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education and theatre review
November 18, 2009
Project Preview - 9.11.09 Secrets of a Woman's Soul - The Evolution
A very moving
book about a woman's plight in the face of poverty, HIV/AIDS and
society's problems in dealing with both was adapted for stage by
CHIPAWO. With the support of the European Union mission in Zimbabwe
it was first staged as a Participatory Theatre Communications (PTC)
piece. PTC is a form of theatre where the narrative is developed
in stages whereby at the end of each stage the audience is encouraged
to participate. They can comment on the facts, notions and attitudes
they have just observed but the best bit is that they can actually
take to the stage and actually demonstrate what it is they think
ought to be happening in the story. PTC is obviously a powerful
means of getting crucial information across to any audience as well
as attacking the issues of social attitudes. A qualified resource
person is always on hand to see to it that factual information is
kept as just that.
In CHIPAWO the
Acting Performances Director one Dr Robert McLaren adapted Lutanga
Shaba's narrative to a script for PTC and a brilliant all girl cast,
under Chipo Basopo, from CHIPAWO's own Girl Power Centre did the
business. Because of the intimate nature of the content it was necessary
that girls to perform this primarily for female audiences (one man
I won't name declared himself an honorary femme to justify his presence).
On the road, this version of the show was taken to two high schools
an orphanage and one community arts centre.
However, today's performance
wasn't PTC. It was the purer art form where a continuous narrative
is acted out under the wizardry of lighting effects, the dialogue
is richer and the acting deeper. In short the whole range of emotions
inspired by the book is relived on stage. It was more taxing of
the girls' acting skills but they rose to the occasion. We have
our own breed of gremlins locally and they just had to make a show,
it took a lot of fortitude to put a collar on them.
The main objective was
to give the audience a taste of the power behind Lutanga Shaba's
work translated into pure theatre as opposed to a more emotionally
aloof PTC. The message remains as potent but if it can draw tears
from all but the "toughest" manne its even better. Our
audience comprised people representing various organisations whose
support could see this version of the show on the road. Judging
by their reactions the "Secrets of a Woman's Soul" could
soon be revealed to many more audiences and ,I dare say, to their
own benefit. In the mean time find the book and read it.
education is a right
Should I go or should
I not? I thought. It was important that I do go but CHIPAWO and
I had very little of the wherewithal between us. I did my sums over
again. Fuel to Beit Bridge with a 20 litre reserve US$85. Fuel from
the border to Johannesburg about R480. I forgot the new tolls in
Zimbabwe and the Limpopo River Bridge tolls but least I knew on
the South African side the tolls were about R120 there and R120
back. So making sure I took a big bottle of water and a few hunks
of bread and jam with many bananas - my compound in a veritable
banana plantation - the small sweet ones, you know - and assuming
that nothing, absolutely nothing, else that would incur any cost
at all happened on the way, I would need about R720 and US$170.
Together, CHIPAWO and
I had US$253 between us. But then SupaSenta needed US$32 in fares
for its Saturday session and the arts educators needed US$39 for
fares to visit CHIPAWO centres. O, and then there had to be a fuel
So that left me with
a full tank of petrol and a reserve, US$12 and R420. Do I go or
do I not?
As I negotiated the rather
rough passage of the exit from Harare on the Masvingo road, I said
to myself, this time I am taking one chance one too. This is reckless,
I said. One puncture and I've had it - or a speeding fine or a breakdown
or problems at the border!
So why do it?
Two weeks before
I found myself on the road to Johannesburg, Betsi Pendry, a New
Yorker now based in South Africa, working with IDEA as well as running
her own organisation which uses drama with young people on democracy,
sent me an email to say she was coming up to Harare to attend a
workshop on the uses of theatre in HIV/AIDS work. She mentioned
that there was to be a sub-regional arts education 'summit' in Johannesburg
to prepare submissions to the UNESCO world summit of arts education
later next year.
Well, of course,
this is CHIPAWO's cup of tea. In a spirit of bravado, I pointed
out both to her and to Yvette Hardie, Secretary of ASSITEJ South
Africa, that our credentials are impressive and CHIPAWO simply cannot
be left out. I mentioned among other things:
1. 20 years of a unique
pedagogy and national programme of arts education for development
and employment with children and young people, which we are in process
of sharing with others in the region.
2. CHIPAWO has been a pioneer in the area of Early Childhood Arts
Education in Zimbabwe and hosted the first colloquium on the subject
in Zimbabwe in 2007
3. CHIPAWO pioneered arts education with the handicapped, including
the first handicap advocacy arts festival and the first television
series in Zimbabwe in Sign Language
4. The Academy of Arts Education for Development which offers university-accredited
diplomas and certificates in Performing Arts and Media Arts
5. Attendance and presentation at the UNESCO Regional Conference
on Arts Education in Port Elizabeth, June 2001, and with the assistance
of UNESCO, hosted international seminar "Approaches to Arts
Education Worlwide", Harare and Lake Chibero (2002), the papers
of which as well as those of the 'Finding Feet' conference in Windhoek,
have been edited and published by the Academy as 'Ngoma: approaches
to arts education in southern Africa'.
Of course, I was blowing
our trumpet, but the 'summit' was being held a long way away and
this meant we had to blow all the harder if we wanted to get them
So, this was the reason
that I was now driving down the road to Masvingo in the early hours
of Tuesday morning with US$12 and R420 in my pocket.
I am back now and so
to try and whip up a bit of tension over that journey would inevitably
collapse into anti-climax. Yes, I made it. I made it by talking
my way out of two speeding fines and a clamped wheel on the Zimbabwe
side of the border - when did they start clamping wheels, for goodness
sake? I made it with a generous little donation from my daughter
in Johannesburg after bridge tolls and third party had wiped out
the rand I had. And I got back by selling books at the 'summit',
generously assisted by Yvette Hardie and a small donation in the
form of a rather subsidised purchase of a couple of my books by
the Centre for Indigenous African Instruments and Dance Practices
The 'summit' was a stimulating
and important experience and over the next few days, I would like
to make a contribution to the discussion of some of the issues raised
- time and energy permitting. So, hokoyo! Xwaya! Qaphela! Hlokomela!
Tenkek! Pas op! Watch out! Me blowing my trumpet again - must make
it a habit!
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