Wednesday, 20 September 2017
The Identity Project PDF Print E-mail

iMEDIATE is piloting an innovative programme to discover how children in KwaZulu-Natal see themselves and what shapes their identity in South Africa today.

Every generation grows up in a world that is different from the world their parents knew. However, the rapid and fundamental change that South Africa has undertaken in the lifetime of today’s young people creates all sorts of challenges of identity, self-image and belonging.

Children are bombarded by media images – some local, but predominantly American and European – that tell them how they should look, speak, sing, move and behave in order to belong, to be accepted and to be ‘cool’

It is often hard for children to assert their own identity, especially given the racial baggage of apartheid that stills weighs down South Africans. Many children still live in neighbourhoods that are characterised as Black, Indian, Coloured or White. At school, they find themselves labelled by educators who have to report to the authorities on the racial make-up of their classes. At home and work, stereotypes persist.


It is also difficult for parents, grandparents and other adults who are raising young people to relate to their concerns, their interests and their aspirations.

iMEDIATE works with young people to explore who they are, what makes them who they are and what influences who they will be. We encourage children to find out more about their roots, take pride in their heritage and shape that heritage.

The Identity Project is designed to allow children to select the lens through which they examine identity. It was piloted with the Jae Dance Academy in Wentworth, Durban, at the end of 2007. This group chose to explore identity through fashion as identity is closely tied to self-image and stereotypes of what young people in this 'Coloured' township are and should be. Coloured is an apartheid classification used to label and categorise people of mixed racial identity. No matter if you were of Tamil and Zulu, Irish and Xhosa, or German and Sotho descent, or any other combination, you were Coloured in the eyes of the state. Coloured people were forcibly removed to segregated residential areas. Since the end of apartheid, many people still use – in some cases, embrace – the term Coloured. In different communities, it comes with a whole set of generalisations, often negative stereotypes and expectations.

The Fashion and Identity Project works with children to express how they see themselves as South Africans from a ‘Coloured’ community – or as migrants to that community. It encourages and supports them to find out more about their ancestry and what it means to them.

So far the project has included creating family trees, workshops on identity, visits and outings, and designing dance wear that reflects the image and values these young people want to portray as individuals and as a dance group.

The long-term goal is to enhance the children’s self-image, help them explore their potential, develop skills, pursue their goals and create income-generation opportunities in their community.

There have been two exciting outcomes of the 18 months of the project. The group created its own clothing label, Lukka, and members of the group were invited to perform with singer Jae and participate in the Durban/MTN Fashion Week, to promote their dance and their designs. Read more about Lukka here.