Disabled artists from Buffalo City Municipality were given an opportunity on Saturday to perform on stage for the first time at the Steve Biko Centre in King William’s Town.
The performance at the centre, in the suburb of Ginsberg, followed a two-day workshop held by the Cape Town-based Unmute Dance Company.
Led by its artistic director, Themba Mbuli, the company, comprising dancers with various disabilities, gave disabled youths lessons in dance and other creative arts such as singing and poetry.
Among those who attended the event was Steve Biko’s widow, Ntsiki Biko. She was happy that young people from King William’s Town were benefiting from activities at the centre.
“I am overwhelmed with joy. I am sure these are some of the things that Steve wished for while still alive. Everything that we do here is to continue with his legacy.”
Biko called on young people to, “bring ideas and come forward and advise us on how to improve the Steve Biko Centre and Steve Biko Foundation in empowering our communities, especially the young people”.
“My passion is more on youths because we are old and we may die anytime – but we want to leave a legacy. I am happy to see that young people have come in numbers.”
The workshop was made possible by funding from the Goethe-Institut Project Space (GPS). Francois Venter of GPS said the institute called for proposals annually, “and artists who are interested in doing projects in interesting spaces in South Africa can put forward a proposal”.
“For this project we received a beautiful proposal from Unmute Dance Company and we could see that the Biko Centre would support it. The performances were great,” he said.
The dance company’s Mbuli said the aim of the workshop was to introduce the concept of integration between people with disabilities and people without disabilities, to get them to work together to create art. “We are trying to bridge that gap.”
Mbuli, who has for many years showcased his work at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, said the response was amazing. “Most people have not seen this kind of work. There is this perception that people with disabilities cannot do much, but when they saw what happened here, it really changed their mind-set – for me that was a huge achievement from outside.”
He said working with some disabled people posed a challenge. “Because society has already told people with a disability that…this is not for you, you cannot make it…most of them were a little reserved.
“I understand, because this thing is foreign to them, but after the second day they started to adapt.” One of those performed on the day was Lydia Kram. She said she had always loved dancing, but was not confident enough to do it.
“It was my first performance on stage and I enjoyed it,” she said. — firstname.lastname@example.org