ASSITEJ SA hosted African artists from across the continent under the “Babel” African Regional workshops at the Cradle of Creativity festival
BABEL (or The Art of Listening in Theatre for Young Audiences, commonly known as TYA) is a European Large-scale Cooperation project (Creative Europe Programme) involving 14 Partners from 11 European countries, including ASSITEJ international, coordinated by Teatercentrum i Danmark (DK). This programme is co-funded by the European Union and the Cradle of Creativity festival is one of 6 partners working outside of Europe to host a regional workshop in line with this theme.
The African delegates included professionals and upcoming artists that specialise in theatre for children and young audiences from different parts of Africa. Selected participants included Nourouddini Mohamadou (Cameroon), John Namai (Kenya), Patricia Kayandeke aka Zoey the storyteller (Uganda), Oluwaseun Odukoya aka Aunty Shine-Shine (Nigeria), Gift Chansa (Malawi / Zambia), Yuck Miranda (Mozambique), Getrude Vimbayi Pfumayaramba Munhamo (Zimbabwe), Carole Karemera (Rwanda), Herve Twahirwa (Rwanda), Michael Sengazi (Burundi), Maswaati Dludlu (Swaziland), Patricia Gomis also known as Mamby Mwaine (Senegal), and then a number of South African artists from around the country. These included Andile Vilakazi, Adrian Tony, Kagiso Kekana, Thamsanqa Kumalo, Happy Simelane, Koketso Sekatane aka Chesa, Pogwane Tsebe, Nathaniel Jacobs and Awande Dube. The programme was facilitated by ASSITEJ SA Gauteng coordinator, Thembile Tshuma.
Many children and young people don’t encounter theatrical stories or formats that reflect their lives and they don’t see themselves represented onstage, if indeed they are able to access the performing arts at all. Whilst artists in the field of TYA are committed to engaging more diverse audiences, many of them are calling for more tools:
• to approach the cultural and linguistic multiplicities of diverse young audiences,
• to develop international and intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding, and
• to establish more direct and perceptive communication between artists and young audiences.
The Babel project aims to address these gaps by focusing on the art of listening within theatre for young audiences – listening to the other, listening to the audience, listening to oneself. While the project is largely focused on Europe, there is some funding for six meetings outside of Europe to ensure that the project has a global reach and more diverse engagement. The aim of this African meeting was to engage with artists from the African context, to consider some of these challenges and to build deeper connections between the artists that could lead to potential collaborations.
On Saturday the 19th of August, some of the African artists met at the Goethe Institut of Johannesburg and went through a robust intervention around making theatre for young audiences and how as artists one can implement the art of listening as a creator, performer or audience member.
Through the 8 days of watching different productions from all over the world, attending workshops and presentations, the artists were having conversations on a daily basis around how best to make their works relevant for young people in their own countries. Over the last weekend, many of them were able to share songs and stories from their respective cultures at the National Children’s Theatre and within other parts of the programme.
The Professional Programme on Sunday 27 August focused on Listening and Connecting within TYA from an African context. African artists learnt about networks that they could become part of and shared their ideas for how further collaborations can happen. This session was livestreamed on the ASSITEJ SA facebook page and as a result, is archived there for future audiences to engage with.
It was great to see that already a start has been made to develop collaborative works within the African regions. Some of the collaborations include Getrude Munhamo (Zimbabwe) and Oluwaseun Odukoya (Nigeria) collaborating on a storytelling workshop in a project titled “The art of storytelling”, which will be part of The Abuja International Theatre Festival and Awards peacebuilding running from 1-5 November 2023. Adrian Tony is in conversations with Oluwaseun, Getrude, John and Andile for them to be part of the Karoo Festival happening on the 15th and 16th of December 2023 in the Northern Cape. In Limpopo, Kagiso Kekana and Koketso Sekatane have connected with the hope of working together around a setwork production for “My Children, My Africa to tour schools in our Soutspansberg district.
While these ideas are still works in progress, the experience has been an eye-opening one for these African delegates, and more collaborative works are in the making.
ASSITEJ SA was delighted to host these African delegates and to assist them in strengthening their bonds with other theatre makers from across the globe, while providing an opportunity to experience a range of experiences around theatre for young audiences.
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