Currently, the Steve Biko Centre’s performing arts program is running three training initiatives for youth. The first, Imbewu, “seeds” in isiXhosa, caters for young people between the ages of seven and thirteen.
They are taught various elements of the performing arts, from dance to drama to music. Currently, there are 37 members of Imbewu. Convening every Saturday between 09h00 and 12h30, admission is open to any interested young people. Weekly, at the completion of the session, participants’ family and friends have an opportunity to view the work done by the children. “Homework” is also given to the young people as a means to encourage them to practice their new found skills during the week and to provide another avenue for children to meaningfully engage with their families.
In addition to the weekly presentations they make to their families, Imbewu performs in the Centre’s annual Easter Festival, and December events.
The second group of youth trained at the Steve Biko Centre is Izithole, “saplings” in isiXhosa. The membership of this group consists of 23 youth between the ages of 14 and 18. Meeting once a week, after school, the group receives advanced training in the performing arts. Similarly to Imbewu, Izithole performs during the Centre’s annual Easter Festival, and December events.
Abelusi “Shepherds” in isiXhosa, is the third training group at the Centre. A semi-professional troupe, Abelusi’s members range from the age of 18 to 30, and trains or performs five days a week at the Centre. In addition to receiving high caliber instruction from resident and guest artists, Abelusi is tasked with facilitating lessons for Imbewu, Izithole and other student groups with whom SBF works. In order to join Abelusi, candidates are required to go through a rigorous audition and application process. At the conclusion of the two year training program, participants are well equipped to pursue professional opportunities or further their studies. Already, members of Abelusi have been accepted to tertiary institutions such as the University of Cape Town and obtained employment in national radio stations.
Watch Abelusi Perform
Beyond the students that SBF works with at the Centre, the Foundation has also established a dynamic School Outreach Program. Through this initiative, learners whose schools do not have arts and culture programs are able to nonetheless engage in creative activities.
On a weekly basis, staff from the Centre—assisted by Abelusi—conduct performing arts classes at local schools. The subjects range from voice to dance to storytelling. Already, two schools have signed on to the program: St. Patrick’s Special School in Ginsberg, which caters for developmentally challenged children; and the King William’s Town Child and Youth Care Centre. At St. Patrick’s, SBF staff work with 28 youth between the ages of nine and 18; while the program at the youth centre focuses on high school aged youth between 13 and 17.
SBF anticipates that in the coming months, as it is able to add additional staff, more schools will have an opportunity to join the initiative. Already, outreach to make additional schools aware of the opportunity has begun.
Performances & Productions
Giant in Him was Created by SBF’s Abelusi, It depicts the biography of Bantu Stephen Biko through drama. This piece is specifically targeted at high school students and is intended to support the elements of the curriculum that focus on the life and legacy of Biko. Featuring 10 members of Abelusi, Giant in Him has been requested by a number of schools. On February 26th the show made its 2013 debut to an enthusiastic audience of 125 people.
The Annual Easter Festival
Decidedly, the flagship program of the Performing Arts offering, the Annual Easter Festival is likened to a harvest of stories weaved together with the intention of exploring what Biko once described as “the quest for a true humanity”. By re-examining the Eastern Cape narrative, the 3rd iteration of the festival brought together 1,500 participants, practitioners, performers and patrons, to experience a resurgence of the African Village Spirit during four days of activity at the Centre and throughout the local community.
Nzulu Yemfihlakalo (Sacred of the Sacreds)
The third performance staged since the opening of the Centre was Nzulu Yemfihlakalo. Featuring Dom Coyote alongside Abelusi, the production explores themes of transition and coming of age. Critically, the story is relevant to all age groups and resonates across, racial, class and national boundaries.
Biko’s Quest at the National Arts Festival
Biko’s Quest is a dance production inspired by the Steve Biko Foundation’s (SBF) exhibition, The Quest for a True Humanity.
Ebuhlanti with Majola (In the Kraal with Majola)
Ebuhlanti with Majola (In the kraal with Majola) is a musical performance based on music that will be featured in Majola’s studio album Boet Sissy. The Majola performance piece and the album address sexual orientation and growing up gay in the township in post-apartheid South Africa. The subject of sexuality can be a very sensitive one in South Africa as it touches on cultural and religious beliefs. This piece is conducted in isiXhosa in an effort to foster dialogue around sexuality in ways that are easily accessible to local communities. Ebuhlanti with Majola is an original work of Khanyisa Buti, an artist who hails from the Zwelitsha Township near King William’s Town.