Saturday, 15 November 2014

Global Shakespeare launched at the Barbican

globalshakespeareClick here to listen to a podcast with Professor David Schalkwyk on the Robben Island Shakespeare

Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick last night (13 November) launched Global Shakespeare at a sold out event at the Barbican. The event included a reading of Matthew Hahn’s play, the Robben Island Bible, based on passages chosen from a copy of Shakespeare’s complete works by the prisoners on Robben Island, South Africa.

A research and teaching collaboration, Global Shakespeare aims to shape the future agenda in Shakespeare studies across criticism, performance, history, media and popular culture.

Global Shakespeare critically explores and celebrates how Shakespeare’s work is translated, adapted and performed in other cultures. Global Shakespeare Director, Professor David Schalkwyk says that the partnership is fundamentally about challenging the notion that “Shakespeare belongs to a single language, culture or people”.

“Whether London or Lahore, we aim to shine a light on the truly global nature of Shakespeare’s work. It is our belief that there is no pure or true way to interpret or perform Shakespeare’s text. The meaning and understanding of his work is culturally specific, and Global Shakespeare seeks to understand and celebrate that reality,” said Professor Schalkwyk.

Current Global Shakespeare initiatives include a collaboration with the People’s Palace Projectson Shakespeare in Brazil; a partnership with Dash Arts on a multi-lingual production of King Lear; a celebration in 2016 of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth; and the 500th anniversary of the Venetian Ghetto.

According to Jerry Brotton, QMUL Professor of English and Associate Director of Global Shakespeare, the project “will make it possible to see Shakespeare in his world and ours. Our research, teaching, and public engagement will help us understand the translation of Shakespeare’s work from the Globe to countries, cultures and communities all over the world. Our ambition is unique, as is our scale: no other project brings together such a diverse group of scholars and students working on the global and intercultural nature of Shakespeare.”

Upcoming international activities include a 2016 conference on Global Shakespeare with the University of Cape Town, a 2015 exhibition and series of performances in London of the British Black and Asian Shakespeare’s Multi-Cultural Shakespeare: 1930-2010, and a 2015 symposium on Shakespeare in China.

Future research projects include the use of Shakespeare to investigate the history of the emotions; an extensive “connected communities” project to explore Shakespeare, human rights and areas of conflict; and a series of performance-based workshops with translators to forge closer links between translators, actors and scholars.

Sources: www.folger.edu and www.qmul.ac.uk



http://globalsouthafricans.com/latest/397-global-shakespeare-launched-at-the-barbican.html



Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Casting Announcement - The Robben Island Bible at the Barbican

On 13 November, a short extract from The Robben Island Bible will be held at the Barbican Theatre in London as part of the opening of the Global Shakespeare Centre at Queen Mary's University, London.

I am pleased to announce that Maryam Hamdi will be joining the reading again after her performance in Glasgow as part of the opening of the Commonwealth Games in July.  Joining Maryam will be actors Richard Peppple and  Waleed Akhtar.




Monday, 20 October 2014

Global Shakespeare will launch on 13th November

Queen Mary University of London and the University of Warwick will launch Global Shakespeare at The Barbican, London on Thursday 13th November at 6.00pm. This collaboration aims to transform the research agenda on Shakespeare for the 21st Century by exploring the writer’s extraordinary dissemination and appropriation in cultures and languages across the world, in text, performance, film and new media.
Opening addresses by Professor Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford and Professor David Schalkwyk, Academic Director for Global Shakespeare.


There will be a play reading from Matthew Hahn’s play, The Robben Island Bible, based on the copy of Shakespeare signed by apartheid prisoners on Robben Island (including Nelson Mandela), and featured in the British Library exhibition, “Shakespeare—Staging the World” in 2012.

Formal proceedings will be following by a drinks reception in the Conservatory Terrace. The event will conclude at 8.00pm.


