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News of our alumni from around the world.
Soldart was hired in April 2014 as the new Creative Director at the Morija Museum and Archives in Morija, Lesotho—a job that brings her talents as a singer and performer together with her strong commitment to the Cultural Heritage of Lesotho. Along with working closely with the museumís Promotions Officer and the “Friends of Morija Museum” to promote the use of the Museum, Arts and Media Centres, Soldart will provide overall Creative Direction for the annual Morija Arts & Cultural Festival in late September/early October. WSI-Lesotho plans to collaborate with Morija to create a piece for the Festival. Morija Museum and Archives: http://www.morija.co.ls.
U.K./Scotland (currently in Vietnam)—Student, 2006
Jacqueline is still in Vietnam where she’s been running the Helen O’Grady Drama program in Hanoi (www.helenogrady.co.uk)—and just signed up for another year! She’s also producing the next show of The Hanoi International Theatre Society and putting together her own company, Better Choice Theatre (BCT), comprised of local and expatriate performers. The company’s first project, S.E.E.D (Social, Education, Empowerment, Drama) is with HAGAR, an organization devoted to dealing with issues that impact women and children in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Vietnam (hagarinternational.org). BCT will be working with HAGARís clients who’ve experienced human trafficking, domestic abuse and HIV/AIDS. The company will conduct drama workshops and create a devised piece of theatre on the issues. This summer in 2014 they’ll perform the show at other charities and local high schools to raise awareness.
Selloane “Lalu” Mokuku
Lesotho/South Africa—Facilitator 2006, 2008, 2011
Lalu’s essay Do, Be, Do — about WSI’s creative theatre-making process and the theory of rapid cognition — is included in the recently released Applied Drama and Theatre as an Interdisciplinary Field in the Context of HIV/AIDS in Africa. The book is a collection of research essays via the Drama for Life HIV/AIDS Masters Programme at Wits University in Johannesburg and Rodopi Editions Press. (www.rodopi.nl/functions/search.asp?BookId=MATATU+43). Lalu continues her inspiring work as a Programmes and Curriculum Developer with Nobulali Productions, which offers experiential teaching and learning solutions through a method called ShakeXperience. Nobulali’s interactive production of John Kani’s play, Nothing But The Truth, has been playing at educational venues in South Africa since 2013 and the company’s recent production of George Orwell’s Animal Farm has begun a similarly successful path. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZaM7gO3PZk.) Learn more about the ShakeXperince method and the company’s 100 Schools in 100 Days project here: www.shakexperience.com.
WSI-Lesotho Planning Workshop
In January 2014, colleagues of WSI-Lesotho held a weekend workshop with current and former participants of WSI, members of the newly revitalized Theatre Association of Lesotho (THALE), and a representative from the theatre unit of Machabeng College. The idea of the workshop was to bring former WSIers and other theatre activists together to discuss ways in which WSI-originating expertise can be drawn upon to generate commissioned theatre-for-development activities, collaborative ventures between the National University of Lesotho theatre unit and other Lesotho-based theatre groups, and between these and theatre organizations in South Africa (especially in Johannesburg and Pretoria, where some former WSIers are now based, and the Free State), and to discuss the bottom-line issue of how to generate and sustain funding. It was a lively gathering, with plans for follow-up meetings and events, including the potential collaboration between WSI-Lesotho and the annual Morija Festival.
Kath McCreery and Bernie McLaughlin
U.K./Ireland—Facilitator, 2006; U.K.—Student, 2006
Kath and Bernie teamed up as playwright and director for the University of Sunderland’s (U.K.) production of Kath’s play, The Chambermaids, at the Arts Centre in nearby Washington. The play tells the true story of a group of Grosvenor House Hotel chambermaids who, in 1979, took on their employers over a case of unfair suspension and were subsequently sacked and evicted. Divided by race, language, religion and culture, the maids found common cause in struggling for their rights as workers, women, immigrants and trade unionists. Kath’s next project is a new version of her play Matters of the Heart, about a woman taxi driver and her passengers, which was staged by Dinganga Theatre Creations (http://dingangatheatre.wipeproductions.com/) in Soweto last March. It played to full houses and standing ovations and is slated for the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in South Africa in July. more on Kath… Bernie continues directing, producing and teaching through his theatre company, BASE (http://basetheatrecompany.co.uk/). He and his wife, Kim Hess Mclaughlin (South Africa—Student, 2006,) and their son Mason, welcomed a new baby, Lucas, to the family in November 2013.
