WITH INFOGRAPHIC: Wits thespians take acting online to promote sexual health

New project aims to bring sexual health education to the youth in social media platforms they engage with the most.

Wits Drama For Life (DFL), in partnership with the Charlize Theron African Outreach Programme (CTAOP), launched the Knowledge Unzipped digital platform on Wednesday, September 1, 2021.

The online project uses theatre performances to initiate and facilitate conversations about consent, gender expectations, the LGBTQI+ community, bodily autonomy and HIV, through social media platforms.

The content will be posted and shared on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok. It will also have a Spotify playlist.

The online platform was launched to address the need for sexual health education, which was interrupted by the pandemic and led to fewer sexual health events being hosted in-person.

The digital platform was launched “to keep Knowledge Unzipped active and [to] engage with the people who need it most, on the spaces that they engage with most,” said Kashifa Adams, a member of the DFL.

“Because of everything that has been happening in the world, we’ve had to rethink how we interact with people,” said Adams.

Although the online platform was launched, the in-person interventions will not stop. Instead, Knowledge Unzipped will be a blended project done both online and through school interventions.

Although the main focus of the project was primary and high schools, DFL also hosted Sex Sports, an event that is held annually on campus to commemorate World Condom Day.

In these games, it was discovered that many students at Wits cannot, or do not know how to use a condom properly.

“We saw the need to go into reses [residences] and see how we can use Unzipped to engage with the information we come with. As much as the program was designed for schools, it was a need in reses,” said Lehlohonolo Dube, a member of DFL.

According to sister Simangele Sitoe from the Wits Campus Health and Wellness Center, many students are open to talking about sexual health, and are well informed on the topic. However, interactive programs like Unzipped remain important, as they further emphasized the issues.

 

FEATURED IMAGE: DFL members posing with two dildos. Photo: Semakaleng Motsoere

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Drama for Life pays tribute to the victims of violence across Africa.

“147 is not just a number”. These are the words that were uttered by Faith Koli, a journalist from Nairobi, at an event hosted by the Drama for Life (DFL).

AFRICA UNITE: DFL and students commemorate victims of the discriminatory violence in Rwanda, South Africa, and Kenya at a meeting on Thursday. Photo: Michelle Gumede

AFRICA UNITE: DFL and students commemorate victims of violence in Rwanda, South Africa, and Kenya at a meeting on Thursday. Photo: Michelle Gumede

The DFL held the event on Thursday to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the recent Kenya University attack and the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

DFL invited three former Wits students, from different African countries, to tell their stories of each of the issues above. According to the director of DFL, Warren Nebe, the aim of the event was to reflect on these incidents and to heal.

On April 2, Garissa University College in Kenya was attacked by Al Shabaab militants and almost one hundred and fifty people were killed.

The theme for the meeting was #WhereAreOurLeaders, and the  governments of the different countries were blamed for inaction..

Theodogene Niwenshuti, a Rwanadan genocide survivor, recalled how his father, amongst hundreds of people from his village, was killed: “I forgave the people but I still struggle to forgive the government, for it failed us.”

His father was shot in front of him during the Rwanda genocide.

Sibongile Bhebhe, a woman from Zimbabwe, talked about her experiences of xenophobia in South Africa.

Esmeralda Cloete, an Honours student in Drama Therapy, told Wits Vuvuzela that the experience was “deeply touching and piercing,” she said.

“It questioned one’s objective in the world, it spoke to humanity.”

The event ended with a candlelight service during which all these incidents were reflected on deeply.

The artist that paints with conflict

READ THE SIGNS: Anthony Schrag often uses pieces of cardboard with phrases or questions written on them to engage people in his work.                     Photo: Robyn  Kirk

READ THE SIGNS: Anthony Schrag often uses pieces of cardboard with phrases or questions written on them to engage people in his work. Photo: Robyn Kirk

ARTIST Anthony Schrag is different. People are his canvas, not paper, plus he has echolalia, a rare compulsive condition.

Schrag is one of the last artists to be involved in an exchange between Europe and South Africa as part of the Nine Urban Biotopes project. Artists from the two continents experience working in an unfamiliar setting and use the experience to create art.

He has been in South Africa for just over a month as the resident artist at Wits Drama for Life, but moves as if he has been here for years.

“I don’t make things. I don’t make paintings or sculptures or photos or films. I sort of design events.”

His studio is a small and cramped office, a space temporarily occupied for a certain amount of time and then left vacant for longer stretches. After only being there a month, Schrag has undoubtedly made a mark on the place – a white board has random words and the phrase “the theatre that does not heal” scrawled across it. An idea for future work perhaps?

A rather sombre photo hanging on the wall of actors performing a scene from a Shakespearean play has been covered by a piece of paper with a drawn smiley face. And everywhere there are squares of cardboard with short but powerful phrases written across them. Schrag was born in Zimbabwe, spent his childhood in Oman in the Middle East, moved to Canada with his family as a teenager and is currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Do not expect to see any paintings or sculptures of the experience from Schrag in the coming months though, he prefers to use people as his canvas, not paper.

“I don’t make things. I don’t make paintings or sculptures or photos or films. I sort of design events. I’m interested in participatory projects. Projects that happen with people – not for people, not at people, not using people, but sort of with people” he said.

People are his passion and his talent. A few years ago he was diagnosed with echolalia, a compulsive urge to mimic the accents of those who talk to him.

“It’s supposed to be about empathy and belonging. When you mimic the accents or even the physicality of people around you, you’re trying to fit in, you’re trying to be part of it. I realised that was a lot of my work.” He visits strange places, where he tried to fit in and tries to find out things about other peoples’s lives: “I’m like a spy.”

His experiences at Wits in Joburg has inspired the project entitled “The School of No” in which he wants to focus on the community of Drama for Life to understand just what knowledge an educational institution possesses.

In his short time at Wits, he has become very interested in the broader social problems reflected within the university.
He has picked up that African names are anglicised in order to make administration run smoother. And, he believes this may unintentionally perpetuate racist ideology. Schrag has been given the African name “Lethabo” (joy in Sesotho) by a colleague after he pointed this out. “In a way I hope to create conflict with my work. A lot of times community-based artworks try to erase conflict and make everyone happy. Conflict I think reveals where the real problems lie.”

“An artist’s only skill is that they ask questions. They ask pertinent questions. I don’t want to change things, I want to ask difficult questions … Art doesn’t have the right to change things, I think art’s purpose is to ask difficult questions.”