Learn more about one of Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellows, Sharri Cannell (Khoe San). Sharri is 26 and an environmental activist from South Africa. She is also an environmental scientist by profession and holds an honors degree in Zoology from the University of Johannesburg. Sharri is the Director of the non-profit organization Indigi Youth Exchange Africa (IYXAfrica) which provides assistance to Indigenous and marginalized communities in South Africa. Over the past four years, she has embarked on a journey of decolonization by exploring her ancestral heritage and learning about Indigenous knowledge systems of the Khoe and San Peoples.
The Khoi and San communities are not formally recognized as Indigenous in South Africa, nor are their languages recognized as official languages. During the Apartheid regime, Indigenous identification and cultures were discouraged, if not actually banned, and many Khoisan people were forced to learn Afrikaans as their primary language. Indigenous Peoples were similarly subjected to the impacts of colonialism and colonization for hundreds of years before that.
This journey and history led Sharri to start Indigi Youth Exchange (IYX) Radio, a space to explore Indigenous cultures and knowledge and to bring them to the forefront for urban Indigenous Peoples, as well as for the world to learn about Indigenous Peoples in Southern Africa.
Sharri´s fellowship project aims to unite Indigenous communities and youth through dialogues on Indigenous cultures, languages, and traditions to revitalize ancient practices and customs. IYX Radio operates at full capacity with seven broadcasters including four women and three men communicators. Since then, they have uncovered a number of important stories both pertaining to Indigenous and environmental topics, such as a recent report on a very serious biological crisis in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, which was a result of violent looting and protests that spanned over a nine-day period in South Africa in July 2021. The burning happened to an Indian United Phosphorus Limited factory that was storing fertilizers and other harmful chemicals. As a result, the chemical runoff seeped into the surrounding surface and underground water, affecting all forms of life within this area. The local water turned a bright blue color, and fish, frogs, and birds were found dead. In addition, people living in the surrounding areas complained of eye, nose, and throat irritation for an extended time.
The IYX Radio team also compiled a short documentary in collaboration with IYX Africa highlighting the dire state of the living conditions of San Tribes in Namibia, especially those living in the Omaheke region bordering Botswana. IYX Radio and IYX Africa are currently running a donation drive for a San Food Relief Project to assist two San villages in the Omaheke region. These villages have no running water and only have access to an expensive diesel pump, which poses obstacles in operation due to the high cost of diesel and the scarcity of jobs that can earn this money. Many families are living with 5 – 10 individuals in a small shack and due to overgrazing by cows and other domesticated animals of neighboring Tribes there is very little foraging food and herbs available for San people to gather. Laws put in place by the government to limit hunting have prevented local communities from practicing their traditional lifeways and sustenance practices which are in alignment with nature and its intricate cycles.
IYX Radio is trying to raise funds to purchase two manual water pumps - one for each village and are providing remote assistance by bringing relevant resources needed to start a subsistence farm to overcome food insecurity and serve as a form of income for the villages. IYX Africa has donated seeds and beads that will assist these communities to create Indigenous crafts to sell. Watch the documentary here:
To date, IYX Radio has released 28 podcasts on their soundcloud platform, 8 short videos and 1 documentary on YouTube. IYX Radio has only one digital and audio technician who produces the podcasts, yet has produced so much content.
Moreover, Sharri also organized an Indigenous Youth Exchange virtual conference on September 4, 2021, to provide a space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to express the issues that are affecting their communities. The goal of the conference was to identify sustainable development goals for Indigenous communities in South Africa and develop an Indigenous network. The conference will be an annual event for youth working in community development and to further make progress towards Its goal to unite Indigenous Peoples from Southern Africa towards environmental and social justice.
Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Community Media Fellowship Program supports young Indigenous leaders between the ages of 18-25, who are eager to learn about technology, program development, journalism, community radio, media, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights advocacy. This is the third year of the Fellowship Program, which has awarded grants to 33 youth to date. The capacity of the fellows is built through training, community radio station exchanges, and conference attendance.
This fellowship is an opportunity to assist fellows to represent the voices of their communities and bring awareness of local issues to global conversations through their proposed projects, all the while strengthening their cultural identities and leadership.