My Alex 15 ready for opportunity to learn and share

The My Alex 15 (minus two not present for the group photo).The My Alex 15 - minus two not present for the group photo - at an introductory briefing session. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)

The 15 selected participants in the #MyAlex - Youth Perceptions of Place project are gearing up for a month of intense workshopping and Facebooking that will culminate in an exhibition opening on Youth Day, 16 June.

Facilitator Mariapaola McGurkFacilitator Mariapaola McGurk briefs the participants at the Alexsan Kopano Library in Alexandra. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)The 15 participants in the #MyAlex - Youth Perceptions of Place project were announced on Thursday, 21 April at the Alexsan Kopano Library in Alexandra, where the 15 chosen youngsters met for an introductory briefing.

#MyAlex - Youth Perceptions of Place is an exciting initiative by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) to engage with youth aged 18-25 on their experiences of Alexandra and their views on the township's future potential.

The 15 participants were selected from 42 youngsters who auditioned at an Open Day on 10 April, using a range of amazing skills - from BMX'ing to drumming, playwriting, poetry, rap, marimba and dance - to offer their unique take on the township they call home.

The adjudicators on the day were four creative entrepreneurs who will be facilitating workshops with the My Alex 15, aimed at giving them creative tools for identifying and expressing their own, their peers' and their families' perceptions of Alexandra.

Workshops to culminate in My Alex exhibition

My Alex participant Lucky MangenaMy Alex participant Lucky Mangena is hoping to gain the skills and confidence to start inspiring others, children in the particular, to start improving their own lives and the lives of others in their community. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)The workshops will run through May and will include outings to the Bag Factory, the Assemblage, the Market Theatre, Market Photo Workshop and Artists Proof Studio in the Newtown Cultural Precinct.

The participants will also receive AutoDesk 360 Fusion training at the Diepsloot Arts and Culture Precinct.

The process will culminate in the #MyAlex - Youth Perceptions of Place exhibition, which will open in Alexandra on Youth Day, 16 June, accompanied by the publication of a booklet tracing the participants' My Alex journey.

From 7 May, the 15 youngsters will start running their own My Alex Facebook page, where they will record and reflect on their learning process and start sharing their images, photos and ideas on Alex.

The 15 participants are: Boitumelo Moboa, Thabiso Tuko, Msuli Mhlongo, Ikaheng Nethonzhe, Thuso Letsoald, Mojalefa Lithabe, Phindile Dlomo, Lucky Mangena, Themba Hadebe, Zamahluba Nkosi, Sello Makgotho, Gian Mboweni, Kamogelo Mogashoo, Richard Shitaki, and Tsheto Padi.

'I come from a beautiful community'

My Alex participant Ikaheng NethonzheFor My Alex participant Ikaheng Nethonzhe, Alexandra is as full of diversity and community spirit as any township in the country. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)For Lucky Mangena, the My Alex project represents an exciting opportunity. "I come from a beautiful community that is rich with history and heritage. I hope I can use this project to show the children of Alex the importance of education."

Mangena was speaking at the introductory briefing, where the participants each introduced themselves and were given material and equipment to start recording their My Alex journey with.

Mangena is passionate about writing, and hopes the project will give him the skills and confidence to make a positive impact by changing children's perceptions and "instilling wisdom, knowledge and understanding so that they can raise the standards of their community and the country too".

For Ikaheng Nethonzhe, My Alex comes at an ideal time, as she is in the final year of her copywriting studies. "I hope I get the opportunity to learn and network as much as possible during this project, allowing me to uplift myself and my community."

Ikaheng believes the negative perception of Alex that prevails in the media needs to change. For her, Alex is as full of diversity and community spirit as any township in the country.

"The sanitation problem and the cleanliness of the streets is one of the biggest ongoing issues in Alex," says Nethonzhe. "I hope that through the My Alex project we can make a difference about that."