HEALTHY ART: Victoria Hume explains to Drama for Life about how to integrate music and art into medicine. Photo: Ilanit Chernick
Art and medicine combined can be used as a tool to heal people, Victoria Hume told members of Drama for Life (DFL) recently.
DFL is trying to close the gaps between these two fields by incorporating art into medicine and bringing this into South Africa’s public health system. They are currently working on a project about using drama and its techniques to educate the public about diabetes.
Musician and artist Victoria Hume spoke to DFL on Monday about using music, singing and breathing techniques to help patients who are dealing with “complex conditions” such as diabetes and those who have been through “traumatic healthcare experiences”.
She also focused on how to “make hospitals a centre of community”.
“It’s about building relationships between South African institutes like Drama for Life and Baragwanath.”
DFL and Hume have collaborated on this project to educate the public about “drawing attention” to things that are “little known” about medical conditions like diabetes.
Hume also told Wits Vuvuzela that despite the economic problems in South Africa’s public health system, it is still possible to implement drama and music techniques into our hospitals without just “sticking pictures over cracked walls”.
“It’s about building relationships between South African institutes like Drama for Life and Baragwanath [Hospital] for example” she said.
DFL are currently training students in drama therapy and techniques and Hume said it is “important to train them in this type of context as well”.
EVOLUTION IN MOTION: Liesel Retief (on the left) and Pro Mchunu (on the right) are two of three actors who were part of the Walking Tall physical theater play. The third actor was Lesego Gladwin Molotsi (not pictured).
Photo: Luke Matthews
Drama for Life Town Hall presented a performance of Walking tall a physical performance play about the origins of the human race on Monday, April 7 at the Yvonne Banning studio.
Walking tall is a Paleontological Scientific Trust (PAST) core educational program based on the origins of Africa and the earth. The aim of the campaign is to develop Africa’s rich heritage and promote interest in the origin sciences.
Pro Mchunu, Liesel Retief and Lesego Gladwin Molotsi were the professional actors who performed on Monday in the Yvonne Banning Studio at University Corner.
The performers agreed that they got along, Mchunu said “We have to because in physical theatre we have no sets or props, we only have each other.” According to Retief, the response from the audiences is positive. She said, “A girl came up to us and said that she learned more from watching the show than from reading it.”
They started rehearsals in January, and were already performing the production by February. They travel throughout the country and other countries in Africa performing for school children and students.
Walking tall has been seen by over 1 million university students and school children around the Africa over the past 13 years. The science of the origins shows the shared African roots of all people. PAST uses Africa’s ancient heritage to build African pride, promote community spirit, social unity and environmental conservation. They also want to get the youth of South Africa interested in science that will lead to a strong African presence in the field.
After the performance there was a question and answer portion where the actors explained the scientific terminology used in the play. They also answered questions from the audience, giving the show an educational and entertainment feel.
The overall message of Walking Tall is that human beings share the same origin and we share a genetic bond that can not be broken.
DRAMA for Life (DFL) received eight Naledi Theatre Award nominations for two of its productions and one for a student who shined in her debut performance.
Hayani and Through Positive Eyes were directed by Warren Nebe, the head of DFL. Nebe said a lot of hard work goes into producing work that is recognised by the prestigious theatre. He added “[there needs] to be a great deal of commitment and personal investment” to make the productions good.
Another element that makes the productions successful is that they deal with personal stories about real people.
Nebe said, “The challenge, then, is to be respectful to those who offer stories and present them in an honest and open way with integrity”.
Being nominated for the Naledi Theatre Awards has created many opportunities for DFL. Nebe said it’s easier to approach funders for productions and to improve on the “laboratory space for students to create art through performance”. He added that the department is taken more seriously in South Africa and internationally with this kind of recognition.
SHINING BRIGHT: Faith Busika, best newcomer nominee for the Naledi Theatre Awards, talks about the challenges with portraying true stories on stage.
Photo by: Rofhiwa Madzena
Faith Busika, a masters student at Wits, was nominated for best newcomer for her role in Through Positive Eyes. Busika enjoyed the aspect of being able to perform real stories of people, which she said is different from playing a created character. She said, “What made the performance good was its human context and the endless rehearsals where your every emotions were watched to make sure you’re authentic on stage”. She also said, “The production opened me up as an individual [and also] opened other doors to act in this genre”.
The other productions that DFL was up against included mainstream productions which include some of the best actors and directors in South Africa. Other nominations include best ensemble, cutting edge production, best male performer, best musical score, and best new South African script.
The award ceremony will be on March 17 at the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City.
