When millions of people all over the world tune into the television broadcast for the Final Draw of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ later this week, they will be exposed to some of Africa's most celebrated musicians and artists.
Among those who will be performing at the event, hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, are South African singer songwriters Johnny Clegg and Tsepo Tshola of Sankomota fame, Benin born singer Angelique Kidjo, members of the Soweto Gospel choir, the Umoja dance group as well as South African poet Lebogang Mashile.
This is a moment to show the diversity and cultural richness of Africa
“When we are playing football we sing. It is a force of nature. We sing as we breathe. This is a moment to show the diversity and cultural richness of Africa. It is going to be watched by a lot of people who don’t perceive Africa and South Africa the same way we do and it will help to change those perceptions,” said Kidjo.
According to Tshola the Final Draw will be a celebration of both the African continent and the beautiful game of football.
“This is the very first time that the World Cup comes to South Africa and Africa at large and the world will now get to see, experience and celebrate the excellence, the beauty and the expertise of Africa. To the South African people I would like to say lets welcome the world. Let’s show them peace and let’s show love. Let’s celebrate and show them how wonderful we are.”
For poet Mashile, her performance is about a return to Africa. “It speaks about the World Cup being held in South Africa and about the world returning to where it all began - the original home, to the first place. It speaks about things going full circle.”
While the performances all highlight the importance of Africa's first World Cup, none of them have a more tangible example of the significance of it coming here than the performance of the Umoja dance group.
For many of the young dancers this will be the first time they perform for such a large international audience, with a live audience of 3000 and a worldwide television audience of millions.“We are going to showcase the beauty of Africa through our costume, our dance and how we move our bodies and things that other people cannot do,” said Umoja founder Thembi Nyandeni.
“My job is to look after them and change their lives, the only thing I can do is put them on the stage and make them believe in themselves. Umoja is a second home for them, some of them are now even thinking of buying homes for their parents,” exclaimed Nyandeni.
As one of South Africa’s greatest musical exports, Clegg said it was important that South Africans embraced the changes happening in the country and the trust which FIFA had shown in choosing the country as the first African country to host the World Cup.
“I think the everyday guy on the street needs to know that he is in the middle of a country that is transforming itself. With that change, like any other, there is hesitancy because you don’t know where that change is taking you. I think South Africans need to know that in terms of the big picture we are getting it right. FIFA have looked at this country and gone – you know this is worth it. FIFA has validated the transformation which has happened here.”
For Clegg, Friday night’s show will be a message to the World that Africa is more than capable of hosting such major events.
“It is a welcoming home to all the people of the planet to the place that they first came from. This is a world class production and I think because of it, perceptions of South Africa will be revised and people will be able to understand that we are part of the global culture, that we are a world class African country.”