9/12/2014 (11:00am)

Talking to a Plant: An Emotional Literacy Project

Our children are involved in a week project where they all plant or identify a plant of their choice and take care of it the best way they can while writing a dairy about their interaction with the plant and in particular their feelings about their journey with the plant

It is exciting to hear some of them talk about how waiting for their plant to grow brought about so much impatience and a sense of giving up and how when the tree final sprout they derived huge satisfaction from that.

They also talk about how they wait and look forward to partaking of the fruits that will come out of the plant. 

The process aims to help the children understand and connect with their feelings while taking care of a living but not moving organism.

9/11/2014 (11:00am)

DN Becomes a Hive of Activity with Marimba Workshops

Thembile Tshuma, a Wits Drama for Life Applied Drama honours student and marimba trainer is at Dramatic Need helping our children learn about the beautiful musical instrument of marimba as well as learn how to play it. Working with his colleague, Zimele Philip Ndlovu who is also at Wits for the same programme, Thembile took our children through the paces and yesterday left the Monday and Tuesday group clamouring for more. 

The marimba is a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars struck with mallets to produce musical tones. Resonators attached to the bars amplify their sound. The bars are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural bars (similar to a piano) to aid the performer both visually and physically. This instrument is a type of idiophone, but with a more resonant and lower-pitchedtessitura than the xylophone.

The chromatic marimba was developed in Chiapas, Mexico from the local diatonic marimba, an instrument whose ancestor was a type of balafon that African slaves built in Central America.

Modern uses of the marimba include solo performances, woodwind and brass ensembles, marimba concertosjazz ensemblesmarching band (front ensembles), drum and bugle corps, and orchestral compositions. Contemporary composers have used the unique sound of the marimba more and more in recent years.

9/10/2014 (11:09am)

Wits Drama for Life’s Thembile Tshuma and Zimele Ndlovu at DN

Thembile Tshuma, Zimbabwe


Thembile Tshuma is a Zimbabwean born artist currently doing his Honours Degree in Applied Drama at Wits Drama for Life. He has been involved in the professional arts industry for the past 10 years as a dancer, choreographer, musician, percussionist, actor and puppeteer. 

Mr Tshuma has in the past 4 years groomed over 50 marimba players in Johannesburg Central who have managed to form marimba bands.  He holds a “trainer of trainers” certificate from The United Nations Children’s Fund - UNICEF since 2006 Thembile enjoys engaging with people and seeing his work have an impact on them. He has been involved with theatre groups in the SADC Region and is the Artistic Director of Royal Vibrationz Marimba Band which is the outstanding marimba group in the region. They have won a number of awards that include the best performance award at the International Marimba and Steel Pan Festival 2012 and 2013. In 2004, he was a nominee in the Zimbabwe National Arts merit awards for the best stage actor. 

Zimele Phillip Ndhlovu
South Africa

Zimele Phillip Ndhlovu is a Wits postgraduate who holds an Advanced Diploma in Applied Drama and Theatre under the Drama for Life Academic Programme. He is a Tembisa based theatre practitioner who has been in the creative industry for the past 17 years as a theatre maker and performer and has toured Southern Africa presenting the diverse breath taking art informed by our rich history and cultures. Mr Ndhlovu crafted raw traditional rituals from the famous war cry “Usuthu!”, songs and dance that journeys through the colonization of our continent and slavery that gave birth to Gumboot dance and “Isifana kalo” language in mining camps by miners.

Zimele specialises in the facilitation of his mentioned craft with the experience of working in correctional centres, schools, various communities for social transformation. He integrates the contemporary growth of arts in his work and is the Artistic Director and founder of Makubenjalo Performing Artists working on the theatre production, Nomadlozi.

Zimele designed specific programmes to address schools crises and service delivery protest massacre. He is the chairperson of Tembisa Performing Arts Network, a forum structure, facilitating Tembisa performing arts affairs and he is back at Wits to get his Honours Degree in Applied Drama and Theatre.

9/4/2014 (11:00am) 1 note

Summer is here and the farm Children can Play Outdoors

These Rietpan Farm children are seen playing ‘diketo’ a stone game that Sotho children love to play especially during the summer season. 

9/3/2014 (11:00am) 1 note

What one of the Children had to Say about the Trip

So we waited outside the Constitution Hill and took pictures. So time went on and we had to go to the workshop. To be honest when they started talking about puppets I was like ‘are these guys serious? I did not go to school for puppets.’ But then my views changed as Runnei told us what the whole project was about. I enjoyed the whole workshops, the games and the food. We also went to see a show called Four Husbands for Malindi. It was lovely, the storyline, the actors. It showed me the importance of sexuality and how important it is to think and know about issues that impact our sexuality.

