By Mpho Molepo
‘Drama for Life’ is a visionary programme that aims to provide support to the many theatre-makers, performers, directors, managers and drama facilitators and teachers working under difficult circumstances, dedicated to HIV/AIDS and quality of life education throughout the Southern African region.
This was announced in a press statement by the Southern African Theatre Initiative (SATI) from Johannesburg.
This regional programme is a response to many initiatives, including the Finding Feet Conference in Namibia organised by SATI in 2003, the Theatre for Development in HIV/AIDS Conference in Botswana organised by SATI in 2004, and the SADC Appraisal Mission in Capacity Development in HIV/AIDS education through Applied Drama and Theatre (2006).
The SADC Drama for Life programme is about supporting existing organisations devoted to HIV/AIDS education through drama and theatre, theatre groups dedicated to building communities through the arts, and Ministries of Health, Education, and Arts and Culture that value drama and theatre as powerful life interventions for traumatised individuals and communities, particularly young people who have lost traditional family support structures. It is about capacity development in the SADC region, particularly in the field of HIV/AIDS and quality of life education through applied drama and theatre.
The Drama for Life programme will offer the first comprehensive applied drama and theatre training programme within the SADC region, encompassing the goals and ideals articulated in the Finding Feet Conference in 2003. University of the Witwatersrand – the implementing agent – will host this programme, serving 28 full-scholarship students from the entire SADC region, together preparing the team to return to their home countries to develop training programmes and theatre festivals with young people and existing theatre groups.
The goal is to enhance drama and theatre practice within the formal and informal sectors, sharing skills and experience, building capacity within existing structures, ensuring quality of drama and theatre education, and helping restore theatre as a central component to quality living.
This Southern African Drama for Life programme embraces the rich and textured traditions of drama and theatre throughout the region, rooted in cultures and traditions that are particular to the African context, and aims to examine the role of drama and theatre in the face of globalisation, inter-cultural communication, cultural appropriation, the divide between rich and poor nations, and the devastation of communities in the face of poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Drama for Life aims to explore the conceptual, theoretical, pedagogical and ethical practices and interrelationships within the applied drama and theatre field, including theatre for development, popular theatre, community based theatre, theatre in education, theatre of the oppressed, playback theatre, drama in education, process drama and drama therapy.
In this way the Southern African Drama for Life programme aims to contribute toward a growing body of African research about African drama and theatre practice building an integrated, holistic and healing approach relevant to this continent, time and place.
Drama for Life is currently a Wits-gtz partnership supported by the Southern African Theatre Initiative (SATI) and the Goethe-Institut. It aims to partner with other leading funding agencies dedicated to social development and quality of life research, universities, colleges, NGOs, MoEs and MoHs throughout the region. All enquiries and expressions of interest are welcome.
Drama for Life invites universities, colleges, NGOs, Theatre Groups and individuals who specialise in a particular model of drama/theatre and HIV/AIDS/quality of life education to submit formal short-course proposals that are practice-based, contributing toward the sharing of knowledge and experience within the field of Applied Drama and Theatre Studies. These short-courses will form part of the introduction to the field of Applied Drama and Theatre in Southern Africa.
The Drama for Life Research and Development Committee will select several short-courses that will form part of the Applied Drama and Theatre Honours and Masters Courses in the 1st and 2nd Semesters. The Drama for Life Honours Courses also include specialisation in Drama Therapy, HIV/Aids in relation to sexuality, gender, culture, policy, human rights, education, counselling and healing practices. The courses include performance studies.
The aim is to create an integrated, contemporary holistic training that acknowledges the breadth and depth of work, as well as problems encountered throughout the region.
The focus will be on developing professional trainers, highly skilled in multiple approaches, personally and professionally aware and adept at care for the caregiver. These scholars are responsible for facilitating Drama for Life projects within their home countries, partnering with a range of formal and non-formal sectors.