Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow - meeting another of those most gentle of men, Eddie Daniels

What an honour to have met another one of Sonny's 'Bible's signatories, Eddie 'Matthew' Daniels ['Matthew', he tells me, was his nom de guerre in the Liberation Movement].  In 2010, Masie & Tod Higgenson interviewed him whilst I was in Johannesburg working with actors at the Market Theatre Labortory.
Winson, from the Cape Town Shakespeare Soceity, and I picked him up from his home in Sommerset West.  As I entered into his sitting room, I noticed right away a photograph that had pride of place in this room was of him diving off of a ship into the Arctic Ocean.  This photograph was taken last month!  85 and still going strong.  An amazing person and a most gentle of souls.

Archive & Public Culture Research Initiative Paper delivered at the University of Cape Town, 21 August 2014

On the 21st of August, I was invited by the  Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town to present a paper on the research & development of the play, The Robben Island Bible, with a specific focus on archive & heritage through the voices of the men & women whom I interviewed for the play in 2008 & 2010.  Much of the presentation was clips from the original interviews and readings of the play.  I examined how archive and culture played [and continues to play] a major role in the development and presentation of the play, its research and the supporting workshops on 'Ethical Leadership.'

I was joined by Professor David Schalkwyk, Academic Director, Global Shakespeare, Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick and former lecturer at the University of Cape Town.  I know David through his book, Hamlet's Dream;  I was also joined by  Sibongiseni Mkhize, the CEO of the Robben Island Museum for a Q & A that followed the presentation.

I was honoured to have in the audience Kwedie Mkalipi, a former political prisoner on Robben Island as well as a signatoree of Sonny's 'Bible'.  I had the honour of interviewing him in 2008.

The Cape Town Shakespeare Society presents The Robben Island Bible, 22 August 2014

On Friday, I had four excellent actors present a reading of the play to an audience of mostly school age children along with parents and others as well as former political prisoner on Robben Island, Eddie Daniels.
After the performance, Eddie addressed the audience and exorted them not to forget their collective past.  He also honoured all of those abroad who helped, at first, gain better conditions within Robben Island [paying particular attention to the International Red Cross] and then towards the liberation of South Africa.
He said that he greatly enjoyed hearing and seeing the play and all of the hard work that had gone into it.  I had the priviledge of having lunch with him and the actors following the morning performance and he filled me in with more details about the performance of Julius Caesar that happened during his time on Robben Island [in which he played Mark Anthony] in the game room of the prison.  He told me the lovely antidote that Neville Alexander directed the play and, during the performance, would feed lines to the actors via the slot in the door usually used by the warders to spy on the political prisoners.  He told me that Nelson 'greatly enjoyed it.'

My day in Umtentweni

What a day (off).
Arrived in Umtentweni last night on the baz bus fairly late, so had a quick dinner then fell asleep.  Throughout the night, I was tempted by the constant crashing of the waves that seemed just outside my window. I woke up in time to see the sun rising with a cup of (instant but posh) coffee. Beautiful.

Headed down to the beach upon finishing the coffee and searched for the least dangerous area to dip my toes into. This part of the country is great for surfing, but may not be too inviting those, like myself, who just wanted to do a bit of swimming. 

There is a beautiful part of the beach that has big black rocks out a bit which serves as an excellent break and, so, I found the perfect spot for a bit of swimming. So, I jumped into the warm winter water. 
After a bit, I started to get a bit famished, so headed off to the nearest kwicspar for some breakfast y grub.  Found some eggs and lovely South African risks for breakfast. But, as always, I bring back more than necessary so am always carrying around plenty of fresh veg and the like. 

On my way back from the shop, I spy an antiques shop so amble in. Oh, I am so tempted by so many things but fortunately the size of my bag and the amount of things I have already acquired limited my dreams of a new (old) phonograph, but I did pick up a very useful bit of kit that I had been looking for for ages and was always too expensive on Amazon - I found a beach chair.  You know, the type of chair with no legs?  So you can sit on the beach - or floor as I am wont to do. And it is reversible - or at least I make it so regardless of whether or not it was built to be flipped. So it is perfect for my on the floor of the flat. Better than a cushion or stack of pillows..... But WWAT?  (that is, 'What will Aida think?').

Made it back, hands full of goods and goodies. Made a lovely breakfast, then headed back to the beach with a book and my new chair - see, already paying dividends!  I am reading Truman Capotes collection of short stories. Excellent reading for the beach.  Short enough to get through before being distracted by the crashing waves, but engaging.  So, I did a lot of day dreaming and wave gazing. lovely!

Go hungry again.  All of that fresh air, so headed the 10 meters back to the backpackers, The Spot, to fix a salad with toast. Easy and light. Waited 30 minutes then headed back into the now much rougher ocean. Was battered around a bit with big crashing waves but still what an experience. 

Dried off in the stiff wind - again, employing the ever so useful each chair but still was covered by sand that was rudely slapped on my by the giant crashing waves all around me. 

So, had to take a long hot shower to get all of the sand out of every nook, cranny and fold. Went back to another coffee, my third of the day, and the book. I sat just inside the bsckpackers property with the sounds of crashing waves ever present and it was so relaxing. 

