We had an amazing day on Saturday, kicking off an exciting new partnership with Chickenshed. As Dave Carey said in his introduction to the day, it's odd that we should be on this theatre's doorstep, and it took an Australian living in Wales to put us in touch - but thanks to Ian McKenzie-Thurley for seeing the commonalities of interest. We're all very keen that this relationship should grow.
Sunshine on a Rainy Day was a one-day festival of Southern African culture, held at Chickenshed to complement their play The Rain that Washes, and curated by us. It's amazing just how much you can cram into one day, if you set your mind to it. The morning saw two storytelling sessions for children, with Nyemu and Wedzi of World Musik Makers - a Zulu couple who are wonderfully charismatic, and incredibly committed to African culture. Nyemu tells me that they are now letting out their house in Cambridgeshire to pay for the transportation of equipment to the school they support in Zimbabwe.
The afternoon started with Idrissa Ouedraogo's film Kini and Adams - a brilliant piece of work which shows relationships collapsing as a mining operation shifts the aspirations of a community. There was a pretty strong discussion after that - and an even more powerful one in the panel session, Theatre for a Change. I chaired this, with Arifani Moyo from the Indigeneity project, Christopher Maphosa (on whose life The Rain that Washes is based) and Kate Stafford from Bilimankhwe, who has herself been blogging about the day! The discussion moved between theatre and politics, theatre for development, theatre and prison, theatre for and by children (in particular CHIPAWO in Zimbabwe), and to the very heart of the post-colonial debate. It was particularly exciting for us to have the South African High Commissioner, Dr. Z.S.T. Skweyiya, and his wife in the room, and contributing very robustly to the debate. There was also Dr. Ralph Mguni, the Secretary General of ZAPU, who is awaiting the fall or death of Mugabe before he returns to his Zimbabwean home. Ralph spoke towards the end of our discussions, and made very clear the importance of cultural activism in the development of the post-colonial space. For an organisation like ours, working at the interface between intercultural theatre and international policy, this was an inspiring afternoon.
The play, written by Dave Carey with Christopher Maphosa, and performed by Ashley Maynard (pictured) is a solo piece dealing with Christopher's own journey with ZAPU, which took him to Bulgaria with Joshua Nkomo, in preparation for the liberation of Zimbabwe, and then into a nightmare of oppression after the election of Mugabe. Christopher came to England as a refugee, and his story again underlines the importance of cultural work with refugee communities - it was through working at Chickenshed that he once again found himself a home. The theatre was packed, and the audience excited!