The Zwakala Festival was started in 1992 by John Kani and the late co-founder of the Market Theatre, Barney Simon. It was initially funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. This was just after The Market Theatre Lab; the theatre’s educational arm was established in 1989. Now in its 30th year, the meaningful annual event is currently funded by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s Incubator Programme.
The festival is one of South Africa’s most dynamic and long-standing theatre festivals aimed specifically at community-based theatre makers. Throughout its existence its main aim is to support, platform and enhance the skills-set of writers, directors, and actors. It also trains the participants both in the creative and practical sides of producing a professional theatre piece.
Based on its original format, fieldworkers go out to community groups to develop the participants’ theatre skills and mentor the members of the chosen drama groups.
Participants are taken through workshops to polish their original scripts and acting methods. The final cohort across four productions showcase their work to the public in the Ramolao Makhene Theatre at the Market Theatre Foundation in Newtown.
Judges who are industry experts are selected to choose a winning group. The winning group is given further support and the use of the resources of the Market Theatre Foundation to realise a professional rendition of their initial work with the help of a mentor director and dramaturge.
Past winning productions include Tau directed by Momo Matsunyane (current Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Theatre) and, more recently, Thabo Ramaine and Lonwabo Bhele’s Blacksmith.
Most importantly the festival aims to empower arts practitioners to create and produce local content of a high standard. This is a great platform and often propels the theatre groups to greater visibility within the sector and the broader public.
Experience the electrifying atmosphere of the 30th Zwakala Festival as we commemorate three decades of South African democracy through the lens of Development Theatre.
Dive into our immersive lineup, starting with the enlightening Funding & Opportunity Workshops on February 23, 2024, from 13:00 to 18:00. Then, join us for a nostalgic trip down memory lane at the Opening Launch on the same day at 19:00.
Engage in thought-provoking discussions during our Panel Discussions on February 24th and 25th, 2024, from 10:00 to 12:00, where we delve into the State of Community Theatre and the rise of Alternative Performance Spaces.
Feel the pulse of creativity at our vibrant Open Mic Sessions on February 24th and 25th, 2024, from 15:30 to 17:00, hosted at the enchanting Market Theatre Lab Courtyard.
Witness theatrical innovation firsthand with three groundbreaking Theatre productions on February 24th and 25th, 2024, at 13:00, 14:30, and 17:00.
Cap off the festivities with our prestigious Festival Awards ceremony on February 25th, 2024, at 18:30, as we celebrate excellence and pay homage to the trailblazers of Development Theatre.
Curated by the visionary duo of Thami aka Mbongo (Festival Director) and Ntambo Rapatla (Festival Coordinator), and supported by the esteemed Market Theatre Foundation and the DSAC Incubator Programme, this edition guarantees an unforgettable fusion of art, culture, and community engagement.”