CityLife Arts

Name only one venue at Soweto Theatre after Gibson Kente and rest after women artists

By Ismail Mahomed

The Joburg Metro Council has called for public comment on its intent to rename the Soweto Theatre the Gibson Kente Theatre.

Whilst I agree that Gibson Kente needs to be honoured I would like to see the Jhb Metro Council name not the whole complex but at least one of the three venues in the complex in honour of Gibson Kente and the two other venues in the complex to honour legendary women theatre-makers.

To-date in Johannesburg almost all theatre are named after males and the contributions of women theatre-makers remains unacknowledged.

The four theatres at the Market Theatre complex are named after men: – John Kani Theatre, Mannie Mannim Theatre, Barney Simon Theatre, Ramaloa Makhene Theatre

At the Joburg Theatre the main venue is named the Nelson Mandela.

Other South African theatres named after men are the Ettiene Rossouw Theatre and the former Fugard Theatre.

In Stellenbosch there is the Adam Smal Theatre. In Bloemfontein there is the Sand du Plessis Theatre.

Graaf Reinet has the John Rupert Theatre, Cape Town has the Baxter Theatre named in honour of Duncan Baxter who bequeathed funding for the theatre.

There are several more theatres across the country named after men. To-date, only one theatre in South Africa is known to carry the name of a woman —- the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

It will be wonderful to see the Jhb Metro take one step ahead by naming only one of its venues the Gibson Kente and the two other theatres after legendary women theatre-makers to bring about redress for women theatre makers who are being written out of history.

In this regard it will be good to see the two other theatres in the complex being named to honour any one of the following:  Emily Motsieloa whose legendary teaching spurred off the careers of many musicians and other performing artists.

Nomhle Nkonyeni who won global acclaim for her performances and who was a fierce proponent for social justice. While the names of Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona and John Kani of the original Serpent Players remains celebrated the legacy of Nomhle Nkonyeni is being erased from history. Sibongile Khumalo. The legendary songbird was internationally recognised. She was the first person to be granted a Civic Funeral by the Joburg Metro.

Whilst the three venues at the Soweto Theatre should be named after the people proposed the complex itself should retain its name. The name Soweto is an iconic name. It is an international brand associated with the Soweto Uprising and a liberation struggle. The city should devise a marketing strategy that places the Soweto Theatre at the heart of all other Soweto cultural-tourism opportunities.

Does anyone agree with me?

.Ismail Mahomed is an award winning playwright and arts administrator. This article is in response to a recent notice by the City of Johannesburg calling for public comment to a proposal to rename Soweto Theatre, Gibson Kente Soweto Theatre.

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