At the beginning of August, the iconic Alhambra Theatre, which will be celebrating its centenary next year, was alive with the sounds of 80 Grade 8-10 learners. The theatre will be creating opportunities for learners to grow in the creative arts and thus become successful entrepreneurs.

The Alhambra Theatre was acquired by the chairman of the Reimagination Foundation, Renney Plitalso, and is under restoration. Other members of the Board are Dr Siza Majola, Gordon Cook (Vega co-founder), Thobile Chittenden, Abena Mophatlane, Ismail Mohammed, Shevon Lurie, and Joe Shibambo.

A pilot programme for two groups of 40 learners each commenced at the beginning of August. This programme in creative entrepreneurship is geared towards addressing a gap in