Dinner of boiled eggs and another salad ( trying to eat a bit lighter as the last couple of weeks have been a bit of a feast, much to my surprise). And now I await for the baz bus to Durban and the Happy Hippo backpackers and back on the job. I have meetings tomorrow and Saturday in preparation for the applied theatre students arrival on Tuesday evening and I am sure I will find much to do in Durban. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Richard Attenborough, director of Cry Freedom, dies aged 90

Just heard the news that Richard Attenburgh has died today. I find it poient that I arrive in Port Elizabeth on the day that he has died. His film, Cry Freedom, for all of its controversy within the Liberation movement, was instrumental in  conscientizing me as a young 14 year old wrapped up in my cottoned wooled life in Indiana about the conditions that the vast majority of South Africans faced under apartheid and was the beginning of the long road that brought me to where I am today. There is much still to be angry about but progress, however achingly slowly, is being made. 

Sadly, of all of the people to whom I mention this, there is little reaction to the movie and its politics. In fact, after i mention this to one person, I hear 'I don't get involved in politics' just before the mention of those 'lazy natives.....'  So, painful and so slow.  And so angry. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Opening up the Robben Island Bible



The APC’s special event, ‘A Conversation on The Robben Island Bible’, attracted a large audience and lively debate. We felt especially honoured to welcome ex-prisoners, Khwedi Mkhaliphi, who attended with his wife, Ruth Mkhaliphi, the artist Lionel Davis (also a formerly banned person) and Yasien Mohamed. Both Davis and Mohamed are well-known tour guides on Robben Island. The event was organised and chaired by APC Honorary Research Fellow, Dr June Bam.
The presentation evolved around the play, The Robben Island Bible, by British playwright and lecturer at St Mary’s University in London, Matthew Hahn. Hahn also presented video clips of the interviews he did with former political prisoners of the Island, as well as clips of staged readings of scenes from his play. These included the passages of Shakespeare’s Complete Works, which were marked by the prisoners as meaningful for them, on request of Sonny Venkatrathnam. The book was brought to Venkatrathnam by his wife, Theresa, during his time of incarceration. While on the Island, he disguised it as a ‘religious book’ with Hindu religious motifs pasted onto it. According to Venkatrathnam, the warders feared two things: ‘the authorities, and God’. Hahn introduced his work in conversation with Robben Island CEO Sibongiseni Mkhize, and global Shakespeare scholar David Schalkwyk.
In recalling his ‘first encounter’ with the book, Hahn recollected the detail of the scent of eucalyptus leaves that emanated from between the pages, carrying the trace and scent of the Island. Speaking of the often controversial memories the interviews with ex-political prisoners brought to the fore, Hahn said that the genre of drama is especially able to embrace the multidirectional and, at times, conflicting memories of the ex-political prisoners – ‘since this is (also) what makes a good drama.’
Hahn sees the book as a repository of traces, resonating with hints of the thoughts and concerns of the prisoners at specific moments in time, which he then translated into the staged readings, which we viewedviewed – for instance, SB Benghu’s choice of a passage in Henry V that speaks of tolerance, of different elements that constitute a whole, or Chuk Iwuji’s reading of Wilton Mkwayi’s choice of Malvolio’s utterances from Twelfth Night.

At the APC event, Khwedi Mkalipi read his selection of Puck from A MidsummerNight’s Dream.
Of course, Nelson Mandela’s choice was included in the clips, which, as we hear it today, resounds profoundly with his Rivonia Trial speech:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

The CEO of Robben Island Museum, Sibongiseni Mkhize, drew the audience’s attention to the question of how we think of and represent Robben Island today, especially in the light of the deeper history of the Island: ‘Robben Island is not reducible to the Robben Island of the political prisoners under apartheid,’ he said, and spoke of the Island’s first-known political prisoner, the Khoisan leader and interpreter, Autshumao. He also spoke of the location’s history as a place of banishment for people infected with leprosy, and as a place of exile for early political prisoners, including women (such as the Khoisan interpreter, Krotoa), and unwanted persons as far back as the 17th century; of Imam Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, who was exiled to the Island in the 1740s, and imprisoned religious and political leaders from the Eastern Cape during the Frontier Wars of the 19th century – including the much revered Xhosa prophet and leader, Nxele Makana, who drowned while trying to escape with others from the Island.
Mkhize reminded us that, even when speaking of the recent past, we often exclude political prisoners, like Robert Sobukwe, but also internees from Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique. Who, he asked, is honoured as a political prisoner today? In illustrating this point, he drew attention to the large number of detainees under apartheid, many of whom (women and white male political prisoners) were not incarcerated on the Island but on the mainland. Mkhize’s insightful interventions led to a robust discussion of the politics of representation.
The second respondent, David Schalkwyk, distinctively put into perspective the meaning of the ‘Robben Island Bible’ for the political prisoners: firstly, he made clear that it does not appear in any of the memoirs of the political prisoners he knows. Secondly, he recalled the position of an ANC politician, who asserted that the prisoners at the time were: ‘inspired by the Freedom Charter, not by Shakespeare…’
Lionel Davis, who has been a visitors’ guide at Robben Island’s educational centre for many years, asked: ‘What do young South Africans take from the Island?’ He posed a further related question as to whether this World Heritage Site was still an important point of identification for young South Africans.
In answer to this, Khwedi Mkhaliphi spoke of the past struggle as an anchor for identification, of the bravery, faith, deprivation of the prisoners, of ‘not reading the newspaper, not knowing what was happening in the country and in the world’. He also pointed to the role of women in the struggle, as fighters, yet also as the wives and girlfriends of those confined to the Island; of these women being followed and spied on. ‘How come [is it],’ he asked, ‘that now the only person who played a role in the struggle [at least in international discourses] is Mandela?’
Hopefully, as Hahn’s staged readings and play circulate, it will become clearer and clearer to audiences around the world that this was not the reality of South Africa’s broad-based struggle against the injustices of apartheid. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Workshop on Communication - Mabateng, Johannesburg.

