Dancers from the Playhouse Dance Residency. Picture: Supplied

‘We are too young to be fighting,” says 24-year-old Sibusiso Khwinana, founding member of the Independent Theatre Makers Movement. “Instead, we use our energy to create new things.”

There is a new generation of young theatre makers making their mark in the expansion of the local theatre industry. They are on fire for change. And they are creating new opportunities while transforming the performing arts.

At a time when there is so much talk about decolonisation and Africanisation, it is encouraging to consider the acumen of the youth. Khwinana emphasises that transformation should not imply the eradication of one thing in the establishment of another.

For them, transformation is an undertaking to create more options, which, in co-existence, serve an industry representative of the full spectrum of South African artists.

He explains that the objective of the Independent Theatre Makers Movement is to establish a generation of self-reliant artists who trailblaze theatre-making autonomy.

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This implies not only autonomy in their freedom to express what they choose, but also in funding and managing their endeavours themselves.

Khwinana emphasises that this thrust towards independence indicates an end to a mentality of complaining about the lack of opportunities, and instead, the fostering of an attitude that promotes problem solving and development.

As a group of entrepreneurs, the movement encourages young artists to take ownership of their work and to acknowledge the potential in themselves.

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“We help artists discover that they can do things for themselves,” Khwinana says.

The Independent Theatre Makers Movement was birthed from circumstance. “We had a wealth of material, but nowhere to perform it,” Khwinana explains.

They approached the Tshwane Arts Hub, situated in what used to be a fire station opposite the Pretoria City Hall in central Pretoria. They were given a rehearsal space, and the group quickly recognised the potential thereof to be transformed into a theatre.

Three companies bought into the vision - Blank Page Entertainment, TX Productions and Black Ink Productions. In their collaborating, they pooled their skills and resources and erected a theatre tailormade for their need in hosting theatre productions of a variety of formats and purposes. The theatre is called The Fire Station Theatre.

The theatre opened with a Monologue Festival in October last year, for which 30 performers were selected. This was followed by the SONA Festival (State of the Nation Festival), which focussed on political theatre.

In August this year, celebrating women’s month, the group will be hosting the Kuwamba Woman Festival, in which 15 theatre works, all written and directed by women, will be featured.

Interspersed the theatre hosts productions as proposed to them by interested artists and theatre groups. They also present workshops, theatre talks and writers’ forums.

As a priority, the movement focuses on garnering new audiences Khwinana is delighted by how many of these audiences regularly return for more. Their growth in audiences can also be attributed to their growing network of enthusiasts who collaborate and offer support in the attracting new interest.

Don’t miss Khwinana’s latest production, Best friends, worst enemies, which is going to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this week. It will be performed from June 30 to July 2 on the Fringe Festival in the Library Hall.

* The Independent Theatre Makers Movement can be contacted at [email protected]; Facebook at Blankpage Entertainment, and Instagram at @blankpage Entertainment.

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