The National Eisteddfod of South Africa (NESA) is a registered Non Profit Company that kindles youth development through participation in the performing arts. In campaigning for the importance of the arts in education the NESA has since 1997 emphasized the importance of participation in the arts in the development of human potential and building bridges between communities. Since 1997, close to 400,000 youths were involved in the various activities of the NESA.
The NESA has established and developed the traditional eisteddfod into a no limitations programme that targets the youth in various communities, providing them with opportunities to participate, grow, gain experience and showcase their talents. This programme comprises of various interlinked projects, including Opportunities to perform at an annual Eisteddfod where the youth can participate and develop in the various arts disciplines. Support to rural and township schools in particular, where teachers do not always have the necessary specialized skills to support the development of learners in the arts. Opportunities to showcase their talent at the NEA Young Performer Showcase events (concerts) in various regions where top achievers, as identified during the annual Eisteddfod, can perform. The National Eisteddfod Academy Young Performer Awards Competition that provides a higher level prestigious platform for top achievers in all regions to participate and compete.
By combining the magic of the arts and this basic need, the NESA has developed the eisteddfod concept over the past 16 years into a powerful tool that supports the personal growth of participants. The NESA program includes Music (classical and contemporary), Dance, Drama and Visual Arts, and also provides for learners with different abilities (e.g. the Deaf and Hard of hearing, learning disabled, blind and partially sighted, physically and mentally handicapped).
With the support of funding received from the NLDTF, NAC, and others, many learners from underprivileged communities were afforded opportunities to grow and participate in this process. As a result of these activities the participation of learners from these communities has increased significantly over recent years (e.g. 30% increase in 2012), bringing peoples from different communities together, building bridges between communities and contributing towards Nation building.
In simple terms an eisteddfod can be described as a number of music, dance, or drama “shows” for which anyone may enroll and where individual participants or groups are provided with feedback on their performances by experienced adjudicators in the relevant disciplines. The “rating” of the candidate is then expressed in different “levels” of awards (diploma, gold, silver, bronze, etc.), which indicates the candidate’s progress in terms of his own knowledge, skills and understanding relevant to the particular genre.
It is not only the very talented performer that would derive value from this program. Even the so-called “mediocre” or “untalented” performer who is often not exposed to opportunities of this nature, will in particular benefit from participating in this process due to the impact of arts activities on personal development and growth. An important consideration in any project that eventually seeks to develop interest in the arts, is that this process should start at a young age. Someone that grew up without any interaction or exposure to this is very unlikely to value and appreciate arts in adulthood.
With this in mind, this eisteddfod process operates on two levels: For the talented learner (who might follow a career in the arts) it provides an opportunity for expression and growth in a selected art form. For the majority of participants (who might not pursue a career in the arts), the eisteddfod process itself builds self-confidence, assertiveness and the courage to take a stand in this world.
The annual Eisteddfod, Young Performers Showcase and NEA Young Performer Awards Competition provide platforms which otherwise would be absent in most communities. These events bring culture to the doorsteps in various communities where they provide opportunities for young performers in the various art forms to participate, grow, gain experience and showcase their talents.
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