FairPlay empowers Gauteng learners and teachers

Constitutional Hill came alive with 150 high school learners and teachers doing site-specific performances reflecting on our past and speaking to our future.

On 6 October audiences were treated to a dramatically enriched interactive tour of the Old Fort, No 4 and areas surrounding the Constitutional Court of South Africa, performed by young people from schools in Soweto, Zakariya Park, the Johannesburg inner city, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and the Twilight Children’s Home in Hillbrow.

The performances culminated in a joyful procession of brightly coloured flags. The parade wound through Constitutional Hill and up to the wall dividing the Old Fort and the Court where the Paper Prayer flags, created by the participants at the Artist Proof Studio workshop, were raised high upon the ramparts. Guest speaker Nkunzi Nkabinde, author of “Black Bull, Ancestors and Me”, spoke poignantly about his changing identity and the need to celebrate and honour the Constitution.

<“I will remember the cells and know that I am who I am because of the people who died in those cells,” said one high school learner following the performances.

Generously supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the ASSITEJ SA FairPlay Project brought together high school learners, teachers and facilitators from the Hillbrow Theatre Project and Drama for Life to explore site specific performances based on history, human rights and identity.

The project comprised three stages: the skills workshops for teachers through August, the facilitator workshops on 24 September, and the final holiday workshops with teachers, facilitators and learners at Constitution Hill from 1-6 October 2012.

Skills-sharing workshops in Zakariya Park, Soweto and Hillbrow saw arts practitioners Gerard Bester and ASSITEJ Theatre4youth coordinator, Alison Green, interacting with teachers and learners who experienced and explored drama games, issues of fair play and aspects of creating site specific performance.

On Heritage Day on 24 September, Vaughn Sadie held a workshop at Constitutional Hill and inspired the facilitators from Hillbrow Theatre Project and Drama for Life through a series of especially designed and facilitated exercises. During the holiday workshops, the Artist Proof Studio ran an arts practice workshop, where learners were encouraged to imagine what they’d wish for our society and express it in a prayer flag. Siblings were welcomed to the workshops and rehearsals, so many of the performances included young siblings, high school learners and teachers. Teachers and learners were offered the opportunity to investigate, play and create performance works led by the facilitators on sites at one of the most historically charged landmarks in South Africa – Constitution Hill.

“I was most encouraged by teachers who were inspired by the potential of using a site to develop performance texts and many teachers were impressed by the learners’ ability to work together to create performance works,” says Gerard Bester, Artistic Director of the Hillbrow Theatre Project.

“An interaction I overheard from one of groups developing and rehearsing their performance in front of the Constitutional Court summed up the week. A teacher who seemed frustrated, stated to the facilitator; “But what were your expectations…what did you want for this performance?” Another teacher responded by saying that “it was not what he had planned, but what we are bringing to the process,” said Gerard.

Additional comments from teachers on site specific performances:
- “It was motivating, stimulating, mind boggling, thought provoking and above all, instilled in me some great ideas to use with my pupils.”
- “It really sparks the learners’ creativity; there are fewer restrictions in terms of space. I don’t have to worry about the level of noise”.
- “Learners get to learn history and experience it.”
- “It helps you to improve your imagination and to understand that drama is for life.”
- “Not to underestimate the creativity among learners in developing the script/play”.
- “It enhances focus and appreciation of surroundings. We live in coexistence with nature.”

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