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Reality Check : Women & Justice 2011

Categories: ALL THE NEWS , Civil Action/Philanthropy, Advocacy , Social & Community

South Africa’s constitution is hailed by many as one of the most progressive commitments and one that guarantees equality and basic human rights to all of the country’s citizens. Since 1996 social justice has, however, in large measure remained elusive for many South African woman.

With this in mind, ARTSCAPE Theatre’s 5th annual Women’s Arts Festival - scheduled for 4 – 6 August 2011 - aims to this year facilitate a much needed reality check of women’s empowerment in South Africa. In order to interrogate the quality and stability of the lives women lead today in a practical and constructive fashion, two main focus points will be applied in this year’s festival: the findings and work of Cancer organizations and a broad-based and multi-perspective public discussion on progress that has been/is made (or not) with gender equality and -justice in this country.

Has empowerment reached a positive tipping point yet for all women of all ages and from all backgrounds? Who or what is tossing the coin of empowerment in the lives of those who remain marginalised and destabilised? Are old ghosts haunting us in new masks? These are just some of the questions that beg answers today.

These and other issues that will be critically engaged by artists and subject matter experts will engage critically during this year’s festival.

Stage productions will include ‘Careful’, the last play penned by the late popular TV personality Fiona Coyne. It follows actress Jean Baxter who finds work in the new South Africa difficult to come by. This dry spell ends when she gets the opportunity to play the role of a lesbian in a play. Baxter invites a theatre critic, Leila Russell, who is lesbian, to guide her with the interpretation of the role. The production tells the story of the two women while exploring gender and sexual orientation. It is a critical theatre piece at a time when lesbians are killed on our doorstep because of their sexual choices.
 
The flamboyant show ‘Funny Kaap’ offers a light-hearted joyful and excruciatingly funny song-and-dialogue homage to women. It promises to be a wild rollercoaster ride with performance artists like Emo Adams, Take Note, Shimmy Isaacs, Sarah Theron, Soli Philander and others. Dowwe Dolla plays the mistress of ceremonies.

With ‘For Generations’ actor Kurt Egelhof will – through exquisitely dramatic storytelling – add a male voice/perspective to this year’s festival. In the intimate one-man show the universal story of a family’s evolution from generation to generation unfolds. Focus is placed on the relationships that shape men, including, inevitably, those with women who influence and contribute to men’s growth.

Playwright Mike van Graan’s ‘Banyana Republic’ will also feature a selection of women characters. Using sport as an entry point for sharp, the play comments in satirical fashion on contemporary issues. In this one-person show a number of diverse characters are portrayed by a group of very versatile actors. Starting in 2007, Bafana Republic starred Lindiwe Matshikiza and helped to launch her national profile. Each following year featured a relatively new actor, a brand new script and a different director. Banyana Republic will comprise a range of characters from all three editions, all celebrating women in a provoking yet entertaining way!

Before embarking on a worldwide tour, multi award-winning filmmaker and poet Shelley Barry is to premier her video art installation ‘The Traveling Poet’ at this year’s festival. This looping projection of Barry's poetry will be accompanied by the launch of her first anthology and is sponsored by the British Council.

The festival will this year again also play host to a number of exhibitors. A mobile mammography and an educational unit of PinkDrive - an indispensable, tangible breast cancer Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) will be stationed at the festival, offering clinical breast examinations and breast health educational sessions for bookings contact Lize on 082 321 4745 or lize@causemarketing.co.za. Rock Girl, a grassroots movement that connects with and empowers girls, will offer advice on how to stay in school, avoid unsafe and unhealthy behavior, build self-confidence and achieve economic independence.

H(ARTS) GALORE is a project with a passion for creativity. The initiative inspires, empowers and assists women to heal their lives through art therapy. TATT2 Personal Health too works with women, supporting them with counsel and assistance regarding sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes.

BRAWA (Bhalani Readers and Writers Association) - book enthusiasts who review books and teach young children to read and write – is usually based in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Langa but will form part of the diverse and exciting group of 2011 exhibitors.  They are appealing for book donations, please contact Primrose Mrwebi on 083 746 5337.  The Women’s Legal Centre provides legal advice to women, contact Jennifer Williams on Tel:021 – 424 5660 E-mail:jennifer@wlce.co.za

The Cape Cultural Collective (CCC) is a non-racial, non-sexist inter-generational cultural movement promoting social activism and reflecting on history and memory. Former anti-apartheid activists and a collection of young artists run this cultural collaboration focused on social change. The CCC promotes development, non-racialism, non-sexism, diversity, intergenerational collaboration and empowerment.

Engender, an NGO founded during 2003, provides participatory research and capacity building, to actual communities of people, in the areas of genders and sexualities, human rights, justice and conflict resolution. Our projects range from combating violence against women to women's wellness and women-led community gardens in informal settlements. For more information please visit our website www.engender.org.za.

Wheat host an award ceremony on the 5th August to celebrate and acknowledge grassroots women leaders who continue to make a difference in their communities through various social, economic and political initiatives. Wheat will also be hosting girl talk workshops (age 15 – 19 years) on the 6th August in partnership with Planet Productions. The teens tackle issues such as reproductive health, relationships, and career information (amongst others).

The Women’s Arts Week Festival 2011 will end on a high note on Saturday 6 August 2011 with the hosting of the PLUS-MINUS EQUAL PUBLIC CONVERSATION. This event - hosted in partnership with the South African Commission on Gender Equality – will consist of two public panel discussions and a concluding town meeting. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and international social justice champion Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will open the discussions officially by putting the following question on the agenda of a diverse group of subject matter experts and the audience: ‘Women & Justice 2011: Are the Scales Balancing?’ The discussions to follow will be led by journalist Elna Boesak.

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