Wednesday, 27 August 2014
What an honour to have met another one of Sonny's 'Bible's signatories, Eddie 'Matthew' Daniels ['Matthew', he tells me, was his nom de guerre in the Liberation Movement]. In 2010, Masie & Tod Higgenson interviewed him whilst I was in Johannesburg working with actors at the Market Theatre Labortory.
Winson, from the Cape Town Shakespeare Soceity, and I picked him up from his home in Sommerset West. As I entered into his sitting room, I noticed right away a photograph that had pride of place in this room was of him diving off of a ship into the Arctic Ocean. This photograph was taken last month! 85 and still going strong. An amazing person and a most gentle of souls.
Archive & Public Culture Research Initiative Paper delivered at the University of Cape Town, 21 August 2014
On the 21st of August, I was invited by the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town to present a paper on the research & development of the play, The Robben Island Bible, with a specific focus on archive & heritage through the voices of the men & women whom I interviewed for the play in 2008 & 2010. Much of the presentation was clips from the original interviews and readings of the play. I examined how archive and culture played [and continues to play] a major role in the development and presentation of the play, its research and the supporting workshops on 'Ethical Leadership.'
I was joined by Professor David Schalkwyk, Academic Director, Global Shakespeare, Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick and former lecturer at the University of Cape Town. I know David through his book, Hamlet's Dream; I was also joined by Sibongiseni Mkhize, the CEO of the Robben Island Museum for a Q & A that followed the presentation.
I was honoured to have in the audience Kwedie Mkalipi, a former political prisoner on Robben Island as well as a signatoree of Sonny's 'Bible'. I had the honour of interviewing him in 2008.
On Friday, I had four excellent actors present a reading of the play to an audience of mostly school age children along with parents and others as well as former political prisoner on Robben Island, Eddie Daniels.
After the performance, Eddie addressed the audience and exorted them not to forget their collective past. He also honoured all of those abroad who helped, at first, gain better conditions within Robben Island [paying particular attention to the International Red Cross] and then towards the liberation of South Africa.
He said that he greatly enjoyed hearing and seeing the play and all of the hard work that had gone into it. I had the priviledge of having lunch with him and the actors following the morning performance and he filled me in with more details about the performance of Julius Caesar that happened during his time on Robben Island [in which he played Mark Anthony] in the game room of the prison. He told me the lovely antidote that Neville Alexander directed the play and, during the performance, would feed lines to the actors via the slot in the door usually used by the warders to spy on the political prisoners. He told me that Nelson 'greatly enjoyed it.'
Monday, 25 August 2014
Just heard the news that Richard Attenburgh has died today. I find it poient that I arrive in Port Elizabeth on the day that he has died. His film, Cry Freedom, for all of its controversy within the Liberation movement, was instrumental in conscientizing me as a young 14 year old wrapped up in my cottoned wooled life in Indiana about the conditions that the vast majority of South Africans faced under apartheid and was the beginning of the long road that brought me to where I am today. There is much still to be angry about but progress, however achingly slowly, is being made.
Sadly, of all of the people to whom I mention this, there is little reaction to the movie and its politics. In fact, after i mention this to one person, I hear 'I don't get involved in politics' just before the mention of those 'lazy natives.....' So, painful and so slow. And so angry.
Monday, 18 August 2014
Matthew worked with three students from South West Gauteng College in a workshop that was facilitated that Thursday, 14 August. The students were paid a small stipend as well as given lunch. There were to be Wits University drama and media Students recording the students facilitation as well as participating in the workshop.
The workshop was held in a new community arts space in Mabateng in Johannesburg. The community attending the workshop on communication skills was the local men's homeless shelter which consisted in boys as young as 9 and young men up to the age of 18. The three students ran the entire workshop from beginning to end with input, encouragement and side coaching throughout by Matthew. Although the stated aim of the workshop was to improve communication skills, the college students also wanted to focus on building confidence as well as making sure the young men had fun.
The workshop was conducted mainly in Zulu and the men jumped right in. The students has games, songs and activities that 'broke the ice' as well as encouraged the young men to improve their projection and articulation to aid their communication skills.
The students asked the young men how they currently communicate as well as encouraged the notion of establishing eye contact and confidence as corner stones of good communication.
The workshop was certainly a learning experience for all of us. The young men opened up and told individual students about their situation and how they ended up being homeless in Johannesburg. The students were shocked at the stories they heard and showed great empathy with the young men. There was great concern by each of the students that the workshop needed to end by 3pm so that the young men could 'claim' a spot for the night without fear of being bullied by the older men or have their blankets stolen if the arrived too late.
Much of the later workshop was dialogue between the students and the young men, which was excellent, but flawed in the sense that the students needed to keep the men active in order to keep them focused. But this is a next step in their facilitation skills: having an arsenal of games and activities that focused, energised or aided the Aims and Objectives of the workshop. But this dialogue won for the students the trust of the young men which then allowed them to share their stories.
The workshop ended with Matthew facilitating a highly energetic game called 'Fruit Salad' which left everyone laughing and in high spirits.
After masie heroically drove us to WitsUniversity following the Ethical Leadership Performance, we made it in time for their Open Forum, which is a forum for soon to be graduating students to meet, listen to and ask questions to people who are working in the programming arts (and who generally are recent graduates). I took the opportunity to present to these students a presentation on St. Mary's University's MA and study abroad programmes well as means of accessing funding for such studies. We discussed studying in London in general as well.
The presentation was well received with many students opting to sign up for more information abou the programmes.
Today, 11 August, twelve students from the South West Gauteng College put together a 45 minute long performance that mixed readings from Shakespeare, extracts from the interviews of former political prisoners and their own creative writing. The performance was watched by fellow students, teachers as well as management. It was well received by all who saw it.