South Africa has a lot of social problems but it also has a wave of innovative people setting up grassroots social ventures to change things.
These projects and businesses are taking the energy generated by adventurous sports and fusing adrenaline with social good.
Take the group encouraging black youth to reclaim public space in their city through their weekly hiking sessions, or the self-explanatory Soweto Skate Society, or the people campaigning against the dangers of illegal car racing by running legitimate ‘drifting’ sessions where speed fiends can burn rubber safely.
Hiking with iDaki
Back in March 2016 art director Ntsika Daki started a weekly hike to help young black people get into shape and to challenge the spatial inequalities in his city of Cape Town.
“I’d love to see more young black people occupying spaces like Lion’s Head mountain," he says “It’s spaces like that where we’re treated like visitors in our own country. We should be physically evident in spaces like that.”
They hike twice a week, up Table Mountain and around Lion’s Head, and they’re now taking iDaki to Eastern Cape.
The group started after Daki’s friend, national street soccer champ Chris Njokwana, had been in town and had set himself a challenge of going up Lion’s Head 23 times in 23 days. Daki’s experiences on the mountain, with fellow hikers putting their phones away or making assumptions about what he was doing there, made him decide to get more black young people into Cape Town’s stunning natural spaces.
DJ Ready D is an iconic South African music figure, best known for his mastery behind the turntables and for bringing hip hop to the country. But he’s more than just a DJ.
Last year the award-winning turntablist last year founded the Greater Cape Ambassador Project. It’s a youth development programme dedicated to fighting gangsterism in Cape Town’s apartheid-generated township Mitchells Plain, by educating local youth about motorsport and road safety.
GCAP launched last summer at Killarney International race track, and Ready D organises regular drifting sessions to teach young people about the dangers of illegal street racing, while burning rubber in a controlled environment.
Using hip hop, film, fashion and car culture as mediums to share positive messages with the youth.
Skate Society Soweto
Sechaba Teefu is the co-founder of Skate Society Soweto, a collective dedicated to bringing the culture of skating to his hood.
“Skateboarding is seen as a white thing,” says Teefu. “By skating in Soweto, we’re contributing to building a scene here.”
Teefu was also one of the social high flyers selected for the first ever Amaphiko academy back in 2014.
Waves for Change
Founded by Tim Conibear in 2011, Waves for Change is a Cape Town-based social enterprise using surf to reach out to at-risk youth. The enterprise works with kids in the township, teaching them how to surf whilst also offering mentoring and counselling.
The enterprise is based in three Cape Town townships and they’ve won a slew of awards for their work, including an Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club
Soweto is home to many sports stars, most noticeably some of soccer’s biggest legends, but you wouldn’t naturally associate the township with canoeing. The Soweto Canoe and Recreation hope to shatter that very perception.
Founded in 2004, the organisation teaches young Sowetans how to canoe. They teach basic swimming and water safety and also have a food scheme and educational programme. Members of the club train every week in Soweto before racing on weekends.
The club regularly takes part in international and national canoeing competitions. This year, they clinched three spots in the top 20 of the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon race, the biggest canoeing event in Africa.