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Windybrow rocks the Cradle with two dynamic new shows

The Windybrow Arts Centre, under the umbrella of the Market Theatre Foundation, is excited to present two dynamic works at the Cradle of Creativity Festival which takes place in Joburg from 20th to 27th August: The Visitors and Skin We Are In. These are productions by and for young people, which aim to inspire youth, parents, and teachers to have challenging conversations and debate themes that are urgent to us now.

“The theme of The Cradle of Creativity is The Stories That Move Us,” explains the festival’s curator, Faye Kabali-Kagwa, of ASSITEJ. “It’s coming to Joburg for the first time in August, after two iterations in Cape Town. The eight days of performances, workshops, presentations, will take place at the prestigious Market Theatre as its main venue, which includes the Market Theatre Laboratory, and the Windybrow Arts Centre, but will also have select cultural hubs – the Sibikwa Arts Centre, Soweto Theatre and the National School of the Arts, as satellite venues. Theatre is a powerful way to engage big issues with young people, and these shows are geared to do just that.”

The Visitors, a new work by renowned international choreographer/director Constanza Macras, opens the Festival on the John Kani stage at The Market on the 20th August. This show continues a collaboration between Dorky Park and many of the young South African cast members of her successful production Hillbrowfication. In The Visitors, they dive into the fascinating world of slasher movies, a sub-genre of horror cinema in which teenagers are threatened and killed, while their parents and other adult figures are absent. Time and again the young ones must deal with the monsters on their own.

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Re-elaborating on the codes and aesthetics of the genre in the specific context of post-apartheid South Africa, The Visitors touches on themes such as the state orchestrated destruction of family structures during apartheid times, and the persistence of a colonial legacy of bureaucracy and corruption that still disrupts daily life. But if the relentless return of the past is a characteristic trait of slasher cinema, so is the youthful protagonists search for tangent narratives out of it as they fiercely fight the monsters away. 

The powerhouse creative team includes Spoek Mathambo composing, Tamara Saphir as Dramaturge, Sibongile Fisher as dramaturgical advisor, Thando Lobese designing the set, Roman Handt as Costume Designer, Sérgio Pessanha as Lighting Designer, and Stephan Worhman as Sound Designer. Dorky Park dancers Miki Shoji, Emil Bordás, Thulani Mgidi and Alexandra Bodí as well as the South African performer and musician John Sithole, are joined by participants from the Windybrow’s after-school programme and selected young artists from Hillbrowfication.

Joburgers will get to see this international co-production first before it travels to Germany. Supported by the Goethe International Coproduction Fund (Internationale Koproduktionsfonds) of the Goethe-Intitut, it goes on to perform at the Ruhrtriennale Festival of the Arts, Volksbühne, Berlin and Kampnagel, Hamburg in September.

This production is also supported by the NATIONALES PERFORMANCE NETZ Coproduction Fund for Dance, which is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

Skin We Are In, the other production presented by The Windybrow Arts Centre, tackles conversations about race with young learners. It is based on the book by Dr Sindiwe Magona and Nina Jablonksi (Published by New Africa Books), adapted for the stage by award-winning playwright, Omphile Molusi, and brought to life by Kwasha! Theatre Company. 

Skin We Are In is about a group of school friends who learn about the evolution of human skin. The production transforms the valuable research and content that already exists in the book into a truly engaging and important piece of theatre, to allow more young people, teachers, and parents, to change the conversation about skin colour, to grow healthier attitudes. “Dr Magona notes that science has been abused to create devastating laws that judge and discriminate based on skin colour, when in reality skin colour is, “only 0,001% (1000th of a percent) of where humans come from.”

Performing to 12- to 15-year-olds (Grades 6 to 9) since March this year, the play has been welcomed by teachers as it offers a great adjunct to the book, which is sold alongside the production and is available in all 11 official languages. “Exceptional actors brought very relevant rights-based queries to our grades 6 and 7 group,” commented one teacher from Auckland Park Preparatory School. “This was done gently, intelligently and with great empathy, enabling and phenomenal critical thinking exercise and discussion afterwards. Phenomenal and exceptional execution.”

Skin We Are In, challenges the way skin colour has been used negatively throughout history and especially in Apartheid South Africa. If parents wanted to have these conversations with their children, they’d be advised to avoid the idea that children can’t see skin colour. Rather, they should unpack ideas like social construct vs skin colour, race vs skin colour, how terminology creates categories, issues of control and power, as well as the fact that diversity and variation are essential for our survival.

These complex ideas are brought to life by the writers and the production team. The production is directed by Mosie Mamaregane with Dr. Refiloe Lepere as mentor, Bokang Ramatlapeng as Musical Director and Nomzamo Molaba as Designer. The dynamic Kwasha! Team this year consists of Ngwedi Ramphele, Sinegugu Mdluli, Ndonie Ntshiza, Sanele Philips, Azande Mkhungo.

Schools and parents are urged to book tickets for these shows soon.

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