Great Texts / Big Questions lecture with Dr Robert Mshengu Kavanagh

16 May 2017 - 17:45

Widely assailed as a giant of South African theatre, Gibson Kente’s legacy is appropriately explored during this Africa month, so called to bring our attention to the vast and neglected legacies of our continent. Titled Text, texture and theatre: getting Gibson Kente right, author, arts educator and arts practitioner Dr Kavanagh explores the monumental work of this ‘father of theatre’ in a Great Texts Big Questions lecture on Wednesday 24 May at UCT’s at UCT Hiddingh Campus on Orange Street.  This free lecture will begin at 6pm, with refreshments from 5.30pm and is presented by The Institute for Creative Arts (ICA) and UCT’s Drama Department.

As a playwright, director, composer and choreographer from Soweto, Gibson Mtutuzeli Kente played a pivotal and often controversial role in shaping the theatre landscape in South African townships, from the 1960s until his death in 2004.  He wrote and produced plays and musicals reflecting life in South African urban centres and townships and the joys and tribulations of black urban communities.

Dr Kavanagh’s has first-hand experience of Kente’s theatre, as well as the context of his work and was one of the first academics to give Kente’s work critical attention in articles for amongst others, ‘S’ketsh magazine, which he helped found and edited.  Some of his later publications included chapters on Kente as well as the only published script of a Kente play. The lecture will introduce the launch of A Contended Space: The Theatre of Gibson Mtutuzeli Kente, recently published by Themba Books under Dr McLaren’s alias, Robert Mshengu Kavanagh. 

Dr Kavanagh, a UCT alumnus (BA (Hons), 1965, co-founded and chaired university Theatre Arts departments in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. His involvement in arts education however ranges from tertiary institutions to early childhood programmes, from informal training in rural and urban areas, to professional youth theatre. 

As Dr Robert McLaren he co-founded Zimbabwean arts education trust, CHIPAWO, where he is still involved, and as member of the Zimbabwe Association of Theatre for Children and Young People, he played a role in establishing a network of ASSITEJ centres throughout Africa. ASSITEJ, first founded in 1965, is a global alliance linking thousands of theatres, organisations and individuals working in the field of theatre for children and young people. 

Dr Kavanagh was active in what he calls ‘majority theatre’ with the historic South African theatre group, Workshop ’71, between 1970 and 1976 as well as the political or ‘Frontline’ Zimbabwean theatre group, Zambuko/Izibuko. He holds an MPhil from Oxford University and a PhD from Leeds University and lives in Zimbabwe.

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