Sbahle Vezi(yellow dress) with her cast form the Rand Tutorial College, performs during the Inner city performing art competition at the Hillbrow theatre. Gauteng. Picture: Itumeleng English 

“Without stories, we don’t know who we are as a nation.”These are the words of Modisana Mabale, a facilitator for the winning play at the Inner-city High Schools Drama Festival, which ended on Saturday.

Pupils from Isizwe-Setjhaba Secondary School in Vereeniging lifted the trophy after they were crowned the winners at the 14th annual event held at the Outreach Foundation Hillbrow Theatre in Joburg under the theme “African Futures”.

Project co-ordinator Thabang Phakathi said the theme was aimed at giving participants the opportunity to engage, investigate, research and unpack various ideas and stories that spoke to them.

“The Outreach Foundation provides a platform to showcase the talents of the learners. It also instills discipline and leadership – they have to engage in an active way while they create the play together,” Mabale said.

“They learn to trust each other. Whether the learners are going to be a doctor or a nurse, they learn about creativity, about life. It is time for parents to take their children to theatre and to tell stories.”

Phakathi said that when the festival started in 2005, there were only six schools from the inner-city participating.

He said that over the years, schools from various areas, including Vaal, Soweto, Ekurhuleni and Alexandra, showed interest in participating in the event.

This year, there were 42 schools showing off their talent. The schools had to produce a 30- to 35-minute piece for the festival to showcase their talent to patrons and judges, including veteran actors Mpho Molepo, Baby Cele and Isibaya telenovela actor Bongani Gumede.

Cele said the judges had seen amazing work on stage.

“It is amazing how these kids, when given a chance, can create and perform their wonderful stories on stage,” Cele said.