The Market Theatre Foundation (MTF) started Women’s Month on a powerful new foot with Tshiamo Mokgadi as its new CEO. This new role is a return ‘home’ for Mokgadi, who has worked at cultural institutions like the South African State Theatre and Playhouse Company since starting her career at the Market Theatre. Creative Feel caught up with her to find out a bit more about her career and journey, and some of the important women in her life.
Creative Feel: Creative Feel would like to welcome you back to the MTF and congratulate you on your appointment as CEO as of 1 August 2020. Please share your feelings around this important milestone in your career with us.
Tshiamo Mokgadi: Thank you for the warm welcome. It’s great to be back where my career as an aspirant arts administrator started at 22; whilst being amongst ‘former’ colleagues (internal and external) who partnered and supported me as a newbie to Johannesburg is very exciting, it is also a bit scary now. At the same time, I see it as a sort of new beginning. Having worked in different, more challenging, positions than when I left has afforded me the opportunity to grow my skills-base and experience until I found myself in the position of the Foundation’s CEO. So, while I’m still Tshiamo, ‘T’, ‘Amo’, etc. to everyone, the difference is I have that added responsibility that I carry with me.
CF: Your background is rather unusual, with an Honours Degree in Dramatic Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Henley Business School after having received the Henley Africa Johnny Clegg Scholarship? What made you choose these different paths?
TM: Since late high school (around grade 11, yes, I’m a slow starter…) I decided I wanted to work in the arts and entertainment industry. I knew I didn’t want to be public-facing (i.e. actor, presenter, etc.) but I wanted to run the back-end of it. I think I have a knack for organising and planning things. So the undergrad degree at Wits fulfilled my desire to become an administrator and soon enough I became a producer. The producer is quite key in running the business side of a theatre. They take the artistic director’s vision (at a company level) or the director and designers’ visions (at a production level) and negotiate all aspects in an effort to help achieve their wishes, or at least get as close as possible to said wishes. These aspects are all resource-based (e.g. financial, time, personnel, etc.) and in a publicly funded institution such as the MTF, this results in the producer having to negotiate a lot of trade-offs with multiple stakeholders. This is where the MBA came in. I love a good challenge and problem-solving. In addition, there was financial stress brought on by reduced funding (experienced by many in the industry) and my curiosity also started growing into figuring out how an arts institution could work towards self-generated income to improve its chances of survival.