Connect and Advocate

“Theatre, particularly theatre for children, fires the imagination, it gives our children the skills and the creativity necessary to face the world, to understand it and perhaps to change it too.” – Lynn Gardner

Connecting and Collaborating

Here are some of the organisations that ASSITEJ connects and collaborates with:

UNIMA South Africa: ASSITEJ SA considers UNIMA South Africa (the South African Association of puppetry and visual performance), a sister company. We share common beginnings (UNIMA was the first cultural organization of UNESCO, founded in 1929), and we have worked on projects like Out The Box Festival of Puppetry and Visual Theatre together. On an international level, UNIMA and ASSITEJ are also working together on projects such as World Performance Week.

National Arts Festival: The National Arts festival partnered with ASSITEJ in the early years of The Remix Laboratory; we have worked with the festival to raise the profile of Family focused performances and to run an ASSITEJ-Family Fare platform and/or venue at the festival each year since 2012.  

Magnet theatre: ASSITEJ SA and Magnet theatre have worked on a number of projects together, including the development of early years theatre in Cape Town.

TADA: ASSITEJ SA is a founding member of the Theatre and Dance Alliance of South Africa.

Theatre and Dance Employers Association of South Africa: ASSITEJ SA is a founding member of this association which brings together all employers in the sector.

Theatre Arts: ASSITEJ has worked with Theatre Arts based in Observatory, Cape Town in the Inspiring a Generation programme,  and the Family Seasons of Performances, as well as using the venue for workshops. 

SANCTA: MOA signed for reciprocal membership of one another’s organizations, sharing and dissemination of information and mutual projects.

Creative Voices: As the founding member of ASSITEJ SA, Creative Voices played a key role in providing a base in Johannesburg, working with us on arts education projects, and helping to host international meetings. Creative Voices is now a project of ASSITEJ SA, as from 2012, and its methodology is used throughout our educational work.

Advocacy Work

The World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People is celebrated annually by ASSITEJ centres from across the globe on 20th March. To honour this day, ASSITEJ centres work together to unite theatres across the world in conveying one message: “Take a child to the theatre today”. 

Since 2017 the day is celebrated as part of World Performance Week, which links the ASSITEJ day to the 21st March (World Puppetry Day) and 27th March (World Day for Theatre), celebrated by UNIMA, ITI, AITA/IATA and IATC. Through linking with these other global associations, ASSITEJ is able to extend the reach of its message.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted on the 20th November 1989 states that every child has the same rights, including the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts, with the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

Each year a prominent person writes the World Day Message to inspire all to join the campaign. John Kani was the 2014 World Day Message writer. Yvette Hardie, international President of ASSITEJ from 2011-2021, wrote the accompanying President’s message during that period. Other leading South African actors and personalities have endorsed the campaign and act as ASSITEJ Artist Ambassadors; they include Gcina Mhlophe, Kgomotso Christopher, Nick Boraine, Louise Barnes, Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Helen Iskander, Clyde Berning, Lika Berning, and Nokuthula Thabete.

“Giving children an opportunity to dream, to imagine other possibilities for their lives, to engage with and empathise with people and situations from very different walks of life to their own, is an important gift every child deserves to receive. Without the liberating power of the imagination, problem solving becomes impossible.“ – Yvette Hardie

To read past World Day Messages, go here
Hosting Guests and Meetings

Cradle of Creativity 2019

Cradle of Creativity 2019 was an overall success. In total, 32 (24 local and 8 international) productions were staged in 72 separate performances across 11 different spaces in 4 venues, alongside an impressive conference, workshop and seminar schedule. 71 official delegates (theatre professionals) attended, alongside 211 artists who were involved in a performance at the festival.

19 countries were represented in different ways through delegate or artist participation. The conversations between artists, delegates, teachers and other interested parties were energised, interesting and wide-ranging. BRICS participation was supported by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.

Around 8505 audience members attended Cradle of Creativity, with over 3412 children/young people sponsored to be there (1980 were bussed to the theatre and 1432 were given complementary tickets).

