Programme offers help to artists and athletes

From left, are Salome Nyaku, who runs the Silapha wellness programme; composer and music producer Gabi le Roux; former soccer player and coach Boebie Solomons; musician Vicky Sampson; and programme director Penny Lebyane.

A wellness programme to help the country’s artists and athletes was rolled out in the Western Cape last week by the Department of Arts and Culture.

The Silapha wellness programme was officially launched in the province by Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Vusumzi Mkhize, on Friday June 17 at the J&J Belmont Square Conference Centre, in Rosebank, under the theme, “Suicide is not the answer”.

Mr Mkhize said Silapha addressed some of the pressing issues that had been weighing heavily on creative workers in recent months, including unemployment, cyber bullying, mental health and suicide.

The programme provides preventative health-care programmes, rehabilitation, financial and legal advice and counselling among other things.

“When the minister created the programme, we saw a number of artists dying by suicide. We realised the industry was losing many great artists, creatives and needed to create something that could help them when that sense of despair kicks in. We need to de-stigmatise issues around mental health,” Mr Mkhize said.

Composer and music producer Gabi Le Roux, former soccer player and coach Boebie Solomons and musician Vicky Simpson spoke about their industry experiences during a panel discussion with Salome Nyaku, who runs the wellness programme.

“The programme helps people with mental, financial and legal issues; it is a free programme that is beneficial to all artists and athletes,” Ms Nyaku said.

Mr Solomons spoke about his soccer career which began at the age of 17. “If there’s one message I’d like to share with the youth it is to always believe in yourself. What you think and how you feel about yourself can have a big impact on your career. I would not have been where I am today had it not been for my strong mentality.”

Vicky Sampson described how her career had taken off after she had sung Afrikan Dream at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, but several years later, when her career had stalled, she had had to give up her home in Johannesburg and return to Cape Town on a bus.

“From 1996 to 2009, I was riding the wave. I moved to Johannesburg and bought a home there for myself and a home for my mother in Cape Town. I came home with two suitcases and R300. I have had many highs but also many lows. This programme is important to me, as there are young people out there who need the guidance,” she said.

Since its inception in 2021, the programme has been rolled out in Mpumalanga, Limpopo Free State and Gauteng.

Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Vusumzi Mkhize.
Vicky Sampson performed.