© KEEP THE DREAM ARTS 2020 | All Rights Reserved
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.