Youth express their perceptions at My Alex Open Day

Harry Kgoahla recites the poem he wrote for the My Alex Open DayHarry Kgoahla recites the poem he wrote for the My Alex Open Day. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)

Alex youth gave their take on their township in an exciting way at the My Alex Open Day, a JDA and City of Joburg event aimed at getting the youth involved in producing a booklet and exhibition on youth perceptions of Alexandra.

Toryn Norris delivers her pitch'Being a coloured girl growing up in Alexandra, I have never ever felt like I was excluded from the community' - Toryn Norris. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)Alexandra youth were given the chance to present their perceptions of their township and community in an exciting and enjoyable way at the My Alex Open Day at the San Kopano Stadium in Alexandra on Sunday, 10 April.

The event, organised by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and the City of Joburg, was aimed at stimulating excitement, encouraging engagement and opening the way for Alex youth to grow their skills.

Young people between the ages of 18 to 25 years were invited to use the performance art medium of their choice to present a two-minute take on their experience of Alexandra to a panel of four judges.

The judging criteria focused primarily on each participant's passion and enthusiasm for learning more about Alex as well as about the creative industry and its potential, rather than on his or her expertise as a performer.

#MyAlex Project to develop booklet, exhibition

The judges respondThe judges respond to one of the My Alex Open Day pitches. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)The judges will select 15 participants to join a team of entrepreneurs in a month-long training course, known as the #MyAlex Project, during which they will help to develop a booklet and an exhibition that showcases young people's perception of Alexandra.

During their training, participants will learn a variety of skills in graphic design, social media, performance, photography and virtual reality design. Their work will then feature in the booklet and exhibition, which will take place in Alexandra to mark national Youth Month in June.

Event organiser Mariapaola McGurk said the event was designed to provide a creative platform for the youth to express themselves in their own way rather than "the way organisers and reporters would like", thus enabling them to give their best expression of themselves and their experiences.

McGurk said it was the first project of its kind to happen in Alexandra, adding: "I think it will be interesting to see how the final booklet and exhibition will look, because it will be guided by the 15 youths."

The 15 chosen participants from Sunday's event will be announced on Facebook at the end of April.

'My dream for Alex is to see its people progress in life'

Participants chose their own performance mediumParticipants chose the performance medium they felt they could best express themselves through. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)For Harry Kgoahla, a youngster who has been living in Alexandra for the past five years, pitching at the My Alex Open Day was a nerve-wracking but fun experience.

"I thought I wouldn't make it to the Open Day because I have exams coming, but I am so glad I did," Kgoahla said. "I felt a bit underprepared, but I am hoping for the best.

"My dream for Alex is to see its people progress in life. I recited my poem, about my fear about Alex not improving, to the judges."

Kgoahla said he wrote the poem because of the high unemployment in the community. "The high unemployment is there for everyone to see because when you walk through Alex on any given day midweek, you see a high number of community members walking the streets because so many of them don't have jobs.

"I have throughout my life wanted change for Alex," Kgoahla said. "I've always encouraged my fellow community members in the ways that I could. There is so much to see in Alex, and it is a home to many talented individuals."

'I wouldn't swap growing up in Alex for anywhere else'

vEvent organiser Mariapaola McGurk (centre) with some of the participants. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)Toryn Norris, for her part, took the Open Day opportunity to declare in a heartfelt poem how proud she was of having being born and raised in Alex.

"I had so much fun during this Open Day," Norris said. "I was nervous about my pitch to the judges, but I must say they were very warm and welcoming.

"During my pitch I recited a poem about how proud I am to be a part of this community. Growing up in Alexandra is one of the best experiences a person could go through. If I could be given the opportunity to have been raised elsewhere I would not take it, because there is no place that has ubuntu like it," she said.

"Being a coloured girl growing up in Alexandra, I have never ever felt like I was excluded from the community," Norris added. "I've learnt, from the different cultures that live in Alexandra, how to speak Sepedi, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho and I still know English and Afrikaans, which is my home language.

"I think that is something we should celebrate."