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Artscape building will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of existence

Pictured is the Artscape Theatre. The Artscape building, which was initially established as the Nico Malan Theatre in 1971, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in existence this month. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA

Pictured is the Artscape Theatre. The Artscape building, which was initially established as the Nico Malan Theatre in 1971, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in existence this month. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA

Published Mar 11, 2021

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Cape Town - The Artscape building, which was initially established as the Nico Malan Theatre in 1971, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in existence this month.

A bevy of festivities with a jam-packed line-up of high-quality traditional African music, acrobatic, jazz, drama, dance, theatre entertainment and exhibitions will be depicting the unforgettable moments - such as its origin from Nico to Artscape - throughout the year.

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The events will kick-off on March 20 with the opening concert, produced by Basil Appollis and featuring Artscape Theatre’s associated companies - including Cape Town Opera, JazzArt, Unmute Dance Company, Cape Town City Ballet, the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Zip-Zap Circus.

Iconic Cape Town performers such as Dizu Plaatjies, Vicky Sampson, Hilton Schilder, Zinzi Nogavu, Sylvia Mdunyelwa, Dianne Ferrus, Nicola Hanekom and many others will also be included.

The concert will be recorded at the Artscape Opera House in celebrating our Human Rights Day and be delivered to audiences through the Artscape YouTube channel, free of charge.

Artscape CEO, Marlene le Roux said: “When I think of this building and the theme we have chosen to celebrate its golden jubilee, ’yesterday, today and tomorrow’, I am reminded that the Nico Malan just five decades ago opened up excluding the largest section of the population, as if we just didn’t exist, treating us like the second-class citizens the apartheid regime believed us to be.

“And yet, here we are, in 2021, in all our glory, telling our stories on the very stages that, alas, were denied us when it first opened its doors. That is what this building represents: the evolution of a species, the struggles of stalwarts, the wherewithal of those that helped to bring us to this point in our history.

“And it is to them that we give thanks as the building turns 50,” Le Roux said.

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Dr Marlene le Roux CEO of Artscape Theatre. Photographer: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

The theatre was named after the former National Party administrator of the Cape Province, Dr Johannes Nicholas Malan who initiated the project.

It was programmed and managed by Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) as a production house with four arts companies (orchestra, opera, ballet and drama) and initially opened to whites only.

This exclusionary apartheid policy received widespread objection from several quarters and after enormous pressure, in 1975 it became the first South African theatre that the apartheid government, through a permit system, allowed all races into its premises. It was only on March 11 in 1978 that the National Party government abolished its legislation that barred mixed race audiences in theatres and mixed race casts in productions.

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By 1994, the South African government policy changed dramatically and transformed all performing arts boards to playhouses.

The centre was renamed Artscape and replaced CAPAB on March 27, 2001 and opened up all other art genres to performers and patrons from all walks of life.

It currently remains as an agency of the National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, while the building itself is the property of the Western Cape Government.

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Celebrations will continue throughout the year with additional activities to be showcased such as Joyous Choirs (a mass choir presentation in celebration of choirs from the Western Cape Province) and an outdoor community concert to be staged on the piazza in front of the building, among many others.

The journey from Nico Malan to Artscape will be permanently documented with virtual (audio-visual) exhibitions and tours of the building to enable and inform audiences and patrons to experience the long history of the building, icons and employees that played a part through the highs and the lows of the past 50 years.

Cape Argus

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