Matthew worked with three students from South West Gauteng College in a workshop that was facilitated that Thursday, 14 August.  The students were paid a small stipend as well as given lunch.  There were to be Wits University drama and media Students recording the students facilitation as well as participating in the workshop. 

The workshop was held in a new community arts space in Mabateng in Johannesburg.  The community attending the workshop on communication skills was the local men's homeless shelter which consisted in boys as young as 9 and young men up to the age of 18.  The three students ran the entire workshop from beginning to end with input, encouragement and side coaching throughout by Matthew.  Although the stated aim of the workshop was to improve communication skills, the college students also wanted to focus on building confidence as well as making sure the young men had fun.  
The workshop was conducted mainly in Zulu and the men jumped right in.  The students has games, songs and activities that 'broke the ice' as well as encouraged the young men to improve their projection and articulation to aid their communication skills.
The students asked the young men how they currently communicate as well as encouraged the notion of establishing eye contact and confidence as corner stones of good communication.
The workshop was certainly a learning experience for all of us.  The young men opened up and told individual students about their situation and how they ended up being homeless in Johannesburg.  The students were shocked at the stories they heard and showed great empathy with the young men.  There was great concern by each of the students that the workshop needed to end by 3pm so that the young  men could 'claim' a spot for the night without fear of being bullied by the older men or have their blankets stolen if the arrived too late.  
Much of the later workshop was dialogue between the students and the young men, which was excellent, but flawed in the sense that the students needed to keep the men active in order to keep them focused.  But this is a next step in their facilitation skills:  having an arsenal of games and activities that focused, energised or aided the Aims and Objectives of the workshop.  But this dialogue won for the students the trust of the young men which then allowed them to share their stories.
The workshop ended with Matthew facilitating a highly energetic game called 'Fruit Salad' which left everyone laughing and in high spirits.

St Mary's MA Programmes - Open Forum @ Wits University

After masie heroically drove us to WitsUniversity following the Ethical Leadership Performance, we made it in time for their Open Forum, which is a forum for soon to be graduating students to meet, listen to and ask questions to people who are working in the programming arts (and who generally are recent graduates). I took the opportunity to present to these students a presentation on St. Mary's University's MA and study abroad programmes well as means of accessing funding for such studies. We discussed studying in London in general as well. 

The presentation was well received with many students opting to sign up for more information abou the programmes. 

The Ethical Leadership Workshop Performance

Today, 11 August, twelve students from the South West Gauteng College put together a 45 minute long performance that mixed readings from Shakespeare, extracts from the interviews of former political prisoners and their own creative writing. The performance was watched by fellow students, teachers as well as management. It was well received by all who saw it. 


On Wednesday afternoon, I presented a paper on the research and development of my play, The Robben Island Bible, which also included a summary of the recent workshops on ethical leadership held at South West Gauteng College. 
This was a module open to any Wits drama student who had an interest in leadership in arts management. The presentation was attended by  eight students and two of the courses lecturers. 
Many of the students had not heard of the 'bible' story so I hope it was a good quick introduction to it as well as how Shakespeare effected the Liberation Movement leaders on Robben Island.  
There was a strong engagement by the students who asked clear and precise questions about the application of the work as well as the relevance of Shakespeare in today's South Africa.  

Shakesperience meeting on 13 August 2014

This morning I met with Lula from the organisation, Shakespearience, a company which works within South African Schools to promote the arts and, in particular, the set texts of the curriculum, which currently inculdes Animal Farm & Nothing But The Truth.  
It was fascinating to see the synergy between this organisation and the work that I have recently concluded at The South West Gauteng College. It is my hope that a collaboration can be done to scale up these workshop opportunities. 

Tuesday morning @ Wits University

On Tuesday, for the second day in a row, visited Wits and worked with their acting students. I facilitated a hour long workshop in verbstim theatre, then spoke to them about the MA Programme at St. Mary's University. 

The verbatim theatre workshop gets them to quickly creat short pieces of theatre based on their fellow students stories. I have them pay special attention not only to the story but also to the body language and verbal ticks that each of us have. Then then take the heard stories and create a short 30 second monologue based on that story. 

Summary Document of the Ethical Leadership Workshops facilitated by Matthew Hahn in association with the South West Gauteng College [George Tabor Campus] 4 to 14 August 2014

A break down of the individual activities of the EL Workshop:

On 4 August, Matthew facilitated a 'Needs Assessment' workshop with the SWGC [George Tabor Campus] English teachers which consisted of a taster workshop to gauge the need and value of such a workshop on ethical leadership with their students.  Overall, it was well received with some very useful feedback that was incorporated into the student workshop.