Alta Van As and Katt Lissard
South Africa—Music Director; U.S.A.—WSI Artistic Director
Alta and Katt co-authored an article, Viral Collaboration: Harmonising to Defeat AIDS in Southern Africa, which was published in April 2014 in the online version of South African Theatre Journal /SATJ (public access link coming soon) and which will appear in SATJ’s forthcoming print edition this summer. The article examines WSI’s use of choral singing as a key method and tool for building our collaborative creative community, and includes eight photos from WSI’s work in Lesotho. Katt also has a chapter in the book Feminist Popular Education in Transnational Debates: Building Pedagogies of Possibility, published in March, 2012, by Palgrave Macmillan as part of their Comparative Feminist Studies series. The chapter, Venus in Lesotho: Women, Theatre and the Collapsible Boundaries of Silence, explores the theatre work she did with National University of Lesotho students in 2005, when she first went to Lesotho to teach in the Theatre Unit.
South Africa—Student, 2008; Intern, 2011
Tshego completed a post-graduate degree in Music at University of Pretoria in 2013 and graduated in 2014. Throughout his studies he’s been part of the organizing committee for an alternative Johannesburg Pride March that is more politically conscious and progressive: In 2013, Constitutional Hill hosted the group’s first successful march. Tshego is currently training to be an advanced dance teacher and plans to complete his Masters in Music in the near future.
U.S.A. /Brazil—Student 2006; Intern 2008; Facilitator 2011
Inspired by my experience with WSI, I am pursuing a PhD degree in sociology at The New School for Social Research and teaching at the Borough of Manhattan Community College—CUNY—both in New York City. In my studies, research and teaching, I use many of WSI’s insights and theatre tools to grapple with the interconnectedness and implications of power, social development, identity formation and knowledge production in reflective, reflexive, and critical ways.
Kim McLaughlin (formerly Hess), Bernie McLaughlin, and Mason McLaughlin
South Africa—Student, 2006; U.K.—Student, 2006
We met at WSI in Lesotho in 2006; we were married in Johannesburg in 2008; and we welcomed our son, Mason, in 2011. We live in the U.K., where we’ve been active in Brothers and Sisters Everywhere (BASE), a community theatre company specializing in touring educational theatre and film (basetheatrecompany.co.uk). Since Mason was born, Kim has been a stay-at-home mum (working 24/7) and I’ve joined the staff at TIN Arts as a Drama Practitioner. TIN Arts’ mission (tinarts.co.uk) is to inspire and enable people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities in the North East of England to celebrate their potential through active participation and the exploration of dance and the wider performing arts.
I was part of Kau La Poho (part 1) in 2008; registered at the University of Free State (South Africa) in 2009; and graduated with an Honours in Theatre and Drama Arts in 2010. Iím currently teaching as a part-timer in the Theatre Unit at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), which has given me the opportunity to facilitate at the WSI Malealea Intensive in November, 2012 and to be part of the collaboration between NUL theatre and nursing students and students from University of Sunderland, U.K. in April, 2013. I’m also finishing my Masters thesis, “The Current State of Theatre in Lesotho.”
U.S.A.—Student 2006; Intern 2008; Facilitator 2011
I’m currently working as a community organizer in New York with LIUNA—Laborers International Union of North America. I’ve organized hundreds of tenants and homeowners to demand repairs to their substandard living conditions brought on by shoddy construction, and I’ve worked to pass Transparency Legislation in City Hall. Additionally, I continue my musical projects, singing Jazz every weekend and engaging in what I call “Jazz Disobedience.”
Since August 2012 my short film, Harriet Returns (which I wrote and play the title role in) has been in 15 film festivals around the U.S., including Martha’s Vineyard’s Run and Shoot, Athena and the Hollywood Black Film Festival. I received the Reel Sisters Spirit Award for the film in 2011, and itís being used at the University of North Carolina as an educational tool. Iím excited to say, Harriet Returns was included as part of The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Black History Month programming in February, 2013. Last semester, I taught playwriting to 5th graders at the Harlem School of the Arts and I’m currently teaching acting there. That’s the skinny!
In Harriet Returns Harriet Tubman (African-American abolitionist, 1820-1913) returns to modern times to emancipate two young rappers, whom she believes have enslaved themselves with their disrespect of their ancestors.