We were able to sponsor 10 South African artists to attend as delegates through contributions from RMB and from provincial authorities to attend the festival, and they made a strong contribution to the overall event.

Cradle of Creativity, 19th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival

ASSITEJ SA hosted the first African World Congress of the international association in Cape Town from 16-27 May 2017. This composed:

A 12 day event with 1390 delegates from around 70 countries attending

A World Congress involving official representatives from over 54 countries and 4 international networks, over 4 days

A ten-day Conference on Intercultural exchange in TYA, 2 day academic conference and 8 Focus days involving more than 209 presenters

An eleven-day International Theatre Festival comprising 63 productions involving 464 artists across 3 main venues (Artscape, Baxter, City Hall) and 4 Cultural Hubs (Atlantis, Langa, Phillipi and Vrygrond) with over 21 000 audiences members.

An economic impact of 92 million rands, and contributing to between 327 and 850 jobs (temporary and permanent) – depending on the method of calculation – in the Western Cape,

Continental Activities:

1) Hosted ACYTA (African Children and Youth Theatre Arena) meeting  in Johannesburg, November 2007

2) Hosted the 3-day ACYTA meeting 2009 in November, Johannesburg (South Africa, Benin, Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sweden, USA)

3) Contributed to the organisation of the African Arts Education and Transformation Summit on 15 November 2009 in Johannesburg; collated data from delegates and researched the current state of affairs in arts education and forwarded this to the World Summit of Arts Education, which took place in May in Korea;

4) Hosted a Theatre and Development Forum, attended by the EC members, local artists and artists from Uganda, in Rwanda.

5) Hosted an ACYTA meeting from 11-13 October 2013 with delegates coming from Benin, DRC, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Hosted Guests:

Honorary President Wolfgang Schneider, Roberto Frabetti, Gabi dan Droste, Dan Baron Cohen, Ulrike Hatzer, Jen Kulik, Julia Tauber, Nora Stillman Burke, Filip Bral, Washington Masenda, among others

To find out more about the Cradle of Creativity, 19th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival, go here
African Children and Youth Theatre Arena (ACYTA)

ASSITEJ SA is a member of ACYTA, the regional network of ASSITEJ centres and members in Africa. 

ACYTA focuses on African exchange in TYA, to grow national centres, and to build bridges between ASSITEJ centres on the continent. Through collaborative projects and exchanges, we work to expand the field of theatre for children and young audiences on the African continent, thereby ensuring the future of the arts in Africa. 


Initial efforts to establish a network of ASSITEJ centres in Africa were made by ASSITEJ Zimbabwe (also known as Zimbabwe Association of Theatre for Children and Young People – ZATCYP), which, in June 1999, hosted SATCYP 99 (SATCYP – Southern African Theatre for Children and Young People Conference).

The key figures in ZATCYP who ensured the success of the event included the late Tisa Chifunyise, the Administrator for ZATCYP secretariat and also one of the vice presidents of ASSITEJ International, having been voted for at the 1999 ASSITEJ World Congress in Tromso, Norway. Others were: Dr Robert Maclaren, Elizabeth Kabasa, Abdul Makaza and the late Norman Takawira.

SATCYP, as the name suggests, was intended for southern African countries, particularly those belonging to the Southern African Development Community (SADC). These included: Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania. The event, held at the Mt Pleasant campus of the University of Zimbabwe, discussed the need for the establishment of formal ASSITEJ centres in the region, as well as beyond; and the need to ensure cooperation and unity among the centres.

ASSITEJ Zimbabwe then invited some artists from the region to their international theatre festival held in Hwange, northern Zimbabwe, in July 2000. ASSITEJ International President, Harold Oaks attended the event with Niclas Malmcrona, the Secretary General, who visited Zambia straight from the festival. After the Zambia visit, Malmcrona flew to Harare to discuss the possibilities of SIDA funding the regional network programmes. The efforts bore fruit, and SIDA agreed to fund regional programmes. 

