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Background

ACTION CENTRE, workshop for the performing arts, was the initial workshop programme developed in 1974/5 as a precursor to the Africa Cultural Centre. The project at that stage grew as a result of the discourse on Third World Cultures at the Shiraz Festival of Third World Theatre (Iran).

In 1978 the project was briefly known as Soyinka Theatre Workshop after Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian playwright and Nobel Literature Laureat, when it was presented for adoption to the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA).

As the name suggests, ACTION CENTRE was a programme in ciritcal consciousness of the direct action of liberation. The theatre offered a dynamic space for encounter with conflic, and for the intimacy of relationship between the audience and performer, wherein a radical and subversive new dialogue was possible in spite of the condition of oppression. Hence itactively mobilized youth to the cause of radical liberatory theatre and provided creative and revolutionary training for it.

This phase of developmenttook a distict turn with the 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising when the project mutated into a decentralised mobile unit concentrating it's work in Soweto, Lenasia, Eldorado Park/ Kliptown and many other locations throughout Southern Africa. It also developed special workshops with teachers, doctors and nurses (Baragwanath and Coronation Hospitals). In the 80's this unit became the project Adopt-a-Group. Its task was to work with cultural and social formations in township settings on a daily basis. The impact was radical and popular.

By 1982, two years after the foundation of the Africa Cultural Centre, the project grew into the CENTRE FOR RESEARCH AND TRAINING IN AFRICAN THEATRE, reflecting a maturity of purpose and function. Accordingly, the focus shifted towards development for liberation and development as a consequence of liberation, the objectives of which were embedded in the culture and identity debate, in a Pan-African ethos, and in a exploration of African mythology and folklore as the creative source point for African Culture, art and creativity. This exploration exploded the myth that the performing arts where bequeathed to Africa by colonialism. It was important in the anti-colonial strugle to expose the lie that paganised the culture and artistic expressions of Africa. The fundamental colonial strategies of dislocation, depersonalisation, alianation and cultural domination, amongst others, became the core of our cultural study and en evolving methodology in the development of the actor/activist and us, as opressed persons.

The project was inspired by the psycho/social studies of Franz Fanon and the life, times and work of Herbert Isaac Dhlomo, South African playwright, poet, essayist, journalist and visionary amongst others.

The project has evolved into the Centre for African Arts and now included all the follwoing projects:

• Centre for Reasearch and Training in African Theatre
• Contemporary African Dance
• African Music Conservatoire
• Visual Arts, Crafts and Design
• Media Communications Unit
• Carnival Afrika, School of Carnival



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