I’m still working at The Read School, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom where I am the Head of Drama. I’ve just started my 4th year here and I love it! In July 2013 I am leading an expedition to Costa Rica with 16 of our students for 3 weeks. Although it is not drama-related, I promise to teach them some of our WSI songs and dances when we’re on the road!
I’m typing this from my desk at my work place. Whew, where do I begin?… After graduation I got busy on the job search with no results. I was raising Lily all on my own and was on the verge of madness when a call came through one day from FNB [First National Bank of Lesotho] to come for an interview. I went and exactly four days after I got a “call back” (well, I thought of it as a “call back” ‘cause I’m a theatre person). So, then I got a job here at the bank as a receptionist. I work with VIP clients like the King’s family, ministers, parliament members … It’s good, no complaints, but here’s the funny part, it’s soooooo formal. I call everyone, even coworkers, by their title. I dress, speak and behave like a corporate person – no hot pants, miniskirts, big earrings. I have to mind my hairstyles too and no colorful stilettos. Simply black … talk about a real adjustment! I’m good, healthy and terrific, but I MISS theatre. I don’t know where and when that time will come when I get to live the dream, but for now I love my job and I’m grateful to have it.
South Africa—Student, 2011
I completed my final year at Wits (the University of the Witwatersrand) in Johannesburg where my Marimba Group placed 2nd in the School of Education’s Talent Show. I, along with the other WSI 2011 students from Wits, used the drama skills we learned in Lesotho for the documentary performance of our music exams. The show we created was such a huge success we even got invited to the University of Pretoria to perform for them. The Winter/Summer Institute played a role in the kind of person I am today. I have grown and learned a lot from my time in Lesotho.
U.K.—Facilitator, 2006; Sunderland/NUL Workshop Coordinator, Ongoing
Students from the University of Sunderland in the U.K. (where I teach) have been visiting Lesotho since the first WSI in 2006. Over the years the nature of the U.K. contribution has changed and we now visit Lesotho over the spring/Easter holiday. The students who travel with me to Lesotho are undergraduates taking a course in Applied Theatre and Drama which they learn to use in processes of social change. Our work has evolved into a series of workshops and performances for children and young people in Maseru (Lesotho’s capital city) run and devised by the students. We also spend time at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) working with theatre and nursing students. The main purpose of these workshops is to enable the theatre students from Sunderland and from NUL to develop skills in using a version of Boal’s Forum Theatre. The nursing students bring their experiences of working in health care as the topic for the Forum Theatre work. Through telling and enacting their stories, they are able to help one another find solutions to some of the difficulties theyíve encountered. Both NUL and Sunderland students form friendships which continue long after we return to the U.K.
Rik (Walton, WSI photographer 2006) and I moved to beautiful Glencolmcille, Donegal, Ireland in 2009. I wanted to FINALLY work on the book I have been researching for many years about Ella Schliesser, actress, anti-fascist activist, Auschwitz prisoner. I’ve also transformed my play, Flight Paths—which is about asylum seekers/refugees and racism in London and the Northeast—into a children’s novel, which has been long-listed for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition. In 2010 I ran a drama project with young male asylum seekers and refugees in Donegal Town for a month of cultural diversity activities in the county. I co-organised a benefit for writer Charles Mungoshi (my Zimbabwean exchange partner many years ago at the Edinburgh Festival) and, together with friends who are visual artists, ran workshops for local children. In 2011 Culture Ireland awarded me a travel grant to go to Soweto and collaborate with a dance theatre company, Dinganga Theatre Creations, on a project called Matters of the Heart.
Ghana — District Director of Health Services/HIV/AIDS
Ebenezer discovered WSI by accident in 2011 and has been using WSI’s materials in his HIV/AIDS health work in Ghana ever since.
I spent part of 2011 as a student at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, pursuing a Diploma in Development Leadership, hoping it would help me to develop my leadership skills as a District Director of Health Services in one of the districts in Ghana. I returned to Ghana at the end of 2011 with the Diploma, as well as a Certificate in Capacity Based Conflict Transformation & Peace Building, and a Certificate in Community Based Natural Resources Management. Iíve been using my new knowledge and skills to improve health care services, especially in community level participation, sustainable development and change. To date, the WSI DVDs (Make Theatre * Make a Difference; The Contamination Waltz) have been shared to all 17 districts in the region by my Regional Director. This has created a buffer stock of HIV educational tools for all the 14ART and 122 PMTCT/CT Centres here. My region became the second best in ART service delivery in Ghana this time around. Our participation in the annual HIV Sentinel Survey in Ghana has become the best in sample collection and report submission. For 2012, all health facilities from the regional to the community level were provided HIV and AIDS services, creating access to the vulnerable populations in remote and hard to reach communities. Together we have brought the humanistic energy of compassion and dedication to the health care system.
