Cradle of Creativity 2023 Still Ongoing in Joburg
For those looking to explore their inner child, ideally with children in tow, do yourself a favour and attend the ongoing ASSITEJ South Africa’s Cradle of Creativity festival that started in Johannesburg on Aug 20 and will run through Aug. 27 2023.
Under the theme The Stories That Move Us, Faye Kabali-Kagwa has curated this year’s festival. The biennial festival is taking place at the Market Theatre, as its main venue, which includes the Market Theatre Laboratory and the Windybrow Arts Centre, as well as additional cultural hubs, which include Sibikwa Arts centre and the National Children’s Theatre. There are artists attending from all over South Africa, Africa, and the world.
Yvette Hardie, who is the Director of ASSITEJ South Africa and the festival producer, refers to herself as largely self-taught. She relates: “I was a Producer without an Arts Administration master’s behind my name. I’ve had to learn everything through doing it, but I’ve really loved that process of learning and I’ve learnt also through mistakes, as one does. I feel like my experience has been very diverse. “
Hardie stresses the importance of a children’s festival: “When people think about children’s rights, they think immediately about things like children having the right to a home, to food, to feel safe, and to be protected from harm. But also, there is a very strong drive if you look at the Convention of the Rights of the Child, for the child to have the right to engage in the arts both as an artist and to express themselves through cultural languages.”
For Hardie the arts are an ideal way to express those experiences in safe ways, and in safe places so that the children can transform them into something else. She says: “Often it will allow us to have a conversation that otherwise we wouldn’t be having. We’ve had a lot of examples of children who after seeing a play have spoken to their parents about something that has happened to them for the first time or shared a concern they have, so the transformation can be happening in small and in big ways.”
Hardie says that there has been research done with children at one of the theatres dedicated to children in the inner city in New York. Children who had seen performances versus those who hadn’t were tracked, and those who had had access, albeit often limited access, were doing better in school.
Over a period of three years, the children who hadn’t had access to the arts were either at the same level or they had become more disillusioned, less engaged and dropped out of school. The fundamental finding was that access to the arts gives people hope. She says: “Access to the arts are powerful and, in our country, particularly, where we have so many challenges and where youth unemployment is so rife. Hope is essential if you’re going to survive. You have to have hope in order to get your courage together to do the next thing tomorrow, so it’s a kind of essential ingredient that we all have and if that’s something that the arts can give children then every child in this country needs it.”
Hardie believes “If we’re going to see children as citizens of the world and as full human beings, not as human becomings but as human beings in their own right, then they deserve to have their imaginations and their creativity fed, in the same way as adults do and in fact I would say more importantly for children because children are already in that place of engaging their bodies and their minds and their emotions through play and through creative engagement, and so the arts are a natural extension of that.”
The festival is supported by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and the Department of Basic Education, as well as a number of cultural agencies that include British Council Wages, Pro Helvetia, Government of Flanders, Wallonie-Bruxelles Internationale, the French Institute of South Africa, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Goethe Institute, the Swedish Embassy and Performing Arts Fund NL (the Netherlands).