Wits Vuvuzela journalist Mfuneko Toyana was one of two students who were trapped inside a lift in University Corner Building for nearly three hours on Monday night. He recounts his experience here:
UNDER CONTROL: Service supervisor, Dylan Gibson was on duty today sorting out the “teething problem” that saw, Wits Vuvuzela journalist Mfuneko Toyana stuck in the lift for close to three hours yesterday. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
University Corner’s notoriously unreliable elevators struck again on Monday.
This time the newest lift, installed in a building that was almost condemned to demolition a few years ago, trapped two students inside for close to 3 hours.
The unexpected malfunction of the ultra-modern lift, a far cry compared to the two other battered lifts that service building, was compounded by a human malfunction.
[pullquote align=”right”]The emergency phone button and emergency bell inside the lift yielded no results[/pullquote]
The lift technician called in to perform the straight-forward rescue told Wits Vuvuzela that he was twice given the wrong address, arriving at Braamfontein Centre two times before eventually finding his way to University Corner after 7pm.
Campus Control officers who were on the scene blamed Property Infrastructure and Management (PIMD) for the mix-up resulting in almost a 2 hour delay in reaching the lift.
Mkhacani Maluleke of Campus Control said that after the students had phoned Campus Control the matter was handed over to PIMD, who interacted with lift company Schindler from there on.
Maluleke and two other Campus Control officers arrived at the scene about 40 minutes after Wits Vuvuzela journalist Mfuneko Toyana and Drama for Life student Thoriso Moseneke used a cell phone to report the lift had become stuck on the 20th floor.
The emergency phone button and emergency bell inside the lift yielded no results, and the students resorted to calling from a cellphone as well tweeting about their plight, spawning the hashtag #freefuni in support of the two marooned Witsies.
It was nearly three hours later at 7. 10pm when Toyana and Moseneke where finally freed and thankfully driven home by Campus Control.
It all began with two encounters – a fictional encounter, complicated by a peculiarly South African issue. And an encounter on a real-life level, which brought about a “mingling of different colours”.Two students, who were no more than acquaintances before, had to work intimately together this month to create a piece of physical theatre about a relationship between two characters. But not just any two people. 56 Mocha Street follows the tensions between an interracial couple.
5,6,7,8: Oupa Sibeko and Emma Tollman rehearse their physical theatre piece 56 Mocha Street.
Emma Tollman and Oupa Lesne Sibeko, 3rd year Drama, choreographed the piece based on their own experiences.
The two characters encounter one another in 56 Mocha Street, their home and space. Here they delve into the tensions between how society perceives interracial relationships and how they perceive themselves after being affected by society, said Sibeko.
Apart from the obvious racial tensions – between their characters and, potentially, the two of them – the actors described what it was like to have to work together for the first time. “I remember doing a back-to-back improvisation and Oupa’s body felt so foreign to me,” said Tollman.
How the piece was created
In creating the piece, the two took inspiration from their physical theatre class. It was about discovering “who we are in the class, personally and in the relationship”, said Sibeko. The name 56 Mocha Street uses the metaphor of coffee to describe “the mingling of different colours”, with Emma as a white female and Oupa a black male. The piece explores the intricacies of gender fights, and facing one another head-on.The two use the idea of play and using their bodies to take on the spaces in which they find themselves. Through this, they explore the idea of encounters further.
What is the piece about?
[pullquote]“It’s a vicious cycle of disconnection, finding each other and losing each other,”[/pullquote]
The piece depicts an intensely tragic relationship, “Its a vicious cycle of disconnection,finding each other and losing each other” ,said Tollman. She described the journey through Mocha Street as different from that of a more conventional theater. In this piece, “there is a disillusion of time, a flood of happenings. We are always just happening, we can’t control keeping on.”
The piece was created through a process of “play”, during which the two noticed that material “kept happening”. Through this material and their movements, they have found a story.
56 Mocha Street will be on show at the Wits Downstairs theater on August 26 and 29.
Catherine Burns, whose research interests include the history of sex, says people do not like to think of older people as sexual beings. She says older people are portrayed as being romantic or affectionate, never sexual. Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Rosalind Jacobs cartwheeled onto the stage in the opening scene of her autobiographical play That Certain Age.
She said she used to cartwheel everywhere as a child. It made her feel alive, proud and beautiful. Jacobs, who is 59, said she now looks “like a cushion that’s lost its stuffing. Breasts dangle hopelessly as if they just got tired of hanging on, as if they too had lost their sense of purpose.”
Jacobs’ play, which was staged at Wits on Monday August 20 as part of Drama for Life’s Sex Actually festival, highlighted the issues of ageing and sexuality.
After the performance, the all-female audience of five discussed body image and sex in what Jacobs called the “invisible age” , when a woman is not yet “a lovely old little lady” but is no longer considered a “hot babe”.