But for me the highlight of the trip were the city lights. I don’t know if they even have to be in my reflection but I loved the city lights. It was the most beautiful thing ever and the cherry on top was the ice cream

9/3/2014 (8:39am) 1 note

Their Reflections Touched My Heart

A week after our Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival trip, our children still talk about their experiences. We spent the whole of last week reflecting on our experiences and I had a learning to do. It was my time to learn from these beautiful children. 

One important lesson I learnt from them is that what one might consider ordinary is extraordinary for someone else. They marvelled at the lights and tall buildings in Johannesburg. They were touched by the apartheid prison history that is well captured at the Constitution Hill. They just could not stop talking about the puppetry workshop and the performance we watched. 

This for me was satisfying. 


The Children’s Monologues at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

We are thrilled to be able to share these beautiful images from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which this year saw a new production of Dramatic Need’s The Children’s Monologues, originally performed in London in 2010.

The Daedalus Project raises money to end the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to remember and celebrate those who have died from this disease. You can learn more at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s website.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to Donya and the team, who have given the stories of these children fresh life and new audiences. For information on the original Children’s Monologues, visit the Dramatic Need website.

Alain de Botton guides you round his Art is Therapy show - video →

Alain de Botton gives the Guardian a tour of his controversial exhibition, Art is Therapy, at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The gallery is now filled with giant Post-It notes encouraging visitors to question their feelings and behaviour – and to ask how art can make a difference in their life

Find out more about the project, which has sparked lively debate, at http://www.artastherapy.com.

8/28/2014 (4:12pm)

#alain de botton#art is therapy

8/26/2014 (11:24am) 1 note

Tshimologong Precinct celebrates digital art at Fak’ugesi: Digital Africa Festival



The Tshimologong Precinct in the heart of Braamfontein, Johannesburg will play host to resident experts in the fields of hardware, software, and digital art. The aim is to bring international and local experts together to contribute to the Digital Technology Hub through innovative product development and skills sharing.  The Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Festival in partnership with British Council Connect ZA will host the first “Tshimologong Resident Digital Artist” as part of it’s program.

Read More

8/25/2014 (1:57pm) 2 notes

Our Mini Van Does Not Disappoint

About four months ago we purchased a mini van for transporting our children from their schools to our Arts Centre and it has been growing strong. It got it’s sternest test on the 22nd of August when we took a trip to Johannesburg which is about 190km from Viljoenskroon. We celebrate our longest trip using our humble acquisition 

8/25/2014 (1:41pm) 1 note

DN Children go to Johannesburg for the first time

Twenty four children from Dramatic Need had the rare opportunity of visiting Johannesburg for the first time in their lives. Johannesburg, also known as JoziJoburgJoni,eGoli or Joeys, abbreviated as JHB, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. It is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa. The Dramatic Need children were part of the International Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival taking place in various locations in Johannesburg. 

Their specific venue was the Constitution Hill, an important historical site in South Africa that got some of the children very emotional when they learnt about what prisoners went through when they were held there.  Constitution Hill is the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The site housed white prisoners but Old Fort prison was later extended to include “native” cells, called Section 4 and Section 5, and, in 1907, a women’s section was added. An awaiting-trial block was constructed in the 1920s. Both political activists opposed to apartheid and common criminals were held at the prison. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here in 1906, and striking white mineworkers in 1907, 1913 and 1922. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_Hill,_Johannesburg. People like Winnie Mandela were also held here.

The children took part in a puppetry workshop that explored sex, sexuality, sexual rights and other important responsibilities that go with these rights.This workshop was facilitated by UNIMA South Africa, The International Association of Puppetry for choices under the the of 'animate your own life workshops.' They work in partnership with such organizations as Childline Gauteng, Marie Stopes-The Blue Light Campaign, People Opposing Woman Abuse and Stop Women Abuse. Their team is made up of artists and individuals working at the intersection of The Arts, Civil Society, Education and Business and they innovate new applications for puppetry to contribute to building a better future for all.

They aim to promote artistic excellence, social cohesion, cultural awareness, environmental sustainability and economic growth through the power of puppetry.

UNIMA SA’s activities include a variety of functions, events and meetings which aim at promoting and developing the art of puppetry in South Africa. In this case UNIMA facilitated these workshops under the auspices of the Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival. and in this particular process our children took part in, the facilitator worked with them to create their own puppets which went on to interact through puppet improvisations. We had different scenes where our children enacted meeting as young people and talking about relationships and asking each other out to have sex. We saw different situations with some children giving in to having sex and some refusing and telling their partners that they were not ready for it. In some instances those who gave in were broken hearted but the facilitator was brilliant in letting the children take the lead and avoiding a prescriptive approach. 

