South Africa

THE ACTIONISTS

When Drama for Life turns into Performance Action for Life

When Drama for Life turns into Performance Action for Life
Hamish Neill and Petro Janse Van Vuuren Photo: Thom Pierce

Drama For Life started in the early 2000s as a response to the fatigue that had set in around the dissemination of HIV information. It exists as a post-graduate programme that provides a space to increase the efficacy of performance-based messaging.

In the world of academia, Drama For Life is unique. It exists as a post-graduate programme that provides a space to increase the efficacy of performance-based messaging. Through arts intervention and drama therapy work they tackle public health, mental health, governance and environmental issues. But, alongside this academic course, Drama For Life also runs a series of outreach projects, a theatre company and a programme to promote mental health awareness in schools.

Petro Janse Van Vuuren runs the academic programme and Hamish Neill is the director of projects. Together, their approach is focused on making important information more accessible and engaging, continuing the work started by programme founder and fellow Actionist, Warren Nebe.

Whilst the academic programme is advertised as a post-graduate degree, the objective is to bring together experts and change-makers from around Africa, and beyond. They understand and embrace the power of expertise that originates from varied levels of education or educational backgrounds and, critically, years of hands-on experience. They offer a range of short, project-based bridging courses and recognise prior undocumented learning, experience and impact that equates to an undergraduate degree.

“This is someone who has been doing this for 20 years, to not allow them in because they didn’t have the papers, well that wasn’t their choice…Our education programme is part of our activism. It’s not just about getting in post-grad students and ticking boxes.“ – Hamish Neill

Drama For Life started in the early 2000s as a response to the fatigue that had set in around the dissemination of HIV information. There was a sense that important messaging was being lost in the oversaturated world of heavily funded HIV campaigns and that little was actually changing.

It evolved into a space for the long-term effectiveness and standards of performance-based activism, and healing, to grow by focusing on facilitating discussions, critical reflection and development through applied theatre practices. They recognise that their role is to bring the right people together and provide the tools and space for them to learn from each other.

“Our entire teaching programme relies on facilitating the collective information in the room.” – Petro Janse Van Vuuren

It is not often that you come across an entire university department so passionate about creating change, and, rarer still, one that understands their role so clearly as a facilitator of others’ expertise. DM

The Actionists was launched in early 2023 by photographer Thom Pierce. It consists of on-the-ground problem solvers, community activists, climate campaigners and human rights defenders who engage in direct action. They are people anyone can turn to in difficult circumstances: a growing community of people who care about the future of South Africa. Through a series of photographic stories, Pierce profiles these people. Through a website, discussion forum and social media, the aim is to provide ways for people to get involved.

Nominate Actionists in your circle at www.theactionists.co.za or email [email protected]

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options