If you are interested in attending please register your attendance using the following link: http://bit.ly/1pM2BXS

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Opening up the Robben Island Bible


12 September 2014

PHOTO: FARANAAZ VRAAGOM
Last month, the APC’s special event, ‘A Conversation on The Robben Island Bible’, attracted a large audience and lively debate. We felt especially honoured to welcome ex-prisoners, Khwedi Mkhaliphi, who attended with his wife, Ruth Mkhaliphi, the artist Lionel Davis (also a formerly banned person) and Yasien Mohamed. Both Davis and Mohamed are well-known tour guides on Robben Island. The event was organised and chaired by APC Honorary Research Fellow, Dr June Bam.
The presentation evolved around the play, The Robben Island Bible, by British playwright and lecturer at St Mary’s University in London, Matthew Hahn. Hahn also presented video clips of the interviews he did with former political prisoners of the Island, as well as clips of staged readings of scenes from his play. These included the passages of Shakespeare’s Complete Works, which were marked by the prisoners as meaningful for them, on request of Sonny Venkatrathnam. The book was brought to Venkatrathnam by his wife, Theresa, during his time of incarceration. While on the Island, he disguised it as a ‘religious book’ with Hindu religious motifs pasted onto it. According to Venkatrathnam, the warders feared two things: ‘the authorities, and God’. Hahn introduced his work in conversation with Robben Island CEO Sibongiseni Mkhize, and global Shakespeare scholar David Schalkwyk.
In recalling his ‘first encounter’ with the book, Hahn recollected the detail of the scent of eucalyptus leaves that emanated from between the pages, carrying the trace and scent of the Island. Speaking of the often controversial memories the interviews with ex-political prisoners brought to the fore, Hahn said that the genre of drama is especially able to embrace the multidirectional and, at times, conflicting memories of the ex-political prisoners – ‘since this is (also) what makes a good drama.’
Hahn sees the book as a repository of traces, resonating with hints of the thoughts and concerns of the prisoners at specific moments in time, which he then translated into the staged readings, which we viewedviewed – for instance, SB Benghu’s choice of a passage in Henry V that speaks of tolerance, of different elements that constitute a whole, or Chuk Iwuji’s reading of Wilton Mkwayi’s choice of Malvolio’s utterances from Twelfth Night. At the APC event, Khwedi Mkalipi read his selection of Puck from A MidsummerNight’s Dream
Of course, Nelson Mandela’s choice was included in the clips, which, as we hear it today, resounds profoundly with his Rivonia Trial speech:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
The CEO of Robben Island Museum, Sibongiseni Mkhize, drew the audience’s attention to the question of how we think of and represent Robben Island today, especially in the light of the deeper history of the Island: ‘Robben Island is not reducible to the Robben Island of the political prisoners under apartheid,’ he said, and spoke of the Island’s first-known political prisoner, the Khoisan leader and interpreter, Autshumao. He also spoke of the location’s history as a place of banishment for people infected with leprosy, and as a place of exile for early political prisoners, including women (such as the Khoisan interpreter, Krotoa), and unwanted persons as far back as the 17th century; of Imam Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, who was exiled to the Island in the 1740s, and imprisoned religious and political leaders from the Eastern Cape during the Frontier Wars of the 19th century – including the much revered Xhosa prophet and leader, Nxele Makana, who drowned while trying to escape with others from the Island.
Mkhize reminded us that, even when speaking of the recent past, we often exclude political prisoners, like Robert Sobukwe, but also internees from Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique. Who, he asked, is honoured as a political prisoner today? In illustrating this point, he drew attention to the large number of detainees under apartheid, many of whom (women and white male political prisoners) were not incarcerated on the Island but on the mainland. Mkhize’s insightful interventions led to a robust discussion of the politics of representation.
The second respondent, David Schalkwyk, distinctively put into perspective the meaning of the ‘Robben Island Bible’ for the political prisoners: firstly, he made clear that it does not appear in any of the memoirs of the political prisoners he knows. Secondly, he recalled the position of an ANC politician, who asserted that the prisoners at the time were: ‘inspired by the Freedom Charter, not by Shakespeare…’
Lionel Davis, who has been a visitors’ guide at Robben Island’s educational centre for many years, asked: ‘What do young South Africans take from the Island?’ He posed a further related question as to whether this World Heritage Site was still an important point of identification for young South Africans.
In answer to this, Khwedi Mkhaliphi spoke of the past struggle as an anchor for identification, of the bravery, faith, deprivation of the prisoners, of ‘not reading the newspaper, not knowing what was happening in the country and in the world’. He also pointed to the role of women in the struggle, as fighters, yet also as the wives and girlfriends of those confined to the Island; of these women being followed and spied on. ‘How come [is it],’ he asked, ‘that now the only person who played a role in the struggle [at least in international discourses] is Mandela?’
Hopefully, as Hahn’s staged readings and play circulate, it will become clearer and clearer to audiences around the world that this was not the reality of South Africa’s broad-based struggle against the injustices of apartheid.  

