December 1 marked World Aids Day. But for more than 5-million infected people in South Africa, HIV/Aids endures. For life. Drama for Life (DFL) is a postgraduate programme in the Wits dramatic arts division. DFL uses performing arts as a medium for HIV/Aids education, activism and therapy.
DFL manager Munyaradzi Chatikobo (MA 2010) attended a Cultural Leadership International Programme in October, to enhance his cultural leadership capacity in a society of HIV/Aids. Chatikobo, a graduate of DFL’s initial cohort in 2008, now manages the DFL programme, components of which include postgraduate study and scholarships, a workshop festival, an international research conference, ethics charters, and initiatives driven and/or supported by alumni.
Alumni projects include the DFL Playback Theatre Company initiated by Kathy Barolsky (BADA 2008, MA 2010), the DFL Acting Against Conflict project championed by lecturer Dr Kennedy Chinyowa, the DFL Zimbabwe Social Justice project headed by Bhekilizwe Ndlovu (MA 2010), the DFL Company Laboratory headed by Warren Nebe (BADA 1986) and the DFL Drama Therapy project run by Tamara Gordon.
DFL aims to promote learning that will bring about positive behavioural change among youth in Africa and it empowers educators to enable such learning. Researching the role and efficacy of applied theatre and drama in HIV/Aids education, in order to develop a framework and network for the sectors involved, is a key objective. DFL also aims to enhance the capacity for effective arts administration, management and leadership.
“Drama for Life as a capacity development programme is one of the critical players in the development of cultural leaders in South Africa and Africa,” says Chatikobo. “There is a need for Drama for Life’s applied drama and theatre curriculum to directly address the issue of cultural leadership, in a bid to affirm its position in the region and internationally.”
The British Council South Africa selected Chatikobo as one of 47 emerging cultural leaders to attend the Cultural Leadership International (CLI) Programme in Istanbul, Turkey, from 23-17 October 2011. The role of culture in society and defining and developing future leaders for the cultural sector were issues on the agenda.
“One of the thrusts of the CLI programme [was] to capacitate future cultural leaders to be awake to the appropriate use of cultural expressions in promoting social cohesion, which includes challenges like the HIV/Aids pandemic,” explains Chatikobo. The programme aims also to develop leaders who can reclaim the pivotal role the creative and cultural industries ought to play in society; a role Chatikobo says is undervalued.
“Most communities consider cultural expressions as ‘leisure’ and hence the creative industries do not assume their rightful position in economic development and nation building,” he says. “The CLI Programmes seeks to develop leaders who can reclaim this role.”
Chatikobo’s next step in participating in the one-year CLI Programme is to implement a 12-month cultural leadership capacity-building plan. The plan includes a short course under The Clore Leadership Programme in the UK and mentorship under The Arterial Network Leadership Programme in Cape Town. Chatikobo will use the acquired cultural leadership skills to mentor the DFL’s postgraduate students in applied drama and theatre.