African Theatre Association (AfTA) conference 2020
At the African Theatre Association (AfTA) conference 2020 in Berlin we will inaugurate AWPN’s move into association with this organisation, going forward with a steering committee from the community.
Hear Yvette Hutchison (PI) talk about AWPN with James Sandy on The New Curiosities Box, Switch Radio
Contemporary Plays by African Women launch in the UK
Contemporary Plays by African Women launch in the UK at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and the Oxford Playhouse in Oxford had the Belgrade Youth group perform extracts form 3 plays from the collection, and then in Coventry, discussions were chaired by JC Niala, a playwright and AWPN community manager; Christabell Amoakoh, founder of The Highlife Centre, a charity engaged with addressing unemployment, disadvantage and inequality; Laura Nyahuye, an artist, creative writer and Founder of Maokwo Social Enterprise, which tackles isolation using creative activities; alongiside Egyptian playwright Sara Shaarawi, playwright; and Dr Christine Matzke, University of Bayreuth African Studies Centre. In Oxford, JC Niala hosted the event, and Hannah Greenstreet, a DPhil student at Jesus College researching feminism and realism in contemporary theatre and Nomfundo Ramalekana, a MPhil student from SA at Lady Margaret Hall College in equality law chaired discussions, alongside Sarah Shaarawi.
Contemporary Plays by African Women launch in Cape Town, SA
6 of the 7 plays were staged in full or read by by new directors and performers, alongside students from the University of Cape-Town, AFDA – The School for Creative Economy, and City Varsity, and Koleka Putuma’s play was represented by a photo exhibition of its performance at the Edinburgh Youth Festival. These events changed perceptions of playwrights and plays from the continent and raised important social issues such as gender based violence, child soldiers, whilst also making space for the voices of African women from across the continent in spaces where they have historically been excluded local drama and film schools. One male respondent in South Africa, where violence against women is a major concern, said that he will continue to think about ‘my role as a male in dismantling gender based violence’ and ‘my own socialisation into perpetuating toxic masculinity’ (in response to the Nigerian play, Not That Woman, performed in SA, 5e).
AWPN Symposium 2017
AWPN Symposium 2017 – was the first gathering of African women creative practitioners on the continent. Over 2 days, 55 women from 8 countries shared good practices, wrestled with and workshopped issues that impact creative practice and production. The collaborations following these workshops suggest significant transformation of practice that strengthens the artists’ capacities and professional reach. These included a Ugandan play being invited to a Zimbabwean festival; a Kenyan artist being invited to take her work and teach primarily black UG students at a South African university; a Cameroonian playwright touring her ecological play for children between 2-9 years to festivals in South Africa, Cameroon, Rwanda & Kenya (Nov 2017, May 2019) and Angola (July 2017).
What participants said....
Some 120 people attended Belgrade Theatre, Coventry and audience members commented that the events had shown them ‘how powerful theatre is in raising difficult issues and making people talk about them’ and highlighted ‘how women are treated in society and that it really needs to change’:
- It really showed me how powerful theatre is. I have heard and read of course about child soldiers but in that short excerpt it was really upsetting. It was so sad. So well acted and directed and written. It was very thought provoking and will stay with me for a long time. Very diverse. Thank you.
- Great to have all black/P.O.C panels
- An exciting project which has generated a wealth of new writing which might not have had the platform it deserved – an interesting theatre/academic partnership
Some 60 people attended the Oxford Playhouse. Audience members comments include:
- This was an incredible evening! I will continue to think about many of the questions that emerged, but especially about the infrastructure behind it – the network itself. How can one create such a network, and then find the support structures that allow it to flourish?
- I was hugely struck by the diversity of the voices, experiences and heritage represented by the collection – but also the points of commonality/connection/shared experiences
- It really hurt my heart so much when the young woman said sometimes it feels like her skin is the crow. I will continue to think about what I can do to protect my black sisters. I wonder what we can do to teach them that the crow is the system and not your/her skin. I worry about black children who are told (explicitly or otherwise) to hate their skin.
During the launch in Cape Town, one male respondent in South Africa, where violence against women is a major concern, said that he will continue to think about ‘my role as a male in dismantling gender based violence’ and ‘my own socialisation into perpetuating toxic masculinity’ (in response to the Nigerian play, Not That Woman, performed in SA, 5e).
Other audience responded that they would continue thinking about:
- The effectiveness of dance and physical performance alongside the spoken prose. Female independence in ownership of her words and body.
- Will network with the people I met in the launch
- Keep on writing and working on more collaborations
- Loved the poetry language and the focus on both the individual and collective
- The power of abstract images
- Telling a story through your body
- What it means to be an African female playwright