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PHOTO ESSAY

Jozi arts festival opens magical, inspiring world of theatre to the young

Jozi arts festival opens magical, inspiring world of theatre to the young
'The Flying Cow' tells the story of imagination in which two girls and a boy embark on a stand-of. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee)

The recent Cradle of Creativity festival in Johannesburg, aimed at children and young people, featured performances by people from South Africa and around the world.

Young theatre lovers and their families were blessed with an abundance of fantastic shows which formed part of last week’s Cradle of Creativity festival. This unique weeklong arts festival designed for children and young people is the brainchild of arts organisation ASSITEJ South Africa. 

ASSITEJ South Africa’s mission is to facilitate access to the arts for every child and young person in South Africa. “Theatre is a transformational force in the lives of young people, inspiring imaginations, shifting perceptions, teaching empathy and building our nation,” reads the founding statement on its website.

The organisation hopes to use theatre to allow young people to access stories and explore different perspectives which can foster a child’s capacity for empathy and emotional intelligence.

Jozi arts festival

Mexican and Argentianian duo José Agüero and Adrián Hernández perform their show ‘Cerca/ Close’. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee)

“Children should see theatre, need to see theatre, deserve to see theatre, because – quite simply – they are human beings and theatre is the fullest expression of being human,” says ASSITEJ South Africa’s Yvette Hardie.

The majority of last week’s shows were hosted by Joburg’s famous Market Theatre, with some also held at The Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow, the Sibikwa Arts Centre and the National Children’s Theatre, as well as at selected schools and community centres, making them accessible to all.

This year’s festival was themed “The Stories That Move Us” and was curated by Faye Kabali-Kagwa. “After the Covid pandemic and theatres were closed, it just felt like this was a moment to celebrate people coming together. We wanted to celebrate the diversity in the space as well as the people who are making theatre for young people… We had shows for children as young as three months up 18 years of age,” said Kabali-Kagwa.

Jozi arts festival

A scene from ‘Wanda the Musical’, which deals with Wanda and her beautiful head of hair. She is brave and strong, but she’s unhappy because of the endless teasing by the boys at school. Through these hair secrets and stories, she finds the courage to face her fears and realises that her hair is a crown and something to be proud of. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee)

Young children in Joburg’s inner city watch a performance by the Joshua Monten Dance Company from Switzerland at the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee)

Apart from South African performances, audiences were treated to shows by artists from the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Rwanda, Mexico and Argentina.

“This festival is bringing together artwork from all around the world, all over Africa, all over South Africa, so we want people to feel that they have been moved physically and emotionally by what they will be engaging with,” said Hardie.

The festival was well received by lovers of theatre, with little kids enjoying the experience of watching live performances with their parents.

Read more in Daily Maverick: All their world’s a stage – visually impaired youngsters take message of inclusivity to National Arts Festival

“I mean, you know, children are just so open. They are so ready to receive anything and of course their imaginations are just so fertile and so you can really take them on different journeys that are incredibly exciting. One of the things I love about theatre for young audiences is actually being able to watch the audience and their responses as well. It sort of gives you goosebumps. It’s almost like therapy,” said Hardie. DM

Artist Cara Roberts performs her one-person show ‘The King of Broken Things’, which won a Gold Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival 2020 and won three awards at the Golden Dolphin International Puppet Festival in 2022. It touches on ancient Japanese traditions, mythology and dreams. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee)

A scene from ‘The Flying Cow’ performed by Dutch dancers. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee)

A cast member from Danish group Batida waits backstage at the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow before their performance ‘To Hell With Paradise’. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee)

Presented by the Market Theatre Lab’s second-year students, ‘KiDDING’ is a captivating and innovative play offering a fresh take on the challenges and complexities of growing up and fitting in at a private school. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffajee)

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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