Enriching children’s lives through Africa’s heritage and the protection of our environment

The Puku Afri-kids Festival took place on Saturday 26 November at the SGI-South Africa Community Centre in Parkwood, Johannesburg. The Puku Afri-kids Festival is designed to appeal to children, teenagers, parents and grandparents, caregivers and educators, writers and cultural activists through a combination of live performance, conversation, exhibition and book launches throughout the day.

As the festive season approaches, parents, grandparents and family members dip deep into their pockets to buy presents for their loved ones. There is no research that we know of that gives an idea of what South Africans spend on toys, books and games for their children but we have no doubt that the amounts are substantial. Our preliminary observation is that we have a retail sector that does not stock children’s toys and entertainment content that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. Our shops are filled with imported toys that reflect little of Africa’s heritage.

In our work with communities around the country, Puku has identified and networked with numerous organisations and individuals producing excellent Afrocentric, multilingual products and content that entertains, educates and affirms children. Puku is committed to the creation of dynamic, interactive links between those involved in the creation and production of children’s content in all languages and the consumers of such content.

The creators and producers include oral storytellers, writers, illustrators, translators, publishers. The consumers include parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, librarians and most importantly, the children themselves. It is with this end in mind that Puku organised Puku Afri-kids.

The Festival is platform for producers of content for children to showcase their products. The festival is also a fun-filled event designed to entertain children, their parents and caregivers through live storytelling and games. The literary component of the festival features book launches and author conversations. The festival also features workshops for parents, grandparents, teachers, caregivers to explore burning questions such as do we raise our children to be creators rather than just consumers? How do the toys and books that we choose influence this process? Where do we find the books and toys that reflect our heritage? How do we cater for all our children, including those with special needs.

The Puku Afri-kids Festival has a strong environmental focus in keeping with its own philosophical outlook and that of its headline sponsor, REDISA (Recycling and Development Initiative of South Africa). REDISA is committed to promoting environmental education for children in all languages and has distributed thousands of books to children around the country in South Africa’s major languages.