Monday, 22 September 2014

Video of reading at Michael Oak School, Cape Town presented by The Shakespeare Society of South Africa (Cape Town branch).





Here is the link to the reading performed on 22 August at Michael Oak School, Cape Town presented by The Shakespeare Society of South Africa (Cape Town branch).  Maurice Podbrey produced and cast the play.  Actors were Vaneshran Arumugam, Andile Nebulane, Andrew Roux & Chi Mhende.  It was attended by students from Michael Oak School, Bergvliet High, Constantia Waldorf and Stellenbosch Waldorf Schools. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The work continues in Johannesburg


I am so pleased to hear that the Southwest Gauteng College and their students have continued to work in the community centre for homeless young men in Johannesburg. 

I was so impressed with their work during the ‘Ethical Leadership’ workshop that they facilitated a drama workshop with me later in the week in Maboneng.

It is so important that this sort of work becomes sustainable and with the energy of these young students and the support of their college, it is my hope that these workshops can continue.

Below is a recent email from one of the SWGC students and below that from the gentleman who runs the homeless shelter:


Dear Matthew
 
Trust all is good that side and hope you are missing us this side. 
 
We had gone to see the boys on Friday the 12th. We spent half the day
with them and it was fun. The most fun part as we went with the group
that was in workshop(hope you still remember them all) we were about 9
in number and....as if that isn't good enough..the College borrowed us
their mini bus to use..(That was great!!!!)
 
Most of those faces we met with you have left. So Friday we
saw new faces and they had as much fun as we had with them. We had
activities lined up and played games and they were delighted.
 
Seems like the College is going to help out in this in terms of
assisting the boys in shaping their future. Mr Mojela is also
instrumental in guiding us as to how to get the school on board. This
seems like a wonderful journey that you have started for us.. We thank
u again and hope you will visit again soon.
  
Be well Matthew,we miss you and thank you for everything.
 
Kind,Warm Regards,
Xanadu
 

----
 

Mr Mojela,

We were greatly privileged by your visit to the centre. Your programme is valuable to our vision to give children a future. As I told you, we might not always have children who qualify, but we will always in touch for the few that we come across. It is unfortunate that I didn't manage to sit throughout your presentation on Friday. Please be encouraged to come back as soon as you students have something they can share with our boys.

Kind regards

Todd

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow - meeting another of those most gentle of men, Eddie Daniels

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.


The Cape Town Shakespeare Society presents The Robben Island Bible, 22 August 2014

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

Richard Attenborough, director of Cry Freedom, dies aged 90

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. 


Friday, 22 August 2014

Opening up the Robben Island Bible



[from http://www.apc.uct.ac.za/gazette/current/?id=198&t=int]