In December 2000, ZATCYP hosted the ASSITEJ International Executive Committee in Harare. They invited countries from the southern African region as well as artists from east Africa:  Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. The invitations provided the African countries with an opportunity to meet and interact with members of the ASSITEJ International Executive Committee.

After the Harare meeting, some significant progress was made with regard to the development of the network, which had now outgrown the original SATCYP. A number of countries were able to formally register ASSITEJ centres and make positive progress in their work and programmes. Also, the SIDA funding through ASSITEJ Sweden helped to strengthen the network and its programmes from 2000 – 2007.

A number of meetings and workshops were held in various parts of the region. These included:  Durban (South Africa – meeting), Kampala (Uganda – workshop), Nairobi (Kenya – meeting), Mauritius (meeting/workshop), Windhoek (Namibia – workshop), Lusaka (Zambia – meeting/workshops), Cape Town (South Africa – meeting), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania – meeting), Ezulwini, Swaziland (meeting), Johannesburg, South Africa (meeting/workshop).

It was during the Ezulwini meeting in March 2007 that the name ACYTA (African Children and Youth Theatre Arena) was adopted by the network. At the Johannesburg meeting (and workshop) held in November 2007, elections were held to choose members of the Coordinating Committee of ACYTA. The following were elected: Cheela Chilala, Zambia (Chairperson), Hope Azeda, Rwanda (Vice Chairperson), Sandile Ndzimande, Swaziland (Treasurer), and Yvette Hardie, South Africa (Communications Officer).

Membership eventually spread to West Africa with Cameroon and Nigeria becoming part of the network and North Africa with participation from Egypt and Tunisia. 

The first major participation by Africa in the ASSITEJ World Congress was in Seoul, South Korea, in July 2002. The following countries were represented:  Zambia (Cheela Chilala), Namibia (Frederick Philander), Etoundi Zeyang (Cameroon), Ricky Gitahi (Kenya), Jackson Ndawula (Uganda), Phillimon Mwasanga (Tanzania), and Elizabeth Kabasa (Zimbabwe). Cheela Chilala and Jackson Ndawula were co-opted into the newly elected executive committee.

The region was represented at the 15th World Congress in Montreal, Canada, in September 2005, by the following:  Cheela Chilala (Zambia), Hope Azeda (Rwanda), Jackson Ndawula (Uganda), Etoundi Zeyang (Cameroon), Onkemetse Clark (Botswana), and David Ndjavera (Namibia). At the congress, Cheela Chilala was elected one of the three vice presidents while Hope Azeda was elected a member of the executive committee.

At the 16th World Congress in Adelaide, Australia, in 2008, Cheela Chilala (Zambia), Hope Azeda (Rwanda), Innocent Dube (Zimbabwe), and Yvette Hardie (South Africa) attended. Yvette Hardie was elected as Treasurer of ASSITEJ, while Hope Azeda retained her place on the Executive Committee.

At the 17th World Congress in Sweden/Denmark, in May 2011, there was a greater representation of African countries, and Yvette Hardie was elected as President of the international association, with participation from Benin, Cameroon, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Rwanda, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. Etoundi Zeyang was elected to the Executive Committee for this term.

At the 18th World Congress in Warsaw, in May 2014, Yvette Hardie was again elected as President of ASSITEJ, and ASSITEJ South Africa won the bid to host the 19th World Congress in Africa for the first time, which it did in 2017. This 19th Congress was attended by around 642 African delegates from Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The participation of these African and South African delegates/artists was made possible with thanks to Pro Helvetia, Goethe Institut, RMB, Wesgro, the National Research Foundation, the provincial governmental departments of Limpopo, Northern Cape, Western Cape and Free State, ASSITEJ (international), IFAS and Scenes d’Enfance.

As a result of these collective efforts, this is by far the largest African representation ever seen at an ASSITEJ event and has energised African artists about the work of the association and the importance of theatre for children and young people. 

