PROJECT AMPLIFY: Artworks for Youth

Artworks for Youth believes in the transformative power of the arts. They offer free visual art instruction to under-served students in Port Elizabeth, in South Africa's Eastern Cape, and academic support in reading and writing. The program also works to place students in appropriate schools.

In most schools in the United States and South Africa, art education programs are the first to suffer from budget cuts. For several years, ArtWorks for Youth filled the gap by creating programs in seven schools and community-based organizations in three boroughs in New York City. Students took courses in photography, silk-screening, collage, painting and drawing, and book-binding after school.

In 2002, an ArtWorks for Youth middle school program in New York established a relationship with a school in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Through another non-profit organization, a cultural exchange took place between the American and South African schools. As a result of the exchange, ArtWorks for Youth shifted all programming to South Africa beginning in the spring of 2003.

The program's founder and director, John V. Lombardo, MSW, is a collage artist, book binder, and educator who is originally from Chicago. For this assignment, Lombardo gave the students prompts that elicited poetry, photography, sculpture and other visual art that speak to place, memory, and the complexity of one's origins.

Poems & Galleries

I am from an old hard bench
from a toy car
made from broken bricks

I am from speakers that
boom from taverns
from many taverns

I am from a small bush
at the back, where friends
make a home and smoke weed

I am from a murky “beach”
a hole in the ground
after the rain

by Athini Maconi

I was raised by
“Be home by 5:00.”
By “Oh, you’re going to church.”
By “Where are you? With Who?” and
“Doing what?”

I was raised by sadness
By romance
By laugh, cry, then come back
For more
By “Wherehope is a fragile thread,
love is a miracle.”

I was raised by
“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
By “I do not entertain fluff.”
By “Isifuba sam singana amayeza kagqirhaqha.”
Hugs so warm you cry.
By words so warm, they’re engraved in your heart.
By a Zukiswa kind of mother.

I was raised by
“It’s too loud.”
By “This is where I say something
and then you say something.”
By “You all deserve better.”
By “I do not know how you all dope with the
crap in your lives.”
By a John kind of father.

I was raised by
I can get through this too.
By I can’t give up.
No parents? I can live with that too.
By I will cry a river, build a bridge
and get over it.
By strength.

I was raised by
“Siya, we need to talk.”
“My fre-fre, I don’t know what to say.”
By “Ndiluphuma mna marn.”
By a Thuly kind of twin.

by Siyamthanda Hlangwana

Artist: Lihle Mbalisali

Artist: Kamva Mgqibelo

Artist: Kamva Mgqibelo

I am from an empty fridge and cupboards.
I am from those who know it all,
yet have nothing right.

I am from drunk taxi drivers
with no license.

by Samkelo Tetyana

I am from thunderstorm stomach grumblings,
from cars that cough black smoke.

I am from gravel roads that make steps loud,
from drunken noises and irritating sounds.

I am from crying babies
from squeaking doors
from grieving gardens.

I am from hard-to-open cupboards.
From rice dinners.
From wire fences.

I am from bad singing.
From hidden loves.
From smelly shoes.

I am gold made from sewage
From oozing sores to glistening platinum.
I am concrete to steel.
I am an ongoing fire in the rain.

by Sazi Ashton

I am from a dirty house
with bottles on the ground.
From a poor house where
people can’t afford
food or clothes.

I am from seven people
in one room, some on the floor.

I from dirty Kwamagxaki High,
with dirty toilets and lazy teachers.
Drug sellers and users.
Beating learners.
Cheating teachers.

I am from Veeplaas.
From Tstotsis and corruption.
From men with girls.
From Sugar Daddy’s.
From taverns and crime.

I am from a place that never
sleeps, with drunks and music.

by Qhama Sompani

I am from rusty shacks
on unbalanced surfaces.
From big bottles of water
carried from a distant tap.

I am from cold air.
From outside toilets that
attract danger.

I am from obnoxious neighbors
Drinking like pigs.
From no fence and wide yards.

I am from Rato and Phozama’s shack
green with rusty zinc.
I am from never give-ups
and keep on pushing.

I am from the dirt.
Where I am coming from won’t
determine where I’m going.

by Pule Ramataplang

Artist: Pule Ramataplang

Artist: Pule Ramataplang


I am from a singer provider,
a frustrated single parent.
From an uncle who beats people.
I am from fat koeks and maize meal,
From weak soup or water before bed.
From unfinished homes, with too few bricks
and no funds for builders.
From an unhappy neighborhood.
I am from making toys from wire.
I can't change where I’m from
But I can change where I’m going.

by Likhaya Rooi

I am from selling fruit so we can eat.
From a leaky shack.
A mother’s love is what I have.
I found my father but now he’s gone.

I am from travelling to fetch water.

I was raised by chores.
By “Wash the dishes before you sleep.”
By “Clean your room before you leave.”
Raised by work.

I was raised with love.
With “I love you, my son.”
By a “No one can take your place
in my heart” kind of woman.

I was raised by the Holy Ghost.
By “God is with you.”
By “God will never let you down.”
By Trust.

I was raised with hope and dreams.
By “I want you to be a better person.”
By “I cannot wait for you to succeed.”
By “I want to see you in your home one day” kind of sayings.

I was raised by chores.
Raised with love.
Raised by the Holy Ghost.
Raised with hope and dreams.

I was raised by woman.

by Tebogo Tengile


To learn more about Artworks for Youth or to support their work, click here.