We went on to see a performance called Four Husbands for MaLindi written and directed by Clara Vaughan, a Lecturer at Wits University. The play also explored the same themes of gender, sex, sexuality and relationships. In the play, actors told their stories of how they had lost their virginity and how they had faired in relationships. There was a post performance discussion and it was exciting to see some of our children take part in the discussions.

This was an experience of a life time for most of the children, the Dramatic Need Assistant Manager and Visual Art Teacher, Kekana Somfula as well as the part time mini van driver, Mr Dhlamini. 

8/22/2014 (11:00am) 1 note

Processing and Reflecting on Favouritism

Living and working with children from different backgrounds is something one should do with an open heart willing not only to teach but to learn also from the behavioural traits of the children as well as the manifestations of the issues they carry from home.


Almost all institutions one way or the other are guilty of failure to treat children equally and bring them up to be fair and accommodative of everyone rewarding based on merit and correcting not out of malice but out of the desire to bring about correct behaviour. 

We explained to our children at the beginning of the year that if there will be any trips we will select those going based on attendance. During the course of the year some children’s attendance is scanty and some stop coming due to various reasons and are replaced by others. So when the time came for us to go to Johannesburg for the DFL Sex Actually Festival all children got wind that there was a trip at Dramatic Need and even those who had not said goodbye but just disappeared suddenly reappeared. Being children and coming from institutions such as family and school where favouritism is rife they expected to be part of the group going. Seeing an opportunity to share an important value I decided to create workshops to deal with the vice of favouritism.

The first step was to create a scale of between 1 and 10 and say the children were to rate themselves in fairness and equal treatment of people. In some groups some children who have grown in emotional literacy were fair enough to themselves and rated themselves below 5 meaning that they had some work to do to practise that important value fair and equal treatment of people in groups

We then created stickers and placed then in different places and asked the children to read them and stay with the one that appealed to them the most. The first round had these 1. Favouritism is not an issue in our communities. 2. Favouritism is partly to blame for the problems in our communities. 3. Favouritism is big problem in our communities. This first round of activities was meant to make the children engage this issue from a distance and indeed they did, freely condemning what they believed to be perpetration of a vice.

The second round had these. 1. Have you witnessed cases of unfairness and favouritism? 2. Have you watched and done nothing when favouritism was practised against someone or some people? This round was meant to bring it closer home but not to the whole extent and so the children began to feel and think about their part in all this.

The third round had the following statements. 1. Have you benefited from favouritism? 2. Have you been a victim of favouritism? 3. have you been unfair to someone or some people or shown favouritism where someone deserved something by merit but you gave it to someone else that you favour for some reason? This was now making it personal and yes some children used it as a self realisation exercise and saw themselves in the mirror and wept as we reflected on our roles in favouritism. This was to help them see that we will try to be fair in all our dealings here at Dramatic Need. We are not perfect but we always try to do right. We permitted the children to tell us when we treat them unfairly so that we may learn and see if we can also change and grow.

What is disheartening was the talk about the vice of favouritism in other institutions being rife and really hurting the children and affecting their self esteem. They spoke about family, church and the classroom. Sad things happen in these institutions some of which are meant to hold traumatised and battered children.  

We took the opportunity to reconnect after the deep and emotional process

8/21/2014 (12:45pm) 1 note

DN Children Prepare to Attend the DFL Sex Actually Festival

The week ending on the 22nd of August has been one hectic one for us at Dramatic Need as we have had to work hard to prepare for the Drama For Life Sex Actually Festival. We have had to select those going based on attendance since January 2014 and of course discipline.

We encourage our children to use their hands to do things that are believed to be things to buy or get given by someone. This is to inculcate a sense of self reliance and hard work. So instead of buying brand new printed T-shirts for them to wear to Johannesburg for the festival we bought plain white T-shirts and the children spray painted them themselves.

Three of the children were lucky to get the last three branded T-shirts in our store room. 

I would say to any artist, “You are gifted in this very particular, unusual, interesting way. Your role is absolutely important and integral to your community.” I honestly believe that artists have an enormous responsibility to be the voices of the people that they live amongst. They need to speak up and say things that aren’t popular, that aren’t what everyone wants to hear…It is our responsibility to say those things and to say them in interesting and beautiful ways.

∞ 2 notes

Internationally acclaimed artist Wangechi Mutu quoted in the New Yorker, September 23, 2013