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Exploring theatre as a tool for democracy through a free online festival

How can theatre and dance help foster effective democracy? Through live performances and in-depth discussions, this is one of the key questions that will be explored during Drama for Life’s Performing Democracy online conference and festival, taking place from 16 – 19 August 2021.

Subtitled The Fire | The Fight | The Fiction?, this free virtual event is being presented by Wits University’s Drama for Life (DFL) department in partnership with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The 13th DFL conference and festival marks the completion of a three-year research project with NTNU and includes the launch of the latest DFL research publication – an open-access book of research findings from the Theatre in Democracy Project.

Drama for Life Performing Democracy online conference festival

The Performing Democracy conference and festival will take the form of a number of workshops, presentations and interactive sessions, interspersed with thought-provoking performances throughout the three days, interrogating the role theatre and storytelling can play in nurturing healing, inclusion, and equality in a society such as South Africa.

‘I’m so looking forward to the conference and am very excited about all the people who will come and spend time thinking and talking and innovating around how the theatre can become a democratic place again, accessible to all – and a place where things that are not usually seen become visible and are made SEEN. We invite everybody to join, because if you come, our intention is also to SEE you.’

Dr Petro Janse van Vuuren, Head of Department for Drama for Life
PJ Sabbagha Drama for Life Performing Democracy online conference festival
PJ Sabbagha

What to look forward to

Expect challenging performances by the likes of Bongani Nicholas Ngomane, Baeletsi Tsatsi, Muvo Hlogwana, and Sanelisiwe Dlamini, as well as dance solos by The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative learners that may be accessed via a dedicated WhatsApp line, followed by a ‘talk-back’ session. Another performance to look out for is Paul Noko’s play Kwaito in Slaghuis.  

Kai Crooks Chissano Drama for Life Performing Democracy online conference festival
Kai Crooks Chissano at SAMUN

Speakers will include Phylemon Oghiambo Okoth unpacking how puppetry and folk media has helped enhance community participation in the political process in Kenya; Tamara Shultz (Guhrs) with a performance-lecture on the intriguing notion of mycelic practice and what it means to have agency in an uncertain world; and Herbert Chibvongodze on the vital role drama therapy and storytelling can play in healing past traumas.

Also on the festival programme is PJ Sabbagha on how The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative made its My Body My Space public arts festival accessible to all; Sarah Saddler with a presentation on industrial theatre and corporate democracy titled ‘We are like a giant potjiekos’; and Kai Crooks Chissano presenting research on how theatre can facilitate equality and contribute to effective democracy, using Grade 6 learners whose mother tongue is an African language as a case study.

Performing Democracy: The Fire | The Fight | The Fiction? is open to all to attend. To book your Zoom seat for each session or event, consult the programme or visit the “Performing Democracy” Facebook page.

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