Find out more here:


From delegates, artists and collaborators

Cradle of Creativity

Whether it is Next Generation or watching the EC and everyone in between, the interactions all give a very strong sense of family at every level. There is this shared passionate belief in what we do for children. Everyone watching high quality work, discussing, disagreeing, challenging, collaborating and moving forward. The energy in the room at the Closing Event was as if all of us from such diverse circumstances, backgrounds and countries were sitting in a church or temple sharing in the words, the music, the shared festival memories together. That was electric. The image of this, sitting in one corner of the world, trying to make a change for what one believes, is empowering and gives unspeakable amounts of courage.

Cradle of Creativity

I loved the Cradle of Creativity – in many ways it was an absolute feat of logistical, creative love of epic proportions!!!!!! I loved the numbers of african delegates. I loved seeing african theatre. I really felt the impact of having the conference in Africa – of bringing all that global creative energy there – in this moment to give a focus – to inspire, to be inspired. It definitely inspired me. As an Australian it raised many questions about how can I de-colonise my arts practice. What can I offer – What can I exchange – What can I receive????? So many intriguing conversations, so many tantalising threads, so much to choose from, so much to process….. The best networking times were the times of meeting informally and chatting – this seemed to happen most for me during the lunch or break sessions at ITYARN, specific focus days and country hosted events. I’m not sure what could have been improved – it was my first experience of assitej….. Now that I have done it – I think I am ready to do it all again – knowing more about how to do it!!!! Congratulations on a truly inspiring and marvellous global event. 

Cradle of Creativity

Sizwe Vilakazi: Let’s play, Soweto, Gauteng,

My experience at the cradle of creativity was both life changing and educational. Let’s play children’s theatre is a small emerging company based in a small township of Chiawelo (Soweto) which without its partnership with ASSITEJ we would not have survived the past 11 years. They have helped us to make a difference in our community. Going to Cape town has given me as an individual a rare opportunity to experience how big and thriving companies from around the Globe take quality work and encourage creativity to schools and communities. I have acquired valuable skills from attending a number of workshops which will be of great help for let’s play children’s theatre.

A  big Thank you to RMB and ASSITEJ for this fantastic trip! 

Cradle of Creativity

Nompumelelo Mtshali, Pietermaritzburg, KZN, Kickstarter Creative  

Arts project facilitator

I had such a rich experience at The Cradle of Creativity Festival. The variety of outstanding shows and puppetry was incredible. Meeting creative artists during the different receptions and engaging in fruitful conversations about the role and the power of theatre for young audiences in their communities was eye opening. It was interesting to witness the commonalities and further be inspired to go out there and create more theater.  Some of my favorite shows included Mbuzeni and Zapato busca Sapato, it was lovely being able to speak with the performers and directors about the process of putting together such wonderful productions and I learnt plenty. 

Cradle of Creativity

Herbert Mokoena, Sisonke Art Productions,  Mpumalanga, ” what has blown me away is all the theatre especially made for young babies 0-3 yrs old, it’s different-non verbal and very visual. I am learning about theatre for such young ones here! I have also learnt about interacting with babies during a performance-how this is a special skill. There are SO MANY Different theatre styles here:puppets, dance, visual arts and all the workshops are fantastic! I really appreciate ASSITEJ for investing in me-all the way from an internship in 2014 till now. 

Thank you to RMB for making this experience possible 

Cradle of Creativity

Schoeme Grobler, Puppetrix,Free State, How can I even put into words what the Cradle of Creativity was, is and will still be for me? After attending the 19the ASSITEJ World Congress, I am left a more inspired and knowledgeable artist! I’ve especially learned much more about theatre for toddlers and babies. I was reminded of the fact that it is all about being a child again, to play, to be inquisitive, to be amazed, to explore and to discover. The productions and artists had an artistic common goal: the absolute importance of the child, to stimulate their senses, creativity and let them believe in the magic of theatre. As one of the seminar quotes read: “One think that one should lower oneself to the child’s level, instead one should try to raise oneself to the child’s ability to empathy and imagination.” I am grateful for the tons of written notes and memorable experiences I now have in my midst. I am already applying it in my own work for a theatre production at the Free State Arts Festival. My sincerest thank you to Rand Merchant Bank and ASSITEJ South Africa, without you I would not have been able to attend the Cradle in such full capacity. 

