Barefeet Youth Arts Festival

The first Barefeet Youth Arts Festival took place in Lusaka, Zambia in 2006, and over the years it has been through some significant transformations in scale, approach, programming and themes, but the focus has always remained the same - to put the spotlight on vulnerable children as key partners in both human and arts development. This is THEIR platform to have THEIR voices heard and share THEIR ideas with peers, the public and key figures in Government, development and the arts. We have endeavored to seek the best ways to use arts as a tool for critical life skills ad creativity training, with a guiding philosophy of transforming the perception of children, from seeing themselves as helpless victims of unfortunate circumstances in which they find themselves, to that of worthy individuals who are co=drivers of change in their communities. The Barefeet Youth Arts Festival is a time for the youth of Zambia to shine!

In 2006 we called it simply ‘The Barefeet’, in 2007 ‘Barefeet Jump’ in which we emphasized the metaphor and energy of the word jump to encourage the children to do everything possible to make that leap forward in their lives. In 2009 ‘Barefeet Shine’, was about the children being out there with their work and speaking out on matters that are important to them. In 2010 the focus was on health and the environment as captured in the theme ‘Me and My world’, 2011 was about artistic excellence and international collaboration and finally 2012 was about ‘Barefeet Jungle’!

The annual Barefeet Youth Arts Festival is the culmination of our intervention workshops, bringing youth from across the country together with local, national and international artists for a colorful, vibrant and exciting two week celebration of theater, art, music, dance, film, debate, carnival, interactive workshops and more. For the last 3 years the theme has focused on Climate change and related environmental issues, working in collaboration with UNICEF and the Zambian Children’s Climate Change Conference (ZCCC). Costumes and carnival sculptures are made by children from found and reused materials, and there is a huge carnival procession through the streets of Lusaka – an opportunity for to remind the public that they are here and have a lot to say!


Festival Program

The festival program varies each year, however there are a few key events that happen every year including;

Carnival Procession – Over 1,500 children and young people from across the country gather together to walk, jump, sing, drum, and dance and shout their way through the streets of Lusaka in a colorful and vibrant procession! Dressed in costumes they have made from found and reused materials it is a sight to behold. Passers--‐by stop and watch in amazement at the energy positivity of the young people. The public are encouraged to join in and follow the procession to a final destination where there is live music, drumming, dancing and prize giving to those involved.

Children’s Performances – Every year all the children and young people who have been involved in the Barefeet workshops have the opportunity to perform their final piece in front of over 1,000 of their peers, as well as figureheads from Government and the arts. The performances are judged and the winning groups receive prizes.

Any other events that happen every year?

Each year there are many other performances and arts events happening throughout the festival week, which are open to the young people we work with and/or the public. To date these have included; the Zambian premiere of ‘Mwansa The Great’, the most successful Zambian film in history; ‘Bring it on Zambia’ a youth driven program organized by Barefeet graduates working through dance with young people in the communities; site specific theatre such as the Children’s Council’s ‘Wangari and the Seven wonders’; an interactive ‘Eco-world’; performances in the communities such as ‘Here comes a cockroach’; fashion shows with costumes made from reused materials; ‘Dancing with the Stars’ a competition between Zambian celebrities and businesses; What else???????


International Collaborations

A key part of the festival is the creative collaboration with international artists who perform and run workshops. International artists are invited each year to encourage cultural and artistic exchanges between the artist practitioners, and with the young people. All involved are encouraged to exchange information, enhance their skills, and develop informal networks and cooperation. The international artists are given a platform within Zambia to showcase their work, and play a vital role in inspiring and igniting the creative fires of Zambia’s youth, and vice versa. Barefeet believes networks and creative partnerships have blossomed from the Barefeet festival.