5 to 8 August

Matthew facilitated the Ethical Leadership Workshop with 15 students from SWGC.  Although the numbers of students varied from day to day, there was a core group of 5 or 6 that were on time and in attendance every day.  The students were in their early 20's and generally in their final year at the college.

In these workshops, the students examined and performed extracts from Shakespeare and from the interviews of the former political prisoners on Robben Island [taken from Matthew Hahn's play, The Robben Island Bible (for more information about the play and the research and development of it, please visit]. The students also created new pieces of creative writing in response to both the Shakespeare and the FPP's words.

Throughout the workshop, the students examined personal, local, national and international examples of leadership and the associated ethics.   The most time was spent discussing current leadership on a national level in South Africa but a fair amount of time was also spent on examining more local leadership examples within their personal lives as well as lives as students and young people in Soweto, South Africa. 

Over the first two days, much energy was used in the critique of the current government, but soon Matthew encouraged the students to not only reflect on the current situation, but also to examine what they can do differently.  The mantra 'What Can I Do Differently?' was often used as a tool to examine positive behaviour change on a personal level.  The other obvious mantra that came up was Ghandi's phrase, 'Be The Change You Want To See.' From this basis, the students began to examine practical achievable means of changing their behaviour as well as to encourage others to change theirs as well.  As an example, there was much discussion about students who would attend college but not classes within the college.  This reflected poor attendance within the classroom but, as the students saw it, for no good reason [often the lack of money for transportation is cited as a reason for poor attendance, but in this particular case, was not the case].  Students vowed to change their behaviour to be more vocal in their interactions with students who were at the college but not in class to encourage them to attend.

Alongside discussions on ethical leadership, the students also had basic acting or performance lessons with Matthew asking them to always project their voices and to articulate the words that they speak.   This was to encourage the students to communicate better as well as to prepare them for their performance / presentation on Monday 11 August.  The work on Shakespeare was treated very lightly as, at the beginning of the workshop, there was panic amongst the teachers as well as the students when asked to 'perform Shakespeare' which Matthew did not want to increase.  He encouraged them to understand the meaning behind the words through a discussion of each monologue, but encouraged each student to just speak the words loudly and clearly and to follow the punctuation.  

Throughout the week, Matthew assigned the students extracts from Shakespeare as well as from the interviews to be performed on the last day.  They included: 

Andrew Mlengeni’s speech – ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown…’ and his interview.
 'Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow' and Eddie Daniel's speech.
Saths Cooper choice from Hamlet as well as his discussion on the current state of affairs within the national government of South Africa.
‘Once more unto the Breech, dear friends…’ from Henry IV with the entire company of performers.   
There were also four new pieces of writing that had been created specifically by the students for the performance.

On the day of the performance, there was a mixture of students, lecturers from the college as well as upper management.  The student-actors performed very well and clearly communicated their ideas on ethical leadership through Shakespeare, the words of the former political prisoners and their own writing which examined on the ground level how these young people see the current leadership situation as well as their hopes for a more ethical leadership in the future, which they will help shape.  The performance was well received by all and there is hope that this sort of work can continue within and without this college.

From that performance and workshop, Matthew selected three students to represent the college in a workshop to be facilitated that Thursday, 14 August.  The students were paid a small stipend as well as given lunch.  There were to be Wits University drama and media Students recording the students facilitation as well as participating in the workshop. 

The workshop was held in a new community arts space in Mabateng in Johannesburg.  The community attending the workshop on communication skills was the local men's homeless shelter which consisted in boys as young as 9 and young men up to the age of 18.  The three students ran the entire workshop from beginning to end with input, encouragement and side coaching throughout by Matthew.  Although the stated aim of the workshop was to improve communication skills, the college students also wanted to focus on building confidence as well as making sure the young men had fun.  
The workshop was conducted mainly in Zulu and the men jumped right in.  The students has games, songs and activities that 'broke the ice' as well as encouraged the young men to improve their projection and articulation to aid their communication skills.
The students asked the young men how they currently communicate as well as encouraged the notion of establishing eye contact and confidence as corner stones of good communication.
The workshop was certainly a learning experience for all of us.  The young men opened up and told individual students about their situation and how they ended up being homeless in Johannesburg.  The students were shocked at the stories they heard and showed great empathy with the young men.  There was great concern by each of the students that the workshop needed to end by 3pm so that the young  men could 'claim' a spot for the night without fear of being bullied by the older men or have their blankets stolen if the arrived too late.  
Much of the later workshop was dialogue between the students and the young men, which was excellent, but flawed in the sense that the students needed to keep the men active in order to keep them focused.  But this is a next step in their facilitation skills:  having an arsenal of games and activities that focused, energised or aided the Aims and Objectives of the workshop.  But this dialogue won for the students the trust of the young men which then allowed them to share their stories.
The workshop ended with Matthew facilitating a highly energetic game called 'Fruit Salad' which left everyone laughing and in high spirits.

