CITYLIFE/ARTS ANALYSIS: And with this new development, what does the future hold for this legacy project?
By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
There are new changes at one of the country’s leading community based arts centres Sibikwa in Benoni on the East Rand in Ekurhulkeni. Yesterday, Sibikwa announced the retirement of the two visionaries that over the years have made this place a shining light, overcoming many challenges on the way, Smal Ndba and Phyllis Klotz. These two arts leaders have overcome several obstacles, including fighting several administrations that have run that municipality since democracy dawned to see the wisdom of financially supporting such arts centre like Sibikwa where young people’s dreams of being successful creatives are made into a reality.
Yesterday in a wise move, the center announced the appointment of two relatively young people to take over the running of this institution as both Klotz and Ndaba take a back seat from a vision they nursed into reality over the years.
As Sibkwa announced the retirement ofits co-founders Ndaba (Managing Director) and Klotz (Artistic Director), it at the same time announced the appointments of Caryn Green, as new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Napo Masheane new Artistic Director, effective from 1 July 2021.
Though the appointment of new blood is a welcome move on the arts scene iin South Africa n general, the journey to recalibrate the future of this legacy project of Ndaba and Klotz’s is not easy but possible.
Currently the South African arts scene is almost in disarray as a result of Covid-19. Artists are unable to work full-time without disruptions, arts institutions, especially the independent ones, such as Sibikwa are currently facing financial challenges as they cannot run productions with a full house as a result of the Covod-19 protocols in place, which restrict the number of audience to only 50 for indoors shows and 100 for out door events. This situation makes running a show unprofitable at 50 people per show.
This situation has recently seen cancellation of shows at some venues such as Baxter Theatre for example. Theatre on the Square in Sandton, which has been running successfully for 27 years as an independent theatre, has resorted to raising funds through a crowd funding platform to not only manage to re-open after closing its doors since last year, but also to run productions as management tries to figure out how best to calibrate a new model that will take them to the future.
Sibikwa itself in recent months saw its management and the community march to the offices of the Mayor of Ekurhuleni Mzwandile Masina and his administration with a petition to get the City of Ekurhuleni to get involved in the life of the only theatre in its jurisdiction by annually putting aside a budget for Sibikwa to assist it to pay for its running costs and to produce shows. The management was joined by members of the community in their endeavoiur to get the City of Ekurhuleni to meaningfully support this institution.
And therefore the journey Masheane and Green will partake in is going to be rocky, and their job is well cut out –they need to get the City of Ekurhuleni to see the wisdom that everyone sees, except them, and that is that, supporting this institution financially. Sibikwa’s future is good for the City of Ekurhuleni, its residents and the youth who wish to gain skills in performance art and earn a living that way. Those skills are offered at this multi-award winning arts institution on the East Rand.
For Masheane and Green, the ground work has already been done and with their fresh approach and relatively youth energy, it is possible to drive Sibikwa into a successful artistic future.
In its 33 year old history arts stalwarts Ndaba and Klotz, in Sibikwa, have created a legacy of productively contributing to the socio-economic fabric of South Africa. It has also established a footprint across the continent, with global connections in the United States of America, Europe and beyond.
The genesis of Sibikwa is as interesting as it is inspirational. Sibikwa was established in Bra Smal’s Daveyton home to serve as a creative refuge for young people to escape the conflicts of the tumultuous late 1980’s. It has since become a leading arts hub, recognised as a Centre of Excellence by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture. Affectionately known as Ikhaya Lethu (Our Home) by thousands of young learners who trained at Sibikwa, it has produced numerous acclaimed arts professionals who grace the stages of the country’s top theatres and television.
‘We reflect fondly on the years that we have served at Sibikwa. We are immensely proud to hand over a world-class organisation to the new leadership team and are confident that we have identified an ideal fit for both positions of CEO and Artistic Director. Caryn has demonstrated strong leadership qualities since her appointment as CEO-elect in 2019 and, coupled with Napo’s deep artistic experience and intimate knowledge of theatre management, we are certain that they will ensure that Sibikwa continues to thrive in the future,’ Ndaba and Klotz said in a statement yesterday.
And tboth founders have every reason to believe that they are handing over to a tight leadership duo, who boast admirable art perdegree and administration experience.
Greenis an advocate for democratising access to the arts, with over 15 years’ experience in the arts sector. She was appointed Business Arts Manager at Sibikwa in 2019, when she was mentored by Bra Smal and Phyllis in preparation to take on the role of CEO. Prior to this she worked at Drama for Life, Wits University for 10 years, and sat on transformation and research committees. She was also an executive member of the Arterial Network committee. Caryn holds a Master’s Degree in Arts and Culture Management (Wits), and certificates in Project Management (Wits), Cultural Leadership (AAI), Monitoring, Evaluation and Curriculum Development (USAf) and Bookkeeping (ICB).
Masheane, is a multi-award winning playwright, director, poet and acclaimed performer on both international and national stages. She is one of the leading South African black female theatre-makers, constantly crossing geographical, academic and artistic borders, through cultural exchanges, guest-lecturing, and with her provocative plays, ‘My Bum Is Genetic Deal With It’, ‘A New Song‘, ‘KHWEZI… Say My Name’ and ‘My Vagina Was Not Buried With Him’, to name a few. A founding member of Feela Sistah! Spoken Word Collective and Village Gossip Productions and previously the Deputy Artistic Director at the South African State Theatre, with qualifications in Marketing Management, Speech & Drama and a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, Napo is well positioned to take over the reins from Phyllis, as Artistic Director.
“We are honoured to be entrusted with taking forward the legacy of the co-founders, remembering and re-visioning a Sibikwa that upholds his-story, her-story and our-story. We look forward to consistently re-kindling the spirit of uku’bikwa, transforming raw talent into sustainable opportunities, engaging in global cultural exchanges and advancing the arts and culture landscape; taking Sibikwa to unprecedented heights, year on year,”. Both Green and Masheane said in a joint statement.
‘It has been a privilege and a learning experience to work with Bra Smal and Phyllis and all the dedicated people at Sibikwa. On behalf of the Board, I extend thanks to the founders for their sterling contribution to Sibikwa and the arts. I am pleased to announce that Bra Smal and Phyllis will continue their life-long association with Sibikwa in a consulting capacity and both have been appointed as Non-Executive Directors,” added Chairman of the Board of Sibikwa, Pamela Grayman.
However the work for the newly appointed Artistic Director and the newly appointed Chief Executive officer, starts now in ensuring the calibration of a new artistic vision and the financial sustainability of Sibikwa without the collective wisdom and experience of Ndaba and Klotz, who havev guided the ship sometimes through rough waves successfully for the past 33 years.