In commemorating the Disability Rights Awareness Month, Valhalla Arts partnered with South32 Hillside Aluminium to stage the Disability Economic Empowerment Programme (DEEP)Expo in Richards Bay on 25 November 2021.
The DEEP Expo is an annual one day disability exhibition that aims at bringing educational, infrastructural and economic empowerment resources closer to people with disabilities in and around KwaZulu-Natal as well as representing a platform to public sector institutions to communicate their community outreach programmes and an avenue where the private sector can exhibit and publicise its corporate social investment (CSI) programmes.
“We started this programme in 2009 to encourage the involvement of people with disabilities in ensuring for themselves that their needs are identified, prioritised and met in the design, implementation and evaluation of government, private sector and community development programmes and policies crafted and rolled-out for their betterment,” said Musa E. Zulu, the creative director of Valhalla Arts.
This year’s theme ‘I AM ART’ was designed to showcase the disabled sector’s arts and literature, together with providing a platform to organisations that support artistic talents, access to opportunities and empowerment of abilities of persons with disabilities.
A total of 30 authors from various backgrounds participated in the event, with 10 of them launching their books and making presentations at the expo. Authors and artists with disabilities feature as a majority in this year’s edition.
Vice President of President at Hillside Aluminium (South32), Calvin Mkhabela, said they were thrilled to partner with Valhalla Arts. “We at Hillside are committed to promoting and doing whatever it takes to achieve an all-inclusive society. As an organisation we have ensured that each year, there is a set of youth that are provided with an opportunity to be trained while also gaining work experience. It is most rewarding to see how the group grows from week to week and by the end of the programme they have acquired skills, experience and a definite boost of self-confidence and also forged friendships.”
One of the authors, Nenio Mbazima commented, “I never imagined that there are so many authors with disabilities out there. It is difficult for persons with disabilities to have our written works in bookshops. This expo presents an opportunity for publicity and sales.”
Mbazima’s book, Strong Wind is an autobiography of the writer sharing with readers his journey from birth and turning deaf at the age of 10 years after suffering from meningitis to his adulthood living as a deaf person.
Following strict Covid-19 protocols, attendance at the event was limited. Exhibitors and attendees included Tape Aids for the Blind and other disability organisations, select corporations from Richards Bay, select students from UniZul and Mangosuthu University of Technology disability units and select government departments.