Young artist accepted into prestige fellowship

Multi-award winning artist, Bongani Njalo, will be jetting off to the US soon to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship. PHOTO: CHARMAINE NONCEDO

An employee of the University of the Free State, who has featured in South Africa’s Top 200 Young Achievers of the Mail & Guardian last year, has been accepted into the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) in the United States of America.

Emerging leader in the arts, Bongani Njalo, says he is ecstatic about this opportunity as it will expose him to new local and global pathways.

Itching with anticipation, the artist says that he has already begun to exchange ideas with other academics in a WhatsApp group created for the young leaders by the American Embassy. He has already begun initiating project ventures as well as expanding his network.

Among other things, each MWF fellow takes part in a six-week Academic and Leadership Programme at a US college or university in one of three tracks: business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, or public management.

Njalo says he chose the civic leadership route, which will focus on strategy and organizational planning as well as community relations and outreach programmes.

“I chose to apply for this track because I understand that art is often regarded as an industry for the elite and is misunderstood by the greater community. But I want to present the work we do to communities as an educational and socially engaging tool to get people talking about their issues in a creative manner and to solve problems in society creatively,” he adds.

Some of the long-term plans this MWF beneficiary has, includes opening a sculpture park in South Africa with the works of African artists.

As he works on learning French, he intends to work hard on building valuable contacts so that one day soon, he will have both the linguistic skills and connections to penetrate the greater African market.

The programme will commence on 16 June for a period of six weeks and he will return to the City of Roses in early August. For the duration of the fellowship, Njalo will be based at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Currently, Njalo coordinates the Programme for Innovation and Development at UFS, which is an arts development programme focusing on how technology, interdisciplinary and experimental arts, can connect with and impact on communities. – Pulane Choane