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Drama for Life wins Adelaide Tambo award

Published on 10 July 2016

The 2016 Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights was presented to Drama for Life at the awards reception at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown on Sunday.

This award aims to recognise artists who engage in the arts as a platform to advocate social change and entrench a culture of human rights.

“Drama For Life is a global leader in the integrated approach to arts for social transformation and healing. Their performances and public engagement initiatives explore, serve and grow the role of arts for social change,” the judges said.

This year, Drama For Life presented Afri-Queer, a production that brought together artists from across South Africa’s borders to give a voice that humanises and gives dignity to those who continue to be oppressed.

Drama for Life has also devised and executed the Remix Laboratory programme at the Festival this year.

The Remix Laboratory

The Remix Laboratory is another dynamic projects that runs during the Festival. Launched in 2008 with funding support from the Representation of Flanders, the Remix Laboratory has offered community-based artists an enriching Festival experience filled with performances, workshops and tours.

Several artists have benefitted by being catapulted into professional South African productions, international co-productions and international exchanges.

For six of the eight years, the Remix Laboratory has partnered with the Swallows Foundation UK. 

Participants were drawn from the Hillbrow Theatre, Lunchbox Theatre, ASSITEJ, Applauze Arts Initiative, Smithfield Festival, Zabalaza Festival, SANCTA and several other projects from Gauteng, KZN, Eastern Cape, Free Stste and North West province.

This year, the Remix Lab partnered with Drama for Life under the leadership of Warren Nebe.

The full citation

The Adelaide Tambo Awards was presented by NAF Artistic Director Ismail Mahomed, with the following citation:

To celebrate South Africa’s 20 years of democracy in 2014, the National Arts Festival introduced the Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights to honour artists and arts projects that engage the arts as a strategy for human rights activism and positive socio-political action. The award, with a cash incentive of R20 000 to advance their work, is supported with funding from the Embassy of the Netherlands.

This year on behalf of the National Arts Festival it is my pleasure to present the Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights to an organisation that is a global leader in an integrated approach to arts for social transformation and healing. Based at the University of the Witwatersrand, Drama for Life brings together academic, research, South African, African and international initiatives to explore, interrogate, serve and grow the role of arts for social transformation. They provide performances, arts-based interventions, accredited workshops and training throughout the SADC region for partners and leading arts festivals.

At the National Arts Festival the year, the Drama For Life Africa Project Afri-Queer brought a dynamic group of artists from Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and South Africa together in an evocative site-specific journey through multiple interactive and inter-disciplinary installation performances. The production was an intimate evocation into the lives of men living on a continent that violently rejects the ‘other’; a dreamscape into a world that embraces queer in Africa.

During the course of the Festival, social media highlighted a violent hate crime against homosexuals that took place during the Festival in a local club and which then flowed out into the streets of Grahamstown. Drama For Life, like everyone else, had a choice. We could continue to express our disgust on social media or in the quiet spaces of our dressing rooms, galleries and offices or we could take our protests from our theatres into the very spaces where such crimes are perpetuated. Drama For Life chose the latter route.

They responded with the #QueerToStay campaign, which mobilised artists providing visibility and a voice in response to the homophobic and xenophobic scourge that continues to sweep across societies.

The Adelaide Tambo Award recognises artists and arts initiatives that remain at the cutting edge of our conscience. It is my pleasure on behalf of the National Arts Festival to present the 2016 Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights to Drama For Life and to call on Artistic Committee Member Adrienne Sichel to present the award to Founder and Director of Drama For Life, Warren Nebe, to receive it on behalf of Drama for Life.

Updated, with full citation: 11 July 2016