Theatre experiences growth in Bulawayo

THEATRE directors in Bulawayo have said the art form has been growing by leaps and bounds in the city despite economic challenges that have threatened to derail efforts by artists in the last few years.


As the country commemorated World Theatre Day on Tuesday, stakeholders in the industry told Southern Eye Life & Style there were opportunities for growth.

IYASA founder, Nkululeko Dube said he was happy there were a lot of theatre productions.

“I believe at the moment, Bulawayo theatre is growing. We have seen more productions coming on stage. We had a time where we would run dry for performances, but currently, it’s one performance after the other going into theatres,” he said.

Nkululeko said it was also a positive development that IYASA and other groups were doing international collaborations.

“We are actually expanding as a theatre entity. I am also very excited by the dominance of Bulawayo theatre, especially at the National Arts Merit Awards. That alone is a sign that it is a vibrant sector,” he said.

Nkululeko, however, said there was need to create new audiences for theatre.

“Now, we need to go out there and have even the ordinary people actually taking keen interests in theatre arts,” he said.

“We need new audiences. We need bigger audiences to grow the sector.”

Nkululeko said theatre had opportunities for growth in Bulawayo and expressed hope that there would be more theatre venues in future.

“I am looking also at opportunities with the corporate world and not only the donor world. We have relied on donors, but I am looking at a give and take situation, where I hope the corporate world will see an opportunity in theatre arts and start to support the arts,” he said.

Nkululeko said it may sound like a routine response when they talk about challenges in the sector.

“I am not going to talk about financial challenges in the sector because this has become a song for ages. Of course, they continue to be a challenge in the sector, but I think now we are not looking at people having to come give money to theatre performances and that’s all, but I think we have to come to a point where we are sustainable. So the biggest challenge is sustainability because it is not exposed and it doesn’t attract as much cooperate assistance and as much assistance from the public — the paying public,” he said.

Nkululeko said they were way behind international trends in terms of stage set up, equipment and lighting among other infrastructure.

Umkhathi Theatre Works founder, Matesu Dube said there were great theatrical works coming out of Bulawayo.

“Last week, I was watching Isiphiwo Sami hosted by Iyasa. There is so much going on in schools. If we have children that can participate in theatre while at school, then the better for us in the future. I know there hasn’t been much going on at professional level because of the economic situation, but the future is bright,” he said.
“Now we don’t have to train actors from zero. Most of the things they would have done at school. Now university graduates are taking acting as a profession, to me that’s growth.”

Matesu said the bad economy had affected arts.

“There is no funding for the arts from the private sector. The other challenge is the government’s red tape. We can’t invite theatre practitioners to this country because our government needs a lot of money for one to do so. This means it’s hard to work with people from other countries to develop theatre to world standards,” he said, adding that workshops were also needed to equip artists.

Intwasa director Raisedon Baya said although the quality of theatre in Bulawayo was very high, there was little appreciation and respect by the public.

“Quality is much better. There is serious potential in schools. However, little is happening by professionals. This is because of the current economy and lack of resources,” he said.

“The new curriculum in schools provides the best opportunity for growth and sustainability. There is also this new euphoria around new dispensation that has brought new hope. We have many challenges that include lack of respect and appreciation of art by the public — most still view theatre as a past time, something not serious.”

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