The discussion was moderated by Dr Catherine Burns of the Wits Institute for Social & Economic Research (WISER). Burns, who studies the history of sex, said people did not like to think of older people as sexual beings.
She described the strong reaction her acquaintances had to The Mother, one of the few films which showed older people having sex. In Roger Michell’s 2003 film, Daniel Craig plays a 32-year-old man who falls in love and has a sexual relationship with his girlfriend’s 65-year-old mother, played by Anne Reid.
Burns said: “Many people have told me it’s the most revolting film they have ever seen … They had to turn it off or leave the cinema because it disgusted them.”
The idea may be unpalatable to some, but older people are sexually active and they risk getting sexually transmitted infections. Burns said older women were vulnerable to HIV infection because their vaginal tissue was thinner and more likely to tear.
Older women might also be invisible to HIV/AIDS awareness campaigners, who often targeted the youth. They might lack knowledge about condom use.
She said negotiating condom use might also be difficult, since menopausal women could no longer tell their partners they wanted to prevent pregnancy.
Audience member and Wits graduate Margaret Fish said: “Many older people don’t feel that they have a choice if they want to keep that man. And how are they going to say: ‘I’m afraid you might give me a disease?’”
A shy Wits metallurgical engineering student stole the show and walked away with the top prize in the Lover+another National Performance Poetry Challenge held at the Wits Theatre last Saturday night.
The competition was part of Drama for Life’s Sex Actually festival, which opened last week.
Nosipho Gumede blew the judges away with her poems The Breeze and I just pull up my panties and walk, on the theme of multiple concurrent sexual partners and the spread of HIV.
Gumede and fellow Witsie Vuyelwa Maluleke, 4th year drama, were chosen to represent Johannesburg in the regional finals held at the University of Johannesburg two weeks ago.
During Saturday’s grand slam, Gumede and Maluleke competed against 10 poets from Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Grahamstown, Durban and Zululand.
Gumede, who had never participated in a poetry competition before this, had modest expectations on Saturday night.
“Can I just get through to the second round so that I can get to say my second poem?” she told Wits Vuvuzela.
Her poem dealt with the way people fail to talk about their emotional problems, but try to “fix” themselves by “pulling up their panties and walking” into one sexual relationship after another. It had audience members clicking their fingers in appreciation.
Competition organiser Malika Ndlovu of Drama for Life said “originality of perspective” was one of the criteria in the judging. Gumede’s fresh angle and innovative metaphor was just what the judges were looking for and secured her a spot in the top six.
She performed another hard-hitting poem, comparing the way people ignore HIV prevention messages to the way they ignore the weatherman’s predictions that there will be a strong wind rather than just a breeze.
Maluleke’s poem He said was about a mistress who regretfully accepts that she and her lover “are not for keeps”.
Maluleke, who is well-known on the Jo’burg slam poetry scene, was disappointed not to make it into the Top six, but focused on the message rather than the outcome of the competition.
“I told them a story and I hope they heard it. If they heard the story, then that’s all that matters,” she said.
Gumede won R2000. The second and third prizes went to poets who used vernacular languages and audience involvement to great effect. Durban sound engineer Mzamo Dlamini won R1500, while Pietermaritzburg rapper Nqobile Ngcobo won R1000.
Photo: Courtesy Drama 4 Life
Sex Actually explores how intimacies cross and inhabit spaces. It is in our spaces where love happens.
The Wits Drama for Life (DFL) festival is a cross-community HIV and Aids arts education, activist and therapeutic intervention.
Running from August 31 to September 9, it promises artistic entertainment whilst promoting a tolerant understanding and accommodating people with its use of visual and performing arts.
The festival will also conduct workshops that seek to speak openly about issues surrounding sex.
Believing in a world of love, empathy and mutual respect, DFL Sex Actually promotes a world free from fear, discrimination and prejudice.
All around Johannesburg theatres, including the Wits Theatre, Sex Actually will host a variety of performances such as dance, poetry, drama and workshops.
This year’s Sex Actually introduces new ways to communicate about how we express love, make love and remember our loves.
Performances will interrogate topics around sex, sexuality, relationships and HIV and AIDS.
Directed by Warren Nebe, Love Happened Here is a performed experience by characters who share their intimate and loss stories. The audience is invited to embark on a taxi ride from Braamfontein to Hillbrow and vice versa. The play officially opens at the Wits Theatre this Saturday, September 3.
For poetry lovers, regional finalists will go head to head in the nottobemissed culminating poetry competition on September 2.
If you are a dance enthusiast, do not miss I should have but I didn’t, directed by Siwela Sonke. The performance includes dance and video that probes both the necessity and the uselessness of secrets.
For more information go to: www.dramaforlife.co.za