PHOTO: FARANAAZ VRAAGOM





The APC’s special event, ‘A Conversation on The Robben Island Bible’, attracted a large audience and lively debate. We felt especially honoured to welcome ex-prisoners, Khwedi Mkhaliphi, who attended with his wife, Ruth Mkhaliphi, the artist Lionel Davis (also a formerly banned person) and Yasien Mohamed. Both Davis and Mohamed are well-known tour guides on Robben Island. The event was organised and chaired by APC Honorary Research Fellow, Dr June Bam.
The presentation evolved around the play, The Robben Island Bible, by British playwright and lecturer at St Mary’s University in London, Matthew Hahn. Hahn also presented video clips of the interviews he did with former political prisoners of the Island, as well as clips of staged readings of scenes from his play. These included the passages of Shakespeare’s Complete Works, which were marked by the prisoners as meaningful for them, on request of Sonny Venkatrathnam. The book was brought to Venkatrathnam by his wife, Theresa, during his time of incarceration. While on the Island, he disguised it as a ‘religious book’ with Hindu religious motifs pasted onto it. According to Venkatrathnam, the warders feared two things: ‘the authorities, and God’. Hahn introduced his work in conversation with Robben Island CEO Sibongiseni Mkhize, and global Shakespeare scholar David Schalkwyk.
In recalling his ‘first encounter’ with the book, Hahn recollected the detail of the scent of eucalyptus leaves that emanated from between the pages, carrying the trace and scent of the Island. Speaking of the often controversial memories the interviews with ex-political prisoners brought to the fore, Hahn said that the genre of drama is especially able to embrace the multidirectional and, at times, conflicting memories of the ex-political prisoners – ‘since this is (also) what makes a good drama.’
Hahn sees the book as a repository of traces, resonating with hints of the thoughts and concerns of the prisoners at specific moments in time, which he then translated into the staged readings, which we viewedviewed – for instance, SB Benghu’s choice of a passage in Henry V that speaks of tolerance, of different elements that constitute a whole, or Chuk Iwuji’s reading of Wilton Mkwayi’s choice of Malvolio’s utterances from Twelfth Night.

At the APC event, Khwedi Mkalipi read his selection of Puck from A MidsummerNight’s Dream.
Of course, Nelson Mandela’s choice was included in the clips, which, as we hear it today, resounds profoundly with his Rivonia Trial speech:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

The CEO of Robben Island Museum, Sibongiseni Mkhize, drew the audience’s attention to the question of how we think of and represent Robben Island today, especially in the light of the deeper history of the Island: ‘Robben Island is not reducible to the Robben Island of the political prisoners under apartheid,’ he said, and spoke of the Island’s first-known political prisoner, the Khoisan leader and interpreter, Autshumao. He also spoke of the location’s history as a place of banishment for people infected with leprosy, and as a place of exile for early political prisoners, including women (such as the Khoisan interpreter, Krotoa), and unwanted persons as far back as the 17th century; of Imam Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, who was exiled to the Island in the 1740s, and imprisoned religious and political leaders from the Eastern Cape during the Frontier Wars of the 19th century – including the much revered Xhosa prophet and leader, Nxele Makana, who drowned while trying to escape with others from the Island.
Mkhize reminded us that, even when speaking of the recent past, we often exclude political prisoners, like Robert Sobukwe, but also internees from Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique. Who, he asked, is honoured as a political prisoner today? In illustrating this point, he drew attention to the large number of detainees under apartheid, many of whom (women and white male political prisoners) were not incarcerated on the Island but on the mainland. Mkhize’s insightful interventions led to a robust discussion of the politics of representation.
The second respondent, David Schalkwyk, distinctively put into perspective the meaning of the ‘Robben Island Bible’ for the political prisoners: firstly, he made clear that it does not appear in any of the memoirs of the political prisoners he knows. Secondly, he recalled the position of an ANC politician, who asserted that the prisoners at the time were: ‘inspired by the Freedom Charter, not by Shakespeare…’
Lionel Davis, who has been a visitors’ guide at Robben Island’s educational centre for many years, asked: ‘What do young South Africans take from the Island?’ He posed a further related question as to whether this World Heritage Site was still an important point of identification for young South Africans.
In answer to this, Khwedi Mkhaliphi spoke of the past struggle as an anchor for identification, of the bravery, faith, deprivation of the prisoners, of ‘not reading the newspaper, not knowing what was happening in the country and in the world’. He also pointed to the role of women in the struggle, as fighters, yet also as the wives and girlfriends of those confined to the Island; of these women being followed and spied on. ‘How come [is it],’ he asked, ‘that now the only person who played a role in the struggle [at least in international discourses] is Mandela?’
Hopefully, as Hahn’s staged readings and play circulate, it will become clearer and clearer to audiences around the world that this was not the reality of South Africa’s broad-based struggle against the injustices of apartheid. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Workshop on Communication - Mabateng, Johannesburg.

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.


St Mary's MA Programmes - Open Forum @ Wits University

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. 


The Ethical Leadership Workshop Performance

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.