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Playhouse - Those racist remarks like rugby. We wish the new CEO of the Playhouse, Caesar Ndlovu & his artistic director Mbongeni Ngema (the R14 Million Sarafina producer) all the best on their mission to once again tackle - or is the term reform? - the Playhouse - a magnificent, or potentially magnificent people's Theatre. How will he handle the Arts in a top-heavy empty theatre (budget - approx R6 Million a year) and the racist issues that have flared up with the resignation of assistant Playhouse director, Gitanjali Pather?
The full transcript of the recorded meeting at which these accusations & remarks took place, is available from Artslink. It's really worth the trip. Those at the meeting were Bored Chairman of the Board Edmund Radebe (also a manager of Ladysmith Black Mambazo & a member of the kZN Gambling Board), Gugu Ngcobo (former director of the KwaZulu-Natal Arts & Culture Council - and who had to be moved side-ways because of a forensic audit into her affairs) Nomthetho Sibisa & Carl Mouton. The tape will not be made available commercially on CD or any other format, I hear.
For those of you who don't know, the Playhouse Company got rid of all the actors & dancers & kept the administrators. The taxpayer now employs 178 administrators - 16 publicists & 2 personnel officers, by the way - and except for a tacky old Drag / Queen Show in the Cellar, this wonderful old theatre has been dark for a month. To give you some idea of the state of the arts, the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre - way out of town at the top of the Hill in the University of Natal Grounds - is almost booked solid for the next 2 years.
A silent protest meeting was held at the City Hall on the 21st February, by many performing artists from Durban - but was partially hi-jacked (an attempted disruption?) by Mbongeni Ngema's driver (?) - not unsympathetic or unfamiliar to those on the board who made those remarks in the first place. To quote the wires "Mr. Mandla Kheswa, grabbed the microphone and shouted - Anyone who hates Africans must leave Africa alone." He then went on to accuse African Indians of being African haters & his friends held placards, which supported this sentiment. Hmmmmmore than just a bun fight is in the offing. The Minister of Arts & Culture immediately appointed a commission - he is taking the matter seriously. Dr Ben Ngubane has appointed the Director of the National Arts Council, Ms. Doreen Nteta to investigate the allegations.
Surprise surprise - the Durban media - home of the hits, today's news today etc & eTV have all but ignored the issue. I suppose there's more important issues - such as the Drag Queen Show of old men in the Playhouse Cellar - that need the Art Media's urgent attention. 178 administrators - 16 publicists & 2 personnel officers - and the Arts in Durban are stoned broke? What strange world we live in.
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