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Keep the Dream Arts
My name is Avril Mkansi and I am one of the Drama Facilitators of the Tshala Project for Keep the Dream Arts. When we started the project in May 2021, it all began with a workshop for all the selected facilitators working creatively to imagine the journey ahead, it was then followed by an excursion to the Javett Art Centre (University of Pretoria), where we were required to exhibit art pieces in the museum, with our selected teams. Each group had ten participants and one facilitator and the museum was divided into 5 exhibition areas with titles that matched the art work. Each group had an interval for exhibition discussions with the drama facilitator and had to decide on which theme to work with. We were then given themes and had to go back to the exhibition area for story development.
My team of participants were allocated the theme, “Rituals of self-preservation” and in the exhibition area we resonated with most of the art pieces, however our story development was driven by the piece “Eyes Wide Shut” which basically means the physical eyes are closed for the spiritual eyes to see the other realm.
A week after the excursion, we were scheduled to meet for our first process to take place. On our first workshop process the participants had to present their research as discussed at the center, from thereon a lot of ideas were born, through the research and watching a few documentaries about self-preservation and what other tribes do for survival. We then developed our own story, we worked on character development and body awareness using the Tadashi Suzuki method as our story required Combat as well. In our third week we were already working on story development as a lot of ideas were blooming and participants had suggested quite a lot of different stories and we combined all of them and made a wholesome story, composed of music, acting and choreography.
The development of our work started with body conditioning, physical and vocal warm ups, tongue twisters and texts. The reason we decided to start all these activities/ exercises early is because we wanted to build strong performing bodies, to sharpen their (participants) vocal cords, to improve their enunciation, projection and speech delivery so that by the time we showcase, they would be sharp and ready to tell the stories with conviction. We had to continue with the process but the Covid third wave affected us and everything had to be paused for the safety of all involved in the project. As we live during a pandemic and with a pandemic; we have learnt to be agile enough to stop the process in the middle of things.
It was a difficult situation as a lot of work was done and everyone was anticipating the outcome of the project. We were all looking forward to what the process will produce. We had built momentum that we didn’t want to break nor tamper with, the process influences the product and we didn’t want to stop the beautiful process that was taking place.
For what it is, this break due to COVID-19 third wave found its way into our process when we reopen, as our theme is Rituals of Self-Preservation and having to suspend the workshops speaks to that. Covid-19 pandemic is all about self-preservation and we fight for our survival every day.
By Avril Mkansi