Walking silently around a rainy Malmoe on Sunday night, reflecting on the exquisite plays I had seen the previous week at the Assitej World Congress on Theatre for Youth as well as the various forums, talks and snatched corner conversations that I had had the pleasure of participating in, I understood, not for the first time, how extremely privileged I was to be there, commuting between Malmoe and the incredible Copenhagen, listening, watching, debating, engaging with a career in the theatre that I have been passionate about since the age of 8. How lucky am I!? To have such a profession that allows me to be surrounded by the most vibrant and passionate of individuals and organisations from around the globe, striving at all levels to vividly create art and beauty out of mere thoughts and ideas; to open up channels for creative expression and communication where previously there were none; to bring humour, love, pathos, courage, drama and truth to the young audiences of this world, no matter how fierce and difficult their own circumstances may be. Reflecting on my place in amongst all of this, as theatre-maker and human being, my heart swelled with pride. And hope! And a new focus was born. The focus being to continue to make plays, no matter what. There is always, always room for new theatre and new audiences. Especially for youth. Especially in South Africa. There are endless stories to be dug out and told and retold in as many different genres, styles and themes as there are leaves on the trees. The possibilities for creative expression and the human need to communicate thoughts, dreams, feelings and ideas are boundless and untapped. And I have only just begun…..
Highlights of this wonderful congress included, for me, ‘Almost Nothing’, a performance by Brazilian theatre group Sobrevento. This was a biting and moving physical exploration of shanty towns and the dreary and endlessly long life of Poverty. The image of a chicken puppet ingeniously born out of newspaper and stones still sticks in my imagination. Another was ‘First Steps on the Dune’ by TOF theatre from Belgium: a surreal and ridiculous puppet adventure that made my mouth hang open for the full hour. Lastly, a huge highlight for all of us in the SA delegation was the election of Yvette Hardie as President of Assitej worldwide. I was so glad to be there to witness my friend and often-time mentor take to the platform in front of the whole world’s Assitej representatives to declare delightedly that this was the first time a strong female candidate from the global south had been appointed at the helm of the organisation. We, and all the other African delegates included, were extremely proud! Not least because this signifies some new and exciting movement within the structures of Assitej which, for an organisation that represents so many young and vital audiences, performers, companies and collaborations, is an excellent thing.
Thank you to Assitej and Assitej SA for making it possible for me to participate in this fantastic meeting!
Thanks also to Vincent Meyburgh from Jungle Theatre in Cape Town and Chantal Snyman from Arley’s Workshop in Durban. Check out their work now! Uber talented theatre makers and Warm-Hearted Kindred Spirits of the very finest kind. What a jol I had walking around Copenhagen with you!