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Fitness, trade and political recognition headline Essence Festival Weekend
President Jacob Zuma visited and did a walk about at Durban Business Fair exhibition at the Essence Festival Durban. He handed over an ESSENCE Festival recognition certificate with a tribute to traditional music group, Izingane Zoma. He commended them for always upholding the Zulu heritage, expressing their heart felt views through their music, no matter how hard it is and for flying the Durban flag high. 

Sunday, 01 October 2017, was the last day of the 6-day festival that combined, a business conference and fair, motivational sessions by leading figures in business, arts and social activism in a series of events that included a book and arts fair, fashion show for emerging designers and exhibition for SMME’s seeking global market opportunities. Exhibitors had the opportunity to finalise their sales to local and international delegates, while spiritual revelers were uplifted by global faith leader and Time Magazine’s Preacher of The Year for 2016, Bishop TD Jakes accompanied by the MTN Joyous Celebration. 

The Essence Food Market, presented huge economic benefits for local small medium food enterprises and was attended by over 4 000 people a day. The food market comprised of art and craft shopping stalls, local eateries, Shisanyama experiences and a presentation by local emerging artists who wowed the visitors to the food market. It was the first time that the food market was part of Essence Festival and proved to be the spot that connected the business of Essence with the networking flair and a place to kick back and enjoy Durban culinary dishes. 

The Essence Carnival which debuted at this year’s festival was the most cultural exhibition that began with a city parade and was attended by over 7000 participants from art, cultural and musical groupings coming from Durban. The carnival presented a mosaic of cultural experiences that showcased the hidden gems of Durban. It is also the first time this features on the Essence program and the main feature was the participation from 18 Amakhosi from within EThekwini Region.

“Early indications point to a successful 2017 edition of the Essence Festival Durban. Judging by the caliber of international and local luminaries from diverse disciplines that attended and participated in the festival, the stature of the festival is growing, which augurs well for the profile of Durban as Africa’s premier destination for global conference, entertainment and sporting events”, said EThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede.

“An estimated total of 71 speakers were secured for participation in panel discussions and in delivering key note addresses during the different themed events. 16 are international, with 55 being local. Some of the notable speakers include; Vivian Reddy, Chairman Edison Power Group, who shared his success story encouraged SMMEs to participate in the property industry, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who delivered a key note address at the festival’s empowerment stage, highlighting the need for women to take a center stage role in driving radical economic transformation in South Africa”, says Gumede. 

Dr Judy Dlamini, who led discussion on gender equity based transformation, Sbu Shabalala CEO, Adapt IT, encouraged youth to take part in the ICT industry, Pastor Thomas Radebe, Pastor Bongi Gumbi Magudulela, Pastor Manono, Paul Nzimande were amongst key speakers who were part of the global Essence Festival Durban programme. Johanna Mukoki, called on young women to aggressively pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, Social activist Reverend Al Sharpton addressed the SMME Excellence awards presenting a link to economic development with social justice.

On Saturday morning, 30 September 2017, the Essence Durban Festival’s focus was on fitness and health at Durban South Beach, where thousands of people worked up a sweat in the company of online fitness star Sibahle Mpisane, Olympic silver medalist Luvuyo Manyonga, former Banyana Banyana captain and local football legend Amanda Dlamini and Supersport TV presenter and South African broadcasting titan Robert Marawa.

“Si-fit, si-right, siyajuluka, sipheth’ihealthy living! (we are fit, we are well, we sweat and live healthy),” chanted scores of seasoned and newly health and fitness fans to the instruction of some of the best fitness trainers has to offer taking place on stage. The City of Durban has taken on the initiative to promote health and fitness amongst its citizens. A necessary undertaking in a country where accessing information about health and fitness is too expensive for most. The high turnout this morning was a resounding statement that South Africans are ready and keen to become healthier. Health, however, goes beyond physical fitness – it’s also mental and social. This was accounted for just 500m east of the beach, where the Articulate Stage – accurately christened “a book and affair” - was taking place. 

Featuring veteran journalist and social commentator Fred Khumalo, young YouTube sensation Nwabisa Mda and Khaya Dlanga amongst other notable figures; a special guest appearance came in the form of literary sensation Philani Dladla, who is popularly known as “the Pavement Bookworm.” Dladla rose to fame in 2014 when he started giving book reviews in exchange for money as a homeless citizen on Johannesburg’s streets. Dladla shared the moving experience of his rise from an abusive home in Port Shepstone, Kwa-Zulu Natal, to Johannesburg where he fell into drug-addiction, and his rise from these adversities into an author and inspiring international star. He recounted these events in a discussion focused on his memoir, titled “The Pavement Bookworm, a True Story by Philani Dladla.”

“Most homeless people ask for money, but I’m an artist, so because I know that people work hard for their money, I offered them book reviews in exchange for whatever they could afford to give me,” Dladla shared. His words were met with nods of acknowledgement in the crowd. Inspired by the reflections from his book, many audience members shared their own accounts of overcoming adversity.

Visibly moved by Dladla’s obvious love for literature as the session progressed, the programme director phrased it best when he concluded their discussion with the following statement: “Philani’s book is a triumph because it offers us a portrait of South Africa from the eyes of a homeless person. One of the reasons the world is facing so many challenges of inequality is because we only look at things from our own experience. This book gives us rare insight into a viewpoint that we often ignore – that of our society’s most vulnerable citizens.” Rousing applause ensued as a calm assured Philani left the stage.

The applause at The Empowerment Stage was just as strong, reaching fever pitch when a delegation from the Essence New Orleans Festival shared cultural artefacts from Mardi Gras before giving tutorials to the young aspiring fashion models and entertainers in the room. 

This fun session was followed by a powerful panel of sporting giants, among them Robert Marawa, Amanda Dlamini and a rare appearance on a public platform by world 800m athletics champion and Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya. Semenya delivered a passionate talk during which she detailed the secrets to her success as an athletics champion. “Respect, belief and character are the only way to become a champion” she declared. “If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will, and this is what builds the character you need to overcome challenges.” Semenya recently won her third 800m World Championships gold in. Adding to her two Olympic winners’ medals. 

The Essence TechZone was alive with activity yet again, where William Price of Fogg Agency reminded attendees that technology has the potential to equalize society’s ills because it moves as quickly as the users require it to - based on their unique needs. Techzone is set to continue as the weekend progresses, with masterclasses in digital marketing from Facebook available for free to the public. The eye-popping SABC 3 Bollywood Experience had the audience clapping and singing along at the two colorful, vibrant choreography at the Essence Center Stage. The SABC3 Bollywood experience is set to continue on Sunday. 

Over 40 local artists selected from music organizations participated within the Essence Festival program and activities. The city ensured that a mix of upcoming and established artists participated in various stages. 

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