Next Stages in the Development of Ethical Leaders at the South West Gauteng College:
1. Continuation of the Ethical Leadership Workshop at this campus.  There are several students who expressed an interest in continuing this work and leading it.  It was also expressed that cross- college participation must be encouraged throughout colleges in and around Soweto and beyond.  The hall was a good space, but the new hall on the George Tabor Campus has been noted as an excellent opportunity to use in this capacity as a leading college on Leadership Development.

2. Continued development of the relationships established throughout this two week period:  Matthew Hahn, facilitator and theatre director; Wits University [Jill Waterman and the Cultural Leadership Programme has expressed an interest in developing a relationship with the college for cross institutional purposes;  Drama for Life, an MA in community theatre also has expressed an interest in the college; the Wits drama students from the workshop were greatly impressed by the College students' facilitation skills  and asked to keep in touch with them and the development of the relationship with Wits]; the directors of the art space in Maboneng, Johannesburg are also keen to utilise the students as facilitators in future collaborations (there is great interest by the college & university students to continue to work in the space with the homeless shelter); the Robben Island Stories Project, a new project in collaboration with Dr. Saths Cooper, a former political prisoner on Robben Island, Masie Mojela and Matthew Hahn.  This project represents a scaling up on Hahn's ongoing project, The Robben Island Bible, which will consist of interviewing as many grass roots and foot soldiers [both men & women] who fought for the liberation of South Africa but whose voices have been overshadowed by the better know men & women of the Struggle.   The College has been engaged to provide students and media equipment for the recordings of these stories.  It is hoped that drama students from Wits will be available to conduct the interviews whilst the SWGC students record, edit and produce them.  There is much scope of negotiation as this project is in early stages and funding has not yet been confirmed.  Other colleges and other universities throughout South Africa would also be engaged to conduct interviews in their area of the country.  But the goal is for the SWGC to serve as the hub and central storage area for the work.
In summary, it is believed that the contacts established by Masie Mojela and Matthew Hahn over the last two weeks can serve as an excellent launch pad towards the development of ethical leaders with the South West Gauteng College playing a leading role in their development.  Much excitement and momentum has been generated throughout a variety of layers in society.  It is seen as imperative that this continues through the support needed in order for this project not to be seen as a one off and 'finished' event.  

Feedback on the Ethical Leadership Workshop at the South West Gauteng College

'Eventful but fun.'

'I am inspired and driven to push my limits to the best they can be to reach my full potential.'

'The workshop was useful to me because I now have a broader sense of the day to day challenges [of being a leader] and how to tackle them.'

'There was an understanding of leadership qualities that existed in yesterday's leaders and that exist in todays leaders.'

'The workshop helped me to be more confident in myself and made me realize that I can be a leader in many different ways and be able to play a role in people's lives by helping and showing them what is is to be a leader with ethical principles.  

'Before the workshop, it was hard for me to see my potential but now I am able to do things on my own and not always take a back seat.'

'The workshop was successful because I realise that I was ignorant of the current leadership situation in South Africa.'

'The workshop was useful as it helped me to notice the leader in me.'

'I learned that we are all leaders with our own destiny and how I can approach matters of life and also about how we communicate counts in others' beliefs in you.'

'Even the shy people - like me - contributed.'

'The workshop made me think a lot about leadership and it stirred up the leader within me and the leadership qualities within me.'

'The workshop taught me to learn from our current leaders mistakes and make a difference in my community and school.'

'I learned that a leader must be humble and a good listener.'

'I learned that being silent does not mean that you are stupid but that you are giving others a chance to speak.'

'The workshop was thought provoking.  It has sparked a culture of making a difference amongst my peers at school and in my community.'

'Thank you for this initiative, your efforts, your courage and your willingness to make us better youth.  All that you put in when guiding us through the workshop was well done.'

'I would like to take this out to my peers who didn't have a chance to attend the workshop and learn what I have had the opportunity to learn.  I would like to share this knowledge with others.'

'I am inspired.'

Details of Robben Island Bible Events in Cape Town:

21 August-
Matthew Hahn to deliver a paper on the Research & Development of his play, The Robben Island Bible, including the recent 'Ethical Leadership' Workshops conducted at the South West Gauteng College.
Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative
Department of Social Anthropology 
Special Event
Thursday 21 August 201413h00 – 14h30
Venue: Jon Bernt Thought Space (in A17 in the Arts Block, Upper Campus, UCT).
Time: 13:00 – 14:30

22 August - a reading of the play, The Robben Island Bible, at Michael Oak School 

Friday, 8 August 2014

5 August - Tuesday - Meeting with Dr. Saths Cooper

Today, Masie & I met with Dr. Saths Cooper, a signatory of the 'Bible' as well as a strong supporter of the play and the educational outreach that surrounds the play.  I had the honour of formally interviewing him twice [2008 & 2010] and he was involved in the play development phase at the Market Theatre in 2010 participating in a Q & A which followed the play for an audience of young people.  

He, being one of the few non-politicians whom I interviewed, had strong views about how he feels about him spending his youth and young adulthood in the Liberation Movement for what he sees today in South Africa as, what he calls, a 'deriliction of duty by the current leadership.'  

