His Royal Highness, Prince Africa Zulu of Onkweni, held a three-day festival in Qwaqwa to honour the people of the Free State late in December last year. According to Prince Zulu, the Onkweni Royal Cultural Festival International (ORCF) has been at the forefront of using traditional dance and the African culture as a rallying point for solidarity for the past nine years. He said the main purpose of the festival was to focus on traditional dance, cultural diplomacy and rural development.
The festival was attended by hundreds of traditional dance-loving people from across the province. During the festival, the rich and colourful cultural heritage of South Africa was on display as a spectacle of performances was there for everyone to enjoy.
The prince reiterated that the event also contributed immensely to nation building as people have begun to appreciate each other’s cultures and break down stereotypes. “This year the event was held out of KwaZulu-Natal at the University of the Free State’s Qwaqwa Campus and it involved all nine provinces of South Africa, showcasing their traditional dance routines for the first time,” he said.
Zulu told Voice the decision to relocate to the Free State after all these years was influenced by the fact that the province is a central cultural melting pot of South Africa and coupled with the blessings from the Free State Premier, Ace Magashule, and his government, the decision to move the festival from KwaZulu-Natal to the scenic and mountainous eastern Free State was very easy.
The prince regarded the event as an important example of social cohesion at grassroots. “The ORCF festival seeks to use culture and traditional dance to build bridges and understanding in our communities,” he said.
Prince Zulu is further looking into expanding the event to include indigenous food fairs and clothing fabrics, thus generating economic benefits that will improve rural livelihoods.
The 2016 ORCF has been hailed as the best due to the excitement, warm reception and support the festival received in the Free State.
According to the prince it has definitely generated enough excitement for them to build on for the next one as they are seeking to keep the festival in the Free State for the next couple of years. Going forward, the festival intends to be held twice a year. He said the mid-year festival will be for university students all over South Africa to not only showcase their traditional dances but also to engage in cultural diplomacy activities that break the socially created boundaries among our people.
Resident Lerato Moholo said she has not seen anything like that in her hometown for such a long time. Moholo, who sells handmade traditional beads, said she managed to sell all her work to the tourists and dancers. “I would like to thank the prince for bringing such a wonderful festival to my community as I managed to triple my profit,” she said.
Speaking on rural development, the prince stated that cultural tourism could also be a potential economic stimulator for marginalised rural communities with rich cultural heritage. “We are looking forward to hosting these festivals both locally and internationally in order to spread and highlight traditional dances and indigenous cultures as rallying points of social cohesion,” he concluded. – Matseko Ramotekoa