"Embrace Your Heart’s Purpose", says Denay Willie

Godfrey Johnson (GJ) had the pleasure of speaking to award winning South African cultural practitioner, performer, educator, activist, D...

Godfrey Johnson (GJ) had the pleasure of speaking to award winning South African cultural practitioner, performer, educator, activist, Denay Willie (DW)

Find out more about what she had to say in the excerpts below.....

GJ: What have you been up to during this lockdown?

DW: Well, to be honest, I have not stopped working!! However, this pause has been an immense time to consider “how I have been doing life ”, to look at what is working and what is not working and most importantly, to bring into focus what is important for my life’s trajectory.

With regards to work, we have embarked on a fundraising campaign at The Rainbow Academy, an NPO School of Performing Arts and Business, in order to move our teaching and classes online. This is a landmark opportunity to bring social cohesion and nation building to our socio-economically challenged communities through access to digital technology. We are looking for volunteers, sponsorship and support and so my role here is to drive the process forward.

I am also completing my MA in Cultural Policy and Management this year and my research explores how business models in the creative and cultural industries (music) will have to adapt to survive disruptions caused by digital technology in our sector. This requires hours of studies daily and of course, dedication, commitment and inspiration. I am a social person and the lack of social and professional engagement is trying during the lockdown.

I am also lecturing music online – another lockdown addition- as a lecturer at Wits University. The shifting role of digital technology in education as well as the creative and cultural sector, is mind boggling and will require new ways of creating, collaboration and producing across our value chains. I am certainly spending a lot of time thinking about these issues, the implications, the needs and demands. But alas to feed my soul……..I am writing music and exploring innovative ways of artistic collaboration in business, education and entertainment.

GJ: What are your plans for the future?

DW: Music and writing are the certain gifts that I have been given to be a hope and inspiration to the world. As much as I am an activist and agent of youth, community and sector development, with current aspirations in government and business, starting my own music business and releasing my own music remains at the core of my “to do list”. I have released several recordings, written and starred in several shows, but I am yet to tell my unique story. Hence alongside the afore mentioned, my goal is to use the coming months for dedicated TIME to do just this. 2020- Is the pivotal year of the opening………….

GJ: What is Denay’s message to the world?

DW We are in a reset. This is a significant pause. A time to access our lives, clean out the toxic issues and get ready for the next decade. This is also a time to give, to reach out and be a part of bridging the divides laid bare by the Covid- 19 pandemic in the smallest or biggest of ways. As Mandela says: “Each one, Teach one…”

I also have an inkling, that just like me, we are all presented with that one “to do” on our list that always gets brushed into the corner. My advice: Take up the challenge. Pick up and dust off that dream. Embrace your heart’s purpose and do that one thing that is constantly pulling on your strings. That is possibly the most powerful thing you could do to change the world and is the thing you were born to do. Now is the time to do it. I truly believe that the period we are going through, is in fact, is the change, the transformation, the opportunity, we have been asking for, complaining about and praying for. Make that “one thing” , one idea, one dream, your mission and open door in 2020. Game on…………….

For more information on The Rainbow Academy and how you can get involved with raising funds for online learning, digital devices, smart phones and data for their students - click here: https://www.givengain.com/cc/making-rainbows-in-the-time-of-covid-19-south-africa/

About Denay Willie

Denay Willie is celebrated as an award winning South African cultural practitioner, performer, educator, activist and industry leader in the cultural and creative industries. She graduated top of her Faculty as Gold Medallist in her Honours Degree in Jazz Performance and Arrangement from The University of Cape Town and earned her place on the Dean’s Merit List by graduating within the top 15 percent of all graduates that year. Denay is a 2007 finalist for the prestigious SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition and winner of two SAMRO awards in the Jazz/Popular Music category (2007).

As an artist, Denay has worked with historic South African jazz legends such as Robbie Jansen, Zim Nqgawana, Alvin Dyers, Basil Moses, Hilton Schilder, Loius Mholo and Jonathan Butler and has shared concert stages with a host of world renowned artists both nationally and abroad. Her work as a performer, singer, and composer-arranger in China, Cuba, Mexico, Europe, Northern Africa, Turkey, and South America between 1999 - 2004, covers some of her extensive career highlights with prolific performances for Nelson Mandela, Quincy Jones, President Fidel Castro, Yehudi Menuhin, President Jacob Zuma and host of other dignitaries and celebrities.

Denay was the only female selected to the South African National Youth Band in 2006 and has been centre stage for the Beijing and Kunming Philharmonic Orchestras, The Cape Town and Durban Symphony Orchestras, as well as the German, Swedish and South African National Big Bands. She has performed at numerous national and international events, representing her country at world jazz festivals, cultural shows and performances for the likes of BB King, Patti Austin and Maria Carey. Her work as adjudicator, activist, agent and educator extends to roles in both national and international boards. She is also the curator of local, national and international music shows and festivals and wrote and co- directed original text for “The Cape Town Show”, an original work exploring the diverse and complex political history of Apartheid South Africa. Denay’s impact in South African arts, culture and heritage sector is featured in the debut South African Documentary “ Women In Arts” by the Mosadi Media Peace Centre. (2017).

Denay is also the co-founder, Ex CEO and Creative Director (2010-2017) and board member for the award winning and internationally acclaimed Rainbow Academy. The Rainbow Academy is a NPO School of Performing Arts and Business aimed at providing recognized platforms of education, employment and empowerment for talented but socio-economically challenged youth in the Creative and Cultural Industries. The Rainbow Academy is the recent recipient of the 2018 South African Business and Arts Long Term Sponsorship Award for contribution to the arts and broader community

Denay was selected to attend the United Nations “Nelson Mandela Peace Summit” at the UN Headquarters in New York in 2018 as civic leader and ambassador for The Rainbow Academy. She currently lectures music at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and is completing her final year of Masters in Cultural Policy and Management. (2020).

Denay is a recipient of the DAC Heritage Bursary Award (2019), National Arts Council Scholarship (20200 and Wits University Post Graduate Merit award (2020) for her research in business model innovation, the impacts of digital disruption and the role of cultural entrepreneurship within the future designs of the creative and cultural industries- particularly in the global South.



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Urban Craft Magazine: "Embrace Your Heart’s Purpose", says Denay Willie
"Embrace Your Heart’s Purpose", says Denay Willie
Urban Craft Magazine
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