I expected our meeting to be about the past - where the play has gone and how the educational outreach of the play has developed.  But, no, in fact, without preparation, Saths pitched a new idea to the two of us.  His idea, which has great resonance with me, is to record as many of the quickly fading voices of the men who were imprisoned on Robben Island.  Basically, a hugely scaled up version of the work that I have been doing over the past six years.  But this work would focus on the grass roots, the foot soldiers of the Liberation Movement rather than, as my research invitably did, focus on those in the Leadership' Section on Robben Island.

One of my great regrets of my work recording the stories of these men is exactly that - it was just the stories of the men in the Liberation Movement.  I can justify it by saying that it was only men who signed Sonny's 'Bible' but it is certainly still a regret.  I hope that I can convience Saths that the women of the Struggle are also recorded and accorded their justice.  Today, being 'Women's Day' in South Africa [8 August 2014], I hope to make this a reality.

My second week..... Wits University and beyond

Having spent so much energy to prepare for the first week of my time in South Africa, it is now coming as a bit of a shock to move on and prepare for the following week.  It seems to be as busy as the first, but certainly with new adventures.

On Saturday, I will be a tourist into central Johannesburg to visit the Market Theatre and the surrounding area. On Sunday, it will be a day off.  

Then on Monday, we have the college performance at 11am, then I am going to shoot off to Wits University for my first of three meetings with the drama students.

On Monday, I will lead a presentation for St. Mary's University and their MA programmes and study abroad programmes to interested students.  On Tuesday, I will be leading a drama workshop as well as meeting with Warren Nebe, from the drama department, who runs 'Drama for Life,' an applied theatre programme run out of Wits which has a very successful profile in South Africa and abroad.  On Wednesday, I will be meeting with more of the drama staff at Wits as well as presenting a paper on my research and development for The Robben Island Bible at their Cultural Leadership seminar.  I will focus on my most recent work on the Ethical Leadership Workshops which utilize both the chosen Shakesperian texts as well as my interviews with the former  poltical prisoners. 

As noted in an earlier post, I will be facilitating a drama workshop [verbatim & forum theatre] with Pamela Nomvete at her new space in Johhannesburg.  Friday, Masie & I have a second meeting with Dr. Saths Cooper, a signatory of the 'Bible' as well as a strong supporter of the play & educational workshops that support the play.  We are to discuss a new project which would involve recording many more of the voices of teh Liberation Movement that are too quickly fading away.

Saturday, off, then on Sunday I will fly to Cape Town.

At least this is the plan..... But South Africa being South Africa, you never know when a new adventure will present itself and completely change any of your plans!  

Meeting with Pamela Nomvete 7August - Johannesburg Civic Theatre - Planning for Drama Workshop

After the workshop at the college, Masie & I met with Pamela Nomvete and two of her colleagues in regards to a drama workshop that I was going to facilitate in Pamela's new performance space.  Her colleagues worked at a men's homeless shelter and had met Pamela when she came to speak at Wits University.  As most people do when meeting Pamela, they immediately fell in love with her drive, energy & smile [as I  had done a few years past] and immediately decided that they wanted to work with her.

We made a plan to deliver a verbatim theatre & forum theatre workshop along with a brief performance from the Ethical Leadership Workshop that 3 or 4 students from the college would perform [as well as supporting my facilitation].

The homeless shelter dealt exclusively with men beause, as one of the young women said, there isn't a big need for a women's shelter as they tend not to leave home  regardless of how bad the circumstances become for them.  The 'men' are as young as 9 and old as 18.  They are all currently experiencing homelessness and have gone to the shelter to get off the streets.

I hope that this workshop for them is fun.  I hope that these young men enjoy themselves and have a good time.  It is the least that we can deliver. I also hope that they are brave enough to share their stories to the rest of the group and enjoy seeing them acted out in front of them.  

I look forward to the college students leading as much of the workshop as possible.  I feel assured that they can lead in the games and activities as well as participate in the drama that is created.  I hope it creates a strong and powerful atmosphere to have these two groups meet and mix.

How time flies..... The last full day for the workshop - 8 August 2014

Today is the last full day before the performance on Monday at 11am.  We will meet at 8.30am on Monday to rehearse the performance, so I needed to get through everything today that I wanted to accomplish.

This was a handover day when the young people started to lead and work in small groups to present their findings to me and the rest of the group. 

I started off with an examination of Sath's Cooper's 'Bible' choice from Hamlet:

This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc’d and tax’d of other nations;
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition; and indeed, it takes
From our achievements, though perform’d at height,
The pith and marrow of our attribute.
So, oft it chances in particular men
That, for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As in their birth, wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin;
By the o’ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason;
Or by some habit that too much o’er leavens
The form of plausive manners – that these men,
Carrying, I say the stamp of one defect,
Being nature’s livery or fortune’s star,
His virtues else, be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as many may undergo,
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault.

Saths says this about his choice:

I choose this passage because it taps into the issue of betrayal that we find between older and younger generations of the Liberation struggle. This betrayal has left our generation rudderless.  This choice of this particular passage in Hamlet reveals the duplicity and the playing of different kinds of roles that we see going on Robben Island.  For me, and I think for most of my comrades, to do that means compromising our integrity and giving up any sense of responsibility for our own condition; responsibility for rising above the condition and for leading ourselves out of that condition.  Some of that is hinted at in this passage.  

