’Plain man becomes cultural ambassador

Robin van der Byl, 27, from Beacon Valley, a movie script writer, producer, director and cameraman is in Zambia.

A Beacon Valley youth is one of 14 cultural ambassadors from South Africa who is spending the next few days in Zambia in southern Africa representing Artscape Theatre Centre in a tripartite cultural exchange programme.

Robin van der Byl, 27, who is the founder and chairman of the Plain Media and Performing Arts Foundation, hopes to be enlarging the media and performing arts footprint in local communities and training individuals to become the best possible version of themselves.

The group left on Saturday July 14 and are due to return on Monday July 23. The programme includes Zambia’s “Barefeet Theatre,” and European partner Samba Resille, from France in the project titled “Cultural construction of youth and young construction of culture”.

Speaking to the Plainsman before his departure, Robin said he had applied to be part of the contingent, who would be visiting each of the partner countries by the end of next year.

He was also an actor, producer, director, writer, event planner, video editor, camera operator, and production manager at the Media and Performing Arts Foundation – the same roles he played in 2016 in Mitchell’s Plain -The Movie: Change starts in the heart, which took just more than eight months to complete.

For that movie, Robin and his family had dug deep in their pockets to the tell the story of their lives in Mitchell’s Plain.

With a diploma in business management and finance, Robin hopes to start up a company, which does low budget advertisements for small local businesses. “It is all about the community and getting their stories out there,” he said.

Robin said it was not about the money. “Your ideas, the vision that you get from God – God will finance it,” he said. “Not just with money but with resources and skills, which anybody can put on the table. It is about bringing people together and making it work,” he said.

Robin said he looked forward to learning from the other countries and hopefully to use some of the “tricks of the trade”, which he would like to try on his return.

Together the South African group will continue this combined initiative that commenced earlier this year at Artscape, using arts and culture as a conduit towards empowering young people to prepare themselves as adults and help them strengthen their social and professional skills.

Working with the Barefeet Theatre, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) project partners will use play, creativity, and empowerment to give vulnerable children in Zambia a chance at a better life.

The NGO was founded by former street children as a response to the plight of young people living on Zambian streets.

Through the power of performance, educational workshops, and more, they seek to develop vulnerable youth into physically healthy, cognitively, and socially competent young people. Through theatre, performance, psychosocial support, creativity, and self-expression Barefeet works to address the needs of these vulnerable children in 40 communities across the country and on the national stage at the annual Barefeet Youth Arts Festival.

Additionally, the children advocate for change for their fellow youth in the Barefeet Children Council, comprised of elected representatives from their partner children centres.

They also host an annual performance, which generates income to support their outreach programmes and workshops.

The overall objectives of the cultural exchange programme seek
to improve co-operative skills at international level and the quality of the socio-educational tools of all stakeholders; strengthen creative and innovative skills of all participants; and working on the internationalisation and the leadership of the partners to action their respective youth markets to take into account all the stakes linked to the cultural construction of youth and the young construction of culture.

The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and contributes to building a sustainable and inclusive society, due to its approach based on creative activities while it complements the general objectives of the renewed framework for the EU co-operation in the youth field, which aims to make a creative and innovative generation bloom.