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Tuesday
Mar112014

World Day for Theatre for Young Audiences, March, 20

"Take a Child to the Theatre Today" Campaign 2014

Message from Dr. John Kani and Yvette Hardie, both from South Africa.  Two of Kani's best-known performances were in The Island and Sizwe Banzi is Dead, written with Winston Ntoshona and Athol Fugard. Yvette Hardie is president of ASSITEJ International.

I was born seventy years ago. I grew up in the township of New Brighton outside Port Elizabeth. Life for me and many of my friends was to wake up and if you are very lucky, you go to school. Otherwise you would just hang around the township and watch your life being wasted away by the very cruel Apartheid System. It was not compulsory for our parents to take us to school and they had to pay for our education.

One day our English teacher took us to see a production of Macbeth by William Shakespeare at the Opera House in the city of Port Elizabeth. We were all excited. Oh no, not to see the play; it was the opportunity to go to town. It was the bus ride that we were looking forward to. We sat in the theatre, the lights went off slowly in the auditorium. The curtain came up and magic happened. That was my first experience of being in a real theatre. From that day in 1958, my life was never the same again. I did not understand the play that much but being there in that theatre made me feel part of the magic that was happening on that stage. I could not stop talking about the play and the experience of that day. I even, for a moment, forgot about Apartheid; I even forgot that I live in a township where you could see and smell poverty. I was transported into a new world of not only my own imagination, but also into a bigger world of possibilities. I know that education is a key to everything. Theatre is a key that opens the door into your own imagination. From that day I promised myself that I will one day be on that stage telling all the stories that my grandmother used to tell us every night before we went to sleep.

Taking a child to the theatre is a gift that empowers the child to want to be heard. It makes the child believe that he or she also has a story to tell one day.

Dr John Kani

WRITER-ACTOR-DIRECTOR
GLOBAL ARTS AMBASSADOR

TAKE A CHILD TO THE THEATRE TODAY CAMPAIGN 2014

 Nelson Mandela famously said, “We understand and promote the notion that while children need to be guided, they also have an entrenched right to be whatever they want to be and that they can achieve this only if they are given the space to dream and live out their dreams.” ASSITEJ believes that theatre creates the perfect spaces within in which children can dream and live out their dreams. 

 

 Mandela’s notions about children were central to who he was as a person and a leader. In Mandela’s interactions with children, we saw the depth and breadth of his humanity revealed. His playfulness and capacity for humour and joy, his respectful attitude towards children that took seriously their points of view, his fierce belief in the value of education as the most powerful tool we possess, his determination to always find time for children even when in the presence of world leaders and his commitment to children through the ongoing work of his charities, was a hallmark of his legacy. 

 

  As theatre makers creating these “spaces to dream”, do we approach our audiences with the same level of humility, respect, playfulness, belief in their capacities and humour that he demonstrated? And more generally, do we ensure that children – ALL children, regardless of class, race, language, or any other factor – are given sufficient and sufficiently excellent dreaming spaces?

2014 is the 25th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It's the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced and the most widely-ratified international human rights treaty in history. And yet, while most nations have signed the convention, how many truly take these rights seriously? How many of them understand the implications of Article 31, the right of all children “to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts”? How many of them invest in making these rights a reality?

But this is not just the responsibility of nations. It is in our power too. On March 20th, the World Day for Theatre for Children and Young People, ASSITEJ invites everyone to participate in our ongoing “Take a Child to the Theatre Today” campaign.  YOU can make a difference to the children and young people with whom you come into contact. Give them a space to dream, bring them to the theatre or take the theatre to them, but make that magical contact happen!

As Mandela has said, “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.”

 Yvette Hardie, ASSITEJ President

 


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