I asked the students to reflect on the monologue as well as this part of Sath's inteview on why he chose this particular passage.  I asked them to update the monolgue as those it is written by an early 21st century young person in South Africa.  After a bit of confusion over what was being asked of them, I asked if any of them had ever written poetry or a piece of creative writing.  Very few had, but now that they knew what I was hoping to get from them, they came up with four beautiful and critical pieces of work.  They too will be performed on Monday.

I then asked them, in small groups to reflect on the following two statements and come up with the answers to them:

What are our ethical principles?

Why is it important to have these principles?

I also asked them, 'What does it mean to 'hold yourself to account'?' And 'why is that important?'

These findings will also be presented on Monday.

thursday 7 August

On the third day of the 'Ethical Leadership' workshop, the students began to examine their own behaviour around how to be an ethical leader.
We had spend the first two days examining the current situation of leadership on a personal, local and national level.  There was, as you can imagine, a good amount of criticism especially when discussing leadership on a national level.  But I wanted to switch the focus of the reflection to the students own behaviour and what they can do differently - as leaders but also as young people who can influence those in power.
We also examined the monologue from Henry IV, 'Once more into  the breach, dear friends, once more....' [this monologue was chosen in Sonny 'Bible' by Ahmed Kathrada].  They did a beautiful job of  disecting the monologue and relating it to their own lives.   

The discussion came around to how to lead ethically and my interview with Michael Dinake really chimed with the group.  He beatifully examined Polonius's speech and spoke about why it is important for politican's to follow his advice:

Michael:  Michael Dingake. I am from Botswana, but moved to South Africa in search of a better education.  My father worked in the mines and farms here and my family decided to send me to school here. I finished my high school and then join the ANC. My detention, my arrest is actually illegal because I am carrying a Botswana passport but the Rhodesian agents, you know, I suppose from instructions from the South African police decided to arrest me and then send me to Robben Island. Polonius, that’s me yea?  

‘Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.’

Now, before you act – think about something properly.  Don’t act what you’re thinking before you have to be really certain to what the repercussions might be.  When I was arrested, I was really prepared, you know, psychologically wise.  Anything could happen to me, even if I was killed.  I was prepared for all of that. 

‘Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul
 with hoops of steel.’

You see, true friends – you have to be certain now that this one is true.  And I think, you see, I am good at that personally.  There are a few guys, you know, I could say now, ‘This one will never betray me.’  Now those you ‘grapple’ you see?  Soul, yea, with hoops of steel.

‘Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.’

Now, ah, this is important for, well, politicians in particular.  You have to listen to other people…But sometimes you have to be careful what you, you, say.  If, for instance you say, ‘I agree with you.  I agree with what you say’ …. you may be committing yourself unnecessarily because conditions may arise where you disagree.  Think carefully about everything.  I suppose that this is what Polonius is actually saying.

‘Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;’

Personally, that’s a weakness that I have, about how to dress.  I am very found of, well, fashion. I am always among the trend setters.  

‘For the apparel oft proclaims the man;’

I don’t know how the apparel proclaims me.  
But this, 

‘This above all-to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.’

This is really loaded with what we all should know - how as human beings, you know, to conduct ourselves.  But it also means, you must really always think before you do. Before you plunge into anything, think carefully.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Preparing for the Performance

Alongside examining leadership through the eyes of shakespeare and the former political prisoners on Robben a Island, we are also preparing for a presentation / performance on Monday morning at the college. The students have cast themselves as Shakespeare's characters or one of the interviewees.  We are busy putting together a short programme of performances as well as an analysis of our findings and thoughts on what it takes to be an ethical leader in her he 21st century. 

Second day of the Workshop

During our second day, we explored King Richard III's monologue, 'Not all the waters in the rough sea....' And examined what it means to be a leader who believes he or she has been 'elected by the Lord' and is not accountable to his or her constituents. The students related this speach and this king to the leaders within South Africa and developed the idea that, although not necessarily elected by God, many think that they have no mandate to the electors and just strive to be in a position of power and have been put there by people who have not been elected. 

The students also examined an inerview with Andrew MLENGENI whom I interviewed in 2008.  He discussed his interest in the speech, 'uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.'  Andrew interpreted it as the unease that is felt by a leader who has gotten to power through illegal or unscruplious means. The students agreed but also reasoned that a leader might not be able to sleep because he or she is worried about his or her constituents. Asked to examine leadership on a personal, local and national level, the conclusion was that many leaders tend to be the former rather than the latter with them loosing sleep, as Andrew suggests, because they are alwYs looking behind them to see 'who is coming up behind me.'  

The students have also been looking at basic presentation / performance skills such as articulation and projection. There was a heated discussion around whether or not to be a good leader one needed these skills. I suggested that in the 21st century where we are surrounded by multimedia, it is necessary for a leader to be able to verbally communicate. This has been necessary since the dawn or radio and television and is now more importance because of 24 hour news and the internet. People who lookup you to lead much be able to understand what it is you are saying. Yes, the content is very important, but it must be understood.  it can't be, as a Shakespeare says, merely a'sawing of the arms' or 'tearing passions to tatters' without being understood. It should be, again as Shakespeare suggests, 'a temperance that gives it smoothness.'  

