Women left out in arts

TALENTED: Theatre director and playwright Ntshieng Mokgoro.
       Photo: Moeketsi  Moticoe
TALENTED: Theatre director and playwright Ntshieng Mokgoro. Photo: Moeketsi Moticoe

THEATRE director and playwright Ntshieng Mokgoro says women are not being supported financially by the arts industry.

Mokgoro, who is one of the few black women in mainstream theatre, says the funding support is only given to a few elites.

She says most black female directors are forced to use their own funds to stage shows.

The award-winning theatre practitioner says female directors like Napo Masheane have in the past staged productions out of their own pockets.

Working mostly in makeshift theatre spaces and a sometimes tough Alexandra township environment, Mokgoro has brewed some of the most exciting productions that have delighted audiences on national and international stages.

Mokgoro is the first black female to win the Standard Bank Young Artist Award and the Graham Lindop Theatre Award for the Best Young Director.

Her successful productions include Umdlwembe, which won the Standard Bank Best Youth Production for the 2008-09 theatre season, Veil of Tears, which was nominated for the 2006-07 Naledi Awards.

Also Thursday Child for the Market Theatre, which toured Europe in 2009 and participated in the Linz Youth Festival in Austria in the same year.

She has also collaborated with Monde Mayephu on his production The Pen.

But it has taken 10 years for Mokgoro to break into mainstream theatre. Once she got the platform, though, she proved that she was talented.

Having braved many odds, like struggling to get funding, being marginalised and suffering from a lack of space for individual expression, Mokgoro wants to help other women.

"One of the biggest challenge facing women is that you become this emerging director - for years - with no one to promote you to the next level," Mokgoro argues.

"Sometimes, they tell you they do not understand your work and force you to compromise the story.

"I would want to see black people telling their own stories without compromising the subject.

"There are so many issues and stories that are waiting to be told."

Now that she understands the industry Mokgoro is climbing new heights with the launch of Olive Tree Theatre Productions.

Olive Tree Theatre Productions will be launched on Saturday at Thusong Youth Centre in Alexandra through a series of shows.

She sees her theatre production company as a vehicle to promote mainly women in theatre and the arts. She says the productions will be given a week to run at a specified venue.

Mokgoro says while working with the youth last year, she discovered that there is a lot of untapped talent out there.

"My aim is to give back to the community by mentoring those who want to break into the industry," says Mokgoro.

"I am trying to create a platform for community groups. We want to bring theatre closer to the people. The shows will be staged in Braamfontein and Alex."