Cradle of Creativity

Lulu Mhlangeni, Vuyani Dance Theatre, Gauteng: 

I would like send my deepest gratitude to the ASSITEJ Cradle of Creativity Festival for the invitation.

Being part of the festival was an awakening experience that I wish the entire world can have a chance to experience more especially in Johannesburg. It brought a sense of unity within all the countries that were involved and it was a chance for me to not only share but to also learn how other curators, artist, student, delegates, choreographers do things. 

I’m truly humbled by the experience and hope that it becomes an annual thing for the South African Industry as we need such festivals more especially for networking.

I hope to be a part of it in the near future as a curator

Cradle of Creativity

Omphile Molusi, North West, Bodibe Festival, Mowa Arts 

I was greatly captivated by the whole experience. I had always wished for a festival like Cradle Of Creativity. There’s never a time where a plethora of Theatre For Young Audiences comes to one space on a big scale like Cradle Of Creativity. I was mainly interested in watching works of 4 and under. I watched other works, but the under 4 works has always been something special I wanted to experience. This is also because I’ve always been interested in making work for under 4’s.  We don’t really have enough of that work. It was a privilege to experience this kind of work from different professionals from around the world. It was magical to see different approaches to the work from South Africa to Netherlands… from Japan to Zimbabwe to Nigeria and so forth. I was inspired beyond words. What was also inspiring was to meet with other artists from other countries to talk about their work and methods. Watching the shows were one layer to understanding and getting access to the work, but discussing the work with its creators was a much bigger fruitful layer.

Another exciting part of the festival was the talks and the paper presentations … the discussions around creating work for young audiences. These were eye openers to worlds of theatre for young audiences that one doesn’t often think about. Those perspectives enhanced my knowledge of TYA and influenced my future methods of creating work. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the festival. I believe that this experience has not only inspired me but others who had the opportunity to experience this amazing festival. I believe support like this will help creators a lot to raise the quality and standard of our Theatre for Young Audiences. A million thanks and more.

Cradle of Creativity

Franco Kamanga , ‘For my kids’, Soweto, Gauteng

 “This is a dream come true! Eish, i have enjoyed being here so much! I never thought this would happen-when you work with kids all alone and isolated in Soweto you only dream about something like this! You guys made it happen. My first flight! First time. Making it happen! Attending workshops, learning from other candidates, learning, I am growing as a director and artist so much! You don’t know what is in my heart right now. I am so happy! With this Congress it has opened up my mind to new ideas and made me see that it is possible for me to make a collaboration with someone in a different country such as Kenya etc.

My trip was also the most beautiful experience as I have never been to Cape Town before and I’m really grateful to RMB and ASSITEJ for making it possible for me. 

Cradle of Creativity

Gladys Aghulus, Focus inclusive dance, Gauteng:

The most amazing possibilities of exchange, the vigorous debates and discussions, observing, looking inward and deeply assessing one’s own work-learning give and take-connecting with young and old. And the potential of Future collaborations happening. As an artist you have to engage and explore with what is happening on international platforms. Artists musn’t be afraid of asking how to be involved. ASSITEJ has created great access but we all need to find further ways of engaging and pulling those who don’t know and need to be exposed, especially for inclusive audiences. Our primary function is to influence a new audience young and old and I can see this happening here! There are Exciting opportunity for babies, inclusivity, African dance.. How can we access more is the BIG question!?” 

Cradle of Creativity

A Communal Poem 

Inspired by the Cradle of Creativity, Theater for Young Audiences Festival 

This ‘emotional archive’ was created by 62 artists from 30 countries writing in 22 languages including: Dutch, English, Ewe, Farsi, French, Hindi, Icelandic, Igbo, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Malagasy, Portuguese, Reunion Creole, Russian, Serbian, Sesotho, Spanish, Tswana, Urdu, Xhosa, and Zulu 

Read the poem here