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Theatre enthusiast and former lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology’s drama and film department, Kingdom Moshounyane, has taken over at Mmabana Arts, Culture and Sports Foundation in Mahikeng.
He is just six months into his position as the director of performing arts, and already has North West represented at this year’s National Arts Festival, with four productions to showcase.
The last time Mmabana participated in the National Arts Festival was in 2008.
“I hope to inject a new vision and innovation into the arts in the North West.
“I want to reposition Mmabana as a meeting of meanings – therefore our performance space must be a centre for arts education in aesthetics,” Moshounyane says.
As the National Arts Festival celebrates its 40th year, Mmabana commemorates its 28th.
It’s an important artistic hub that has produced great theatre, as well as small and big screen talent like Presley Chweneyagae (of Tsotsi fame) and Zenzo Ngqobe (The Forgotten Kingdom), in the hands of the brilliant Aubrey Sekhabi and Paul Grootboom.
From 1993 to 2001, Sekhabi was at Mmabana, where he developed talent and produced over 30 productions, including Nkonyeni High, On My Birthday and Not With My Gun, before being appointed artistic director of the State Theatre in 2002 and taking Paul Grootboom with him.
It is in those historical footsteps that Moshounyane walks. But in recent years Mmabana has struggled to recapture the glory of its heyday, and has had no proper leadership.
Moshounyane offers a timely resuscitation. A physical theatre specialist, he taught for 12 years at the University of the Free State and TUT.
“We have a lot to do to revitalise Paul and Aubrey’s legacy, to convince North West audiences to come see our work, and to maintain a level of consistency.
“We want to go back to what Mmabana was, but also go beyond that. The first priority is to acquire practitioners to come teach and develop, and to see our programmes being accredited.
“The second is to go professional and create an enabling environment for a sustainable industry in the province.
“Participation in the National Arts Festival helps, and eventually we might look at establishing a relationship with the State Theatre,” Moshounyane says.
The four productions he is taking to the National Arts Festival in the fringe programme include Chasing Laughter, written by Monageng “Vice” Motshabi and directed by Gauteng-based Tipo Tindisa; Chris Vorster’s Vultures, translated by Ingrid Swanepoel and directed by TUT graduate Quinton Wils; Zakes Mda’s Mother of All Eating, directed by Mahlubi Kraai; and a dance piece derived from Vultures called Manong A Ja Ka Losika, choreographed by Reginald Danster, who has had stints at Bloemfontein’s performing arts council and Moving Into Dance, and who is now based in the Eastern Cape.
“Our vision is to stage new works and less of the classics. I believe there are new stories we need to tell and we need to converge around those stories,” he says.