Of Soul and Joy is a lasting social and artistic initiative undertaken in 2012 by Rubis Mécénat and Easigas (Rubis Group’s South African subsidiary) in Thokoza, a township in the southeast of Johannesburg in South Africa in the East Rand. Its goal is to develop artistic skills in the field of photography amongst the township’s vulnerable youth by providing an understanding of photography as a means of expression, in order to open up new personal and professional horizons. Weekly workshops are led by renowned photographers. It also fosters encounters with art professionals and the opportunity to participate in art related events both in Africa and abroad.

Each year the most promising students are awarded a scholarship to pursue their studies in photography in a university of their choice, such as the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg.

The project is led by Jabulani Dhlamini, South-African photographer represented by the Goodman Gallery and Of Soul and Joy Project Manager since 2015.

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Within the context of its ongoing support of the creation of contemporary art, Rubis Mécénat sought to develop lasting artistic and social initiatives with the Group’s subsidiaries as a way of getting involved in the local communities and, in addition to its economic role, positioning itself as a social and cultural player within the country.

Rubis Mécénat’s first socio-cultural project, Of Soul and Joy, was established in 2012 in the South African township Thokoza, which is close to the headquarters of Rubis’ South African subsidiary Easigas. The programme was a way of addressing the lack of community initiatives in the township. The country’s history along with the major role played by photography during apartheid and after inspired Rubis Mécénat to offer photography as a tool for emancipation.

At the beginning of the 90s, Thokoza faced violent clashes between the two main political parties, the Ithaka Freedom Party (the IFP, with a Zulu majority) and the African National Congress (the ANC, Nelson Mandela’s party). These upheavals were immortalised by the Bang Bang Club on the eve of the announcement of a new South Africa, full of great change. Today, it is the turn of the new generation, the “Born Free”, born after 1994 at the same time as democracy, to bear witness to the deep changes occurring in their country and to its quest for identity. Rubis Mécénat chose to anchor its first creative platform in the very heart of Thokoza as a way of shedding light on the township’s youth.

Rubis Mécénat’s involvement has created lasting links of solidarity and trust with
the community. By getting very close to those who are the furthest away from contemporary art the fund reaffirms its staunch belief in art’s societal and educational values. Not only the students, but also the community as a whole is invited to participate in a constructive dialogue articulated around the visual arts.

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