Road To Ingwavuma
With Deborah Santana, Carlos Santana, Samuel L. Jackson & LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Alfre Woodard, CCH Pounder, Jurnee Smollett and Artists for a New South Africa
A film by Barbara Rick
Narrator & Executive Producer Deborah Santana
The 2006 ANSA delegation with former President Nelson Mandela at the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
Deborah Santana and Barbara Rick, on ferry to Robben Island.
Children at Ingwavuma Orphan Care.
In October 2006, American legends of music, stage and screen and their families journeyed into the heart of post-apartheid South Africa to join forces with some of the most economically challenged people in the world; to be of service. ROAD TO INGWAVUMA (ing-wah-VOOM-ah), the latest documentary from Peabody and Emmy winning filmmaker Barbara Rick, is an exploration of South Africa’s triumphs and struggles since the fall of apartheid through the eyes of this remarkable delegation.
ROAD TO INGWAVUMA chronicles a memorable seven-day trip by members of Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA) through Cape Town, Johannesburg, and KwaZulu-Natal. It is a trek of stark contrasts: magnificent natural beauty, devastating living conditions, and the privilege and price of celebrity. The film features encounters with former President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other heroes in the fight against apartheid, AIDS and poverty.
Spearheaded by author and philanthropist Deborah Santana and ANSA’s Executive Director Sharon Gelman, the inspiration for the trip was a desire by those who have long fought for the cause of freedom in South Africa to explore how they might better combat the devastation of HIV/AIDS and apartheid’s raw legacies of poverty and deprivation. The trip also provided the travelers an opportunity to witness how the programs and policies they champion at home are impacting thousands of children and families on the ground - families fractured by the rampaging HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In Cape Town, the group tours infamous Robben Island at the side of freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada, one of the men sentenced with Mandela. Kathrada gives a riveting firsthand account of the brutality of apartheid. Delegates are taken inside Nelson Mandela’s cell when Mr. Kathrada gives the Santana’s son, Salvador, the key.
In Khayelitsha Township - an area few visitors have ever seen - ANSA’s group embraces Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) founder Zackie Achmat and his team. The AIDS activists tell of the difficulties bringing anti-retrovirals to the community and their battle with the South African government to fund HIV/AIDS treatment and education. Carlos Santana urges TAC members to continue their vital work. “All of us are here to make spiritual traction,” Carlos says. “The fastest way to make spiritual traction is to be of service to all humanity. Like all the people I’m traveling with, I’m an igniter.”
Supreme Court Justice Albie Sachs, another South African hero, leads the group on an emotional tour of the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. The court and building: powerful monuments to freedom and equality. Sachs says, “We don’t deny the negativity, don’t deny the pain; it’s part of our history. But we take that energy and we transform it: negativity becomes positivity, the electric current that was destructive gets harnessed and produces the court.”
The group walks the red carpet in Johannesburg en route to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 75th birthday bash, and meets with former president Nelson Mandela in a private audience. Madiba, as he’s affectionately known to his friends and fellow citizens, greets the visitors with a joke: “Some of you look like Americans.” ANSA members wander the streets of Soweto and hear details of the historic ’76 uprising from Murphy Morobe, one of its key student organizers.
The group ventures north near the border with Swaziland to Ingwavuma, the final stop of this stunning odyssey. An area wracked by AIDS, where there is almost no commerce or source of income. More than half the population are children and teenagers, many of them orphans. Through rough terrain, into the bush, the Santana family interacts with families in crisis. Gogo Mabandlase, a resilient grandmother refusing to give in to the crush of illness and poverty, and Adam Mpontshane, a traditional healer valiantly fighting his own disease.
At a school and community center, Zulu children sing and dance for their grateful and inspired American audience: most of the visitors performers themselves.
At each of these stops, the assemblage is moved by the strength and dedication of the people working daily to relieve the suffering and bring hope to those living with HIV/AIDS. ANSA members share their experience and empathy along the way, and try to come up with new ways to help.
In a farewell to Ingwavuma, ANSA co-founder and delegate Alfre Woodard cheers on the fighters: “What you have in your DNA, your cultural DNA, is stronger than anything you might carry in your blood. So I just say thank you so much for teaching us that we have to keep singing, keep turning toward the light, keep holding onto each other and moving forward. Thank you so, so much.”