This is proving difficult for these confident students to make eye contact and to be heard and understood.   There is a gentle prodding that is needed to remind them that they aren't just speaking to me, but rather to all of the other leaders as we sit in a circle.  This is very different to the school conditions that many of these (and other students) face.  I am asking them to take responsibility to be heard and understood. We are working in a non hierarchical fashion which basic facilitation skills insist on. This way of working is often very difficult to break into because of how students are taught in the classroom. 

And the gender issue seems to rear it's ugly head everyday as well. There is often a defference to the make students when it come to making suggestions as well as taking the leadin the various projects that are worked on. As an outsider, I try to gently ask them to obsve this behaviour to see if it can be rebalanced. It is observed and commented upon, redressed but it never lasts long. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Ethical Leadership Workshop - Students of South West Gauteng College

On 5 August, I had  the pleasure of working with 15 students from the South West Gauteng College to explore their ideas around ethical leadership utizling the works of Shakespeare as well as verbatim interviews from the former political prisoners who were on Robben island. 

Although a bit shy at first, they soon began to find their voices when discussing their views on leadership. The same applies to their work on Shakespeare. Once I convinced them that there was no 'right' way of reading it, they began to really engage with the content and wreastled with the meaning and how, what shakespeare says applies to them as young people in South Africa today. 

The most enjoyment and hoots of agreement came with a short reading of an extract of the play from Saths Cooper interview in 2010:

Saths:  The uniqueness that ought, that could have been South Africa after 1994, I think was blocked.  The abuse of power – ah, I think for me what is significant is also is how those today who have been in older leadership just…withdrew from commentary…withdrew from influencing the process.  Maybe in a few years time, there maybe a hindsight wisdom in that.  But I think for the country it is…a…tragedy … it’s a dereliction of leadership responsibility that ought not to have happened.  We could blame those in power, but…. If you leave them alone and don’t engage & create other modalities of intervention, they’re going to do those kinds of crazy things.  So, we have got our backs to the wall and can’t answer the younger generation.  Since we can’t answer the kids who are able to point out the contradiction, we use,

Two of the remaining prisoners (2 & 3) upstage put on expensive suits and turning into ‘Today’s biggest Capitalists’:

Prisoner 2: But you see, you didn’t experience the Struggle.

Saths: And they (indicating the Prisoners) get all defensive and huffy about it – it's almost like a religious belief, 

Prisoner 3:  God exists because the Bible says so.  So, I’m telling you we suffered and therefore this is how it ought to be.

Saths:  And in that you can’t enter an area of religiosity that you can’t get out of and that’s where some of the current impasses happen.  It is a betrayal of everything that has been Noble in our Struggle.  It has created that sleaze factor.  It has led to the ignobility of being associated with demolition of the previous system because people gave their lives.  Today, it is still a fight for dignity for the mass of people that even have not received that dignity.  The Constitution may scream it, but in reality the majority of our people are way beyond even a modicum of participating in an equality that they expected post ’94.  

Theresa: The few who have benefited are the role models for the youth when they say, 

Prisoners 2:  If you want to drink good wine, if you want to go to good restaurants, then you know you need to do X.  

Prisoner 3:  We do it ourselves.  
Theresa:  That is the legacy, if you like, of leadership that has allowed itself to be seduced by personal gain, by the materialism that necessarily must come with power.  They tend to collect the accoutrements of power and whatever else goes with it as privilege and then justify it as 

Prisoners 2 & 3 (revelling in the accoutrements of power):  Entitlement.

Theresa:  They see it as something they have given a certain part of their lives for and
Prisoners 2 & 3:  Sure enough, that is what I deserve.

Saths:  But this milieu for the youth today is one where you create a personal project by getting yourself involved in certain structures so that in five, ten, fifteen years’ time mean you will end up becoming a Cabinet Minister or a multi-millionaire. My two sons, the one is 20 and the other is 22 and my daughter is 16 and all of them know that if you want to get anywhere, if you want to get the lucrative contract, and tenders, then join X organization now so that you will take care of the future in a few years time. 
Sonny: In a sense, this has developed a cynicism amongst youth that is dangerous because youth cannot afford to be cynical about anything. Sceptical yes, because you are questioning. But the cynicism that is developing is the legacy of leadership that has tended to look after itself, has tended to look after those who are close to them and then created a terrible model for youth to follow. 


This striking critique of current leadership certainly struck a chord with many of of the young students.  They spoke about the truth of what Saths says and how they see ways towards leadership only by being crooked.  I am looking forward to fleshing this scene out with the more tomorrow.

The Ethical Leadership Workshop - Teacher Training Day

On 4 August, I facilitated a short workshop for six teachers from the South West Gauteng College in order to explain to them the concept of the larger workshop that I would be facilitating with the students over the next week and, more importantly, to get their feedback on my process to make sure that is is fit for purpose with their students. 
Overall it was wel received with some excellent feedback to further its development. It was great fun to see the teachers speaking Shakespeare's words with such gusto and enjoyment. It was also interesting to come to a group decision of whatwe as a group thought a definition of 'Ethical Leadershop' might be. 
I am looking forward to working with their students tomorrow.