Water is fast becoming a scarce commodity on the planet, or so we are told by the conservationists and geoscientists of the world. In fact, some have even said that this commodity may even be the cause of wars of the future.
In my mind, water has always been symbolic of the ‘new’ culture that is emerging worldwide* and especially in South Africa where varied hegemonies are competing for dominance.
What is water? H2O – Two parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen brought together by a catalyst to make water -that life giving substance without which we would perish. Hey, but guess what, without Hydrogen in its pure form we would also perish, without Oxygen in its pure form we would also perish.
Artists can be likened to alchemists experimenting with the ‘pure’ raw materials of culture throwing them into the crucible of performance, providing the flame, the catalyst of passion, and hoping that the cultural ‘water’ of the future will emerge. Some cultural activists are determined that their life’s work should be the preservation of the ‘purity’ of their specific culture and are determined to promote their own cultural hegemony at the detriment of all others. These practitioners are entitled to their opinion and endeavour for without the ‘hydrogen’ or ‘oxygen’ our artistic soul would lose something of itself which could lead to its ultimate death. Catalina UnLtd will also campaign on occasion to preserve all of our cultures in their ‘pure’ form for posterity, for a sense of history, for a clearer knowledge of whence we have come. More importantly, we will strive to find the ‘water’, which could be the future culture of our nation – A culture that enables and unifies our people in a common spirit.
We realize that many of our experiments may fail in the same way that scientific and medical research fails time and again until the ‘cure’ is found. These failures may make some audience members rethink their patronage of our shows in the short-term, but we hope in time to develop a product that will be world-class and that theatre patrons will realize is worth supporting. Gradually we hope audiences will become braver and come to see the ‘new’ work and eventually even become avid supporters of the ‘new’ voice of Durban, South Africa, telling the stories that need to be told – our stories, the ‘water’ without which we will surely perish.
After all, the most iconic South African contributions to the world canon of theatre have been South African stories told in a South African way by South African artists. We salute, Athol Fugard, Barney Simon, John Kani, Brian Astbury, Yvonne Bryceland, Gibson Kente, Percy Mtwa, Wintson Tshona, Mbongeni Ngema, Ronnie and Kessie Govender, John Ledwaba, Maishe Maponya, William Kentridge, Brett Bailey, Lara Foot, Paul Grootboom and the many other SA pioneers who have shared the South African ‘voice’ with the world.
* It is clear that the European Festivals Association chose this subject matter for their world congress as it is becoming a global trend. The migration of cultures throughout the world brought about by a variety of political and economic pressures is quickly forcing cultural organizations worldwide to look beyond their own hegemonies at a more inclusive model.
** This appeared originally as the foreword of the CATALINA COLLECTION, an anthology of new South African plays published by Catalina UnLtd and funded by the NLDTF and the Ethekwini Municipality.