to their communities,’ says Benji Liebmann, director of the Nirox Foundation. ‘It’s not about creating the next Cyril Ramaphosa or the next business leader. It’s about taking people who have demonstrated qualities of leadership in their disadvantaged environments and recalibrating their values and hopes and their expectations in life.’
That involves instilling qualities like hope and creativity, because the people who change the world are the creative thinkers and doers, not accountants and lawyers, says Liebmann. ‘Art and artists and the practices around that are part of the creative syndrome. They don’t think in channels. They think creatively, and it’s useful for people who are going to change their communities to not think that the world is the way it’s given to you. You can make the world what it should be, not what it is, and that way of seeing things is very typical of artists. It’s not typical of lawyers and accountants.’
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