PROJECT PHAKAMA is a participatory arts organisation that specialises in developing work with young people locally and internationally. It has been arts organisation in residence at Queen Mary University of London, hosted by the School of English and Drama, since 2008. Phakama is a Xhosa word meaning stand up, elevate and empower yourself. This reflects the origins of the company: Phakama grew from an international collaboration in 1996 between artists and arts educators from the UK and South Africa, keen to develop new approaches to participatory arts practice that foreground the voices and experiences of young people.
The Phakama Give and Gain methodology, focusing on cultural equity and shared responsibility, has supported young people in Argentina, Brazil, India, Ireland, Japan and across Europe to develop public performances responding to the social, economic and political issues that shape their lives including climate justice (Message in a Bottle), censorship (TripWires), intergenerational inequity and social exclusion (The Edible Garden). Phakama has an active youth board that model Phakama’s commitment to social justice, cultural access and supporting alternative training provisions for young people interested in arts and cultural development.