Lesotho—Faculty 2006; 2008
Rethabile is a lecturer at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), was asked to join NUL’s HIV/AIDS Policy Committee in September. She and her students helped launch the new policy with a festival of performance that included scenes from WSI’s 2008 show It’s Just You and Me ... and My Wife and Your Boyfriend. Rethabile’s 2008 Masters thesis, Using Popular Participatory Theatre as a Research Method to Expose the Relationship between HIV/AIDS and Silence in Malealea Valley, Lesotho, uses WSI’s 2006 creative work with gossip and silence as its central case study. She presented part of her thesis at the Africa Research Conference in Applied Drama and Theatre in Johannesburg. Drama for Life.
Motjoka (Jokes) Ramonono
Lesotho, Student 2006
Jokes played the leading role in the 2008 film, Kau La Poho: Ho Se Tsebe Ke Lebote (When Ignorance is Not Bliss) produced in Lesotho and shown throughout the country. The film, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning and the Global Fund, is aimed at enhancing the government’s goal of getting all Basotho above the age of 12 tested for HIV/AIDS. An entertaining and provocative look at stigma and denial in relation to HIV, the film was produced through the initiative of local director Silas Monyatsi and more than 20 local actors. Jokes, who has a law degree from the National University, is currently working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Despina spent this time in Greece working on a community theatre-making project with African and Middle Eastern asylum seekers living in Athens. The project culminated in passTRESpass, a collaborative dance piece about exile which was performed for free to the public at outdoor venues around Athens. Alice Klugherz, a participant in WSI’s March 09 residency in New York City, was so inspired by her residency experience she volunteered to accompany Despina as part of the collaborative team. Despina continues to make use of her WSI experience in her own work as choreographer/performer and co-founder of MDAS.
Lesotho, Student 2008
Popa is a talented actor and fiery praise poet who just graduated from the National University of Lesotho with a degree in Pastoral Care & Counseling, and Theatre. Since WSI 2008, along with completing his studies, Popa has been working as a volunteer at the Leratong Community Centre in Roma, Lesotho, doing theatre workshops using the exercises and methods he learned through WSI and teaching life skills to the children there, many of whom are HIV/AIDS orphans.
Eric considers Waste for Life one of the most important things he’s done since his time with WSI in Lesotho: “My decision to launch Waste for Life and work with cartonero cooperatives in Buenos Aires was a direct result of my participation in WSI 2006.” Waste for Life is a loosely joined network of scientists, engineers, educators, architects, artists, designers, and cooperatives who work together to develop poverty-reducing solutions to specific ecological problems. Although Waste for Life has a thriving program in Lesotho, much of Eric’s energy has been focused on their work in Argentina, with trips to Australia and London as well. “We now have very strong ties with the University of Buenos Aires, University of Western Australia, Queens University and the Rhode Island School of Design—all of which are partnering with us by bringing our work into their curriculum ... In Perth, we worked with recent Sudanese immigrants and local aboriginal youth at the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Center to help with a forum theatre-style performance about teenage sexuality. And, we’re trying to finish a film about our work in Argentina. Take a look around our site!”.
Ed followed up his work with WSI 2008 in Lesotho by teaching theatre to 4th graders at CS 102 Primary School in the Bronx, New York as a Teaching Artist. He did so in collaboration with Dream Yard Project (http://www.dreamyard.com) and Good Shepherd Services (www.goodshepherds.org). Much of the material Ed presents to both classroom teachers and students is inspired by the exploration he was involved in through WSI.
South Africa—Student 2008
Julius studied at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He recently won a Latin/Ballroom Dance contest in Cape Town and was asked to perform a poem, Imagine, during the awards ceremony that he wrote during WSI 2008. He’s been cast in a professional production of Lysistrata at The Space Frame Theatre in Johannesburg. “Of course I would not be doing this [Lysistrata] if I had not gone to Lesotho with WSI in 2008, which motivated me on the path of performing plays for the benefit of others.”