‘A Gathering in a Better World’ leads by example on inclusivity of artists living with disabilities

‘A Gathering in a Better World’. Picture: Zivanai Matangi

‘A Gathering in a Better World’. Picture: Zivanai Matangi

Published Feb 28, 2023


Calvin Ratladi says he is honoured to curate five-day international theatre festival “A Gathering in a Better World", which will be staged at The Market Theatre from Wednesday, March 1, to Sunday, March 5.

“A Gathering in a Better World” showcases the work of artists living with disabilities alongside those who are not.

In a conversation with IOL Entertainment, Ratladi, who scooped the title of the artist Outstanding Person with Disability at the South African Film and Television Award (Safta), in 2022, said the festival is aimed at highlighting inclusivity among all artists, “with or without disabilities”.

“The inspiration comes from the need to create a network of artists living with disabilities and without because mostly, people living with disabilities and without tend to work independently, therefore creating this exclusivity which we intend to put an end to through this project,” Ratladi said.

“This festival is a show that negotiates the essence of life, co-existence, acknowledging our embodiments, acknowledging indifference and also, more than any other thing, it facilitates us to go back to the frequency of humanity. And how do we breathe together as a collective?

“As a team, we specifically created this version of the festival so we can show the audiences that artists living with disabilities and without can work together, and this is our way of reimagining a better world.”

‘A Gathering in a Better World’. Picture: Zivanai Matangi

The festival is a collaborative and interdisciplinary project that seeks to create a worldwide network for artists living with disabilities

Ratladi said that while the festival was aimed at celebrating artists and their talents, he wanted to use the opportunity to document the many creatives who lived with disabilities and whose stories were not told.

“One of the things I'm passionate about is archives. There are a lot of people living with disabilities who are in the arts industry, who are not archived. I’m talking about musicians, artists, contributors and researchers in the industry but their works are not documented.

“And I’m hoping this festival will help respond to the missing gap that we have in Africa, around documenting performance research from people living with disabilities.”

The programme includes performances, screenings, workshops and master-classes aimed at artists, thinkers, scholars and practitioners who are interested in all- inclusive practice and performance.

‘A Gathering in a Better World’. Picture: Zivanai Matangi

“We will be hosting ‘Podcast and Conversations’ with Shelly Barry, who is a film-maker.

She films from her lap, which is a whole different angle from general film-making because she’s wheelchair-bound. She’s also a lecturer in film-making at UJ (University of Johannesburg) and a lot of people don’t know her or that she exists.

“And then there is Yonela Yonela Mnana, who has worked with Berita, Thandiswa Mazwai, Zoë Modiga, Moneoa… the list is endless.

“He’s a music lecturer at Wits. A lot of students have gone through his hands and he has been shaping a lot of musicians in this country. He’s blind but not a lot of people know this.

“And there’s Andile Vellem… I think he has toured more than 20 countries as a dancer and choreographer, and we hardly know about him in this country.

Ratladi is urging members of the public to take part in the discussions and exchanges that form part of the festival.

Seasoned actress Khabonina Qubeka will be in conversation with the trio as each unpacks their artistic practice, creative process and respective journeys in the art space.

“For this, it’s coming into documenting the voices of people living with disabilities so that they don't go missing in the archives of performance research in Africa.”

The festival is presented by the Goethe-Institut, in co-operation with festival Theaterformen and in collaboration with the Centre for the Less Good Idea.

“Artists living with disabilities exist everywhere, but they are often very isolated and less visible in the performing arts scene, with fewer professional opportunities and resources,” said Anna Mülter, the artistic director of Festival Theaterformen.

“We initiated ‘A Gathering in a Better World’ together with the Goethe-Institut to build connections between disabled artists internationally and support them to create their own spaces for artistic experimentation and creative exchange.”

Tickets are available at Webtickets from R90.

Nolufefe Ntshuntshe and Sisipho Mbopa. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town

When We Awake

Where: The Baxter Theatre.

When: Until March 4.

The powerful two-hander had its debut just before the 2020 lockdown and was developed with Andrew Buckland and Mncedisi Shabangu, under the direction and conceptualization of Nwabisa Plaatjie.

It was developed further and performed by Nolufefe Ntshuntshe and Sisipho Mbopa.

“When We Awake” strikes the perfect balance of physical theatre, mouthpiece monologue, caricature, sentiment and ease as it delves into the outcomes of the #menaretrash, #metoo, #aminext movements of recent years as the horrific scourge of #GBV against women and children continues.

The play within a play shares the story of two sisters who are haunted by the loss of their elder sister, Notea.

They were told by their mother (apparently as it was relayed to her) that Notea had drowned in a pot of porridge. Their grandmother told them a different story; however, she was never honest about what exactly happened to their sibling.

With two versions of the story, the sisters are confused and each believes a different account of what transpired.

Barry Thomson and the Reals. Picture: Facebook


Hot August Night - The Music Of Neil Diamond

Where: Rhumbelow Theatre.

When: March 10 - 12.

Paying respect to the music of this legendary artist, composer and performer Neil Diamond is Durban’s own tribute band, The Reals, with Barry Thomson on guitar and vocals, musical director Dawn Selby on keyboards and vocals, Mali Sewell on drums and vocals and Andy Turrell on bass guitar.

Included in the repertoire of “Hot August Night” are Diamond’s hit songs “Cracklin' Rosie”, “Song Sung Blue”, “Longfellow Serenade”, “Desiree”, “You Don't Bring Me Flowers”, “America,” “Heartlight”, “Sweet Caroline” and “I’m A Believer”.

This is “not to be missed”.

Sello Ramolahloane and Lwarence Joffe in Home Affairs. Picture: Philip Kuhn


Home Affairs

Where: Theatre on the Square.

When: Until March 11.

Written and directed by Michelle Douglas, “Home Affairs” addressed some of the social ills facing a country in crisis: South Africa.

The play takes a deeper look at the lives of two men facing the crisis of mid-life; “apparently stuck in circumstances and a country beyond their control”.

In a conversation with IOL Entertainment, Douglas said she hoped the play would stir the much-needed conversation around the state of the nation, the impact of apartheid, corruption, energy crisis, poverty, unemployment, high cost of living and many other issues that were affecting South Africans.

“With this production, we’re looking for a platform to voice the struggles of many South Africans,” Douglas said.