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Keep the Dream Arts Blog
“Collaboration”. A seemingly simple word. It’s implied simplicity lies in my assumptions of my knowledge of what it means. I simply think, ‘working together’, but, of course, it goes over and beyond that. My dictionary investigation reveals synonyms such as ‘glue oneself to’, ‘team up’, ‘join forces’, ‘coproduce’, to name a few. These give me a broadened appreciation of what the word means, ‘vis-à-vis, the depth of the relationship between Alex Arts Academy and Keep the Dream Arts. Not only that, the concept of collaboration extends to the manner in which facilitators are trained, how facilitators run their sessions, and the manner in which students create their performance presentations from sessions with facilitators.
A close look at the KTDA social media pages gives one an inside look into the Tshala Project currently running in collaboration with Alex Arts Academy. My imaginative mind conjures an imagined conversation between these two organizations as personas. It’s no Oscar Award deserving dialogue, but it goes something like this:
AAA: Hey! Fancy seeing you here. (smiles)
KTDA: Oh, hallo stranger! How’s things going?
AAA: It’s been good man, thanks. How are you keeping?
KTDA: Not too bad, not too bad. (Lowers voice) There is something though. I’m not sure if I can get into the thick of it now.
AAA: (concerned) What is it? Maybe I can help. Just tell me.
KTDA: Well… I’m getting ready to give birth to a big baby, but I don’t have a midwife or a venue.
AAA: (excited) Oh wow! Congrats! That’s wonderful news, about the baby, that is (chuckles). I’ll tell you this, you have no need to worry about midwives or venue. I got you covered. You are a colleague and it will be nothing but an honour to partner with you on this.
KTDA: Really? Are you serious? That sounds wonderful, just wonderful! Thank you so much!
AAA: It really is an honour. I’m just complementing your work.
KTDA: That’s great. Let’s meet for lunch tomorrow and get into the rich of it. Deal?
AAA: Deal!
That lunch date resulted in Tshala Project in motion. KTDA provides the blueprint of the project (the pregnancy), aimed at interrogating the collaborative relationship between facilitators and learners in a learning environment. AAA trains facilitators (the midwives) to implement activities through the “Siyafunda Na?” sessions with 50 student participants at Alex Arts Academy (the venue). There will be a big showcase where the students exhibit their performance pieces created from the sessions (labour), concluding the project. A seed planted, nurtured and watered to fruition.
That in summary is my outside perspective of the Tshala Project. My interest is captured if only for the aspect of working together that is a strong element throughout all the stages of the project. There is always room for diversity, variety, multiplicity and pure genius in collaborative work as two sides merge strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses. I am intrigued how the participating students get to create a collaboration between art exhibitions art Javett Art Centre (UP) and their performance pieces which they will showcase as mentioned above. My imagination is at it again when I think about this. I imagine the artist behind an exhibition presenting his story to a student, the student nodding in agreement and explaining to the artist how they will incorporate their narrative into a performance piece created and performed by the student. It’s more animated in my head than it sounds in my writing, that you can trust, but let me not exhaust you with that.
I’m sure at this point you have developed a keen interest in KTDA’s pregnancy, the big baby getting ready to come out, and the big labour day. I know I am! I look forward to the 02nd of October 2021 when it all goes down at Alex Arts Academy. My calendar is already cleared for that day. If advise you to do the same. See you then, when we welcome baby “Siyafunda Na”!
Outsider looking in 😊
Tsitsi Gumbi

It is November 2020 and I meet Puleng Plessie at the Market Theatre. I am working there as drama facilitator for Reimagining Rivelea Project, hosted by The Market Theatre Lab and Market Photo Workshop. She is there to review photographic presentations by participants of the project. We are excited to see each other, more so, since Covid-19 has made it hard for people to meet and we just came out of a hard lockdown which prevented us from doing any physical creative work. We then get a moment to talk and catch up. I met her some years ago as part of Wits University’s Drama for Life Mvuso Schools and Community project, where I was and still am a drama facilitator for the project. She has always been engaged in various projects, because even when I met her, she was working on another project in several schools with Keep the Dream Arts.

I remember her inviting me to come and witness their process and assist, and we started at a point where participants were not entirely engaging. They were shy, but then again, they were in their teenage years and in their opinion, activities like drama and ‘playing’ made them lose their swag and would affect how they wanted to be viewed by peers and society. Everything, no matter how trivial… matters at this stage of discovery where the body is also developing. As we were working with each participant, most of their responses when required to engage physically or vocally in the processes would be; “EISH!” which is an expression of exasperation. We then formulated a beautiful play called EISH; which explored different ‘EISH’ moments in teenagers’ lives. The play gave them a platform to share their stories and not be afraid of their ‘EISH’ moments but take them as a development area or growth phase by taking ownership and learning from those moments.

During interval in this session at the Market Theatre, where she was invited to be part of the panel to assist in reviewing and critiquing the photographic essays by participants of the project, we meet and catch up. Our talk is mainly about the arts and what we have endured throughout the hard lockdown and the constraints it has put on our work as artists. She then mentions that Keep the Dream Arts, where she is one of the founders, needs a space for a workshop to reflect on the journey that they had in their project for the year 2020. I invited her to the Academy and boasted that we are good hosts and that we love hosting guests to make their projects successful. We seal this commitment and we proceed with formal email communication for dates, space needs, catering, Covid-19 protocol and transportation for the facilitators from Newtown to Alexandra.

This was then the seed for a partnership between Keep the Dream Arts and Alex Arts Academy. At the very moment, there was no relationship beyond the Academy hosting Keep the Dream Arts for their end of the year reflection session, but something was planted. A relationship that would after a year be formalized into a partnership that sees Keep the Dream Arts and Alex Arts Academy implementing Tshala Project together with five Alex Arts Academy educators and more than 50 students from the Academy.

Tshala project entails five facilitators getting trained on the project and in facilitation skills, travelling to the University of Pretoria’s Javett Art Centre, with the participants to go on an educational tour and training. The facilitators and participants are taken through a guided tour of the museum and through workshops for identification and selection of themes to work with in their individual groups. The five facilitators are each working with a group of participants, with each group having a minimum of 10 members.

They each have a theme that they are working with from the museum tour that was inspired by the “Handle With Care” exhibition. The themes are as follows:‘Language’, ‘Construction of masculinity’, ‘Abstraction’,‘Dreamscapes and Ritual of self-preservation’. These themes will guide all the workshops throughout their journey, and their stories, all the way to performance presentation. It is planned that the participants of the Tsala Project will perform at Joburg Theatre and at Alex Arts Academy in the Alexsan Resource Centre. This will be a wonderful moment for them to share their journey with the public which will be witnessed through theatre performances.

This journey and partnership is just starting and it will grow bigger and better with the coming years as we aim to develop communities through the arts. We hope that there would be a significant shift in participants and facilitators at the end of this trajectory. The education taking place in the project is invaluable as we use our passion for the arts to contribute to the youth. Through working together as peer organizations with same synergies, interests and passion for the arts, we will do better for our communities using the arts as a vehicle for transformation. Arts for social change, arts in education, arts for healing, arts for community development, arts for education and arts for preservation of a nation–that is what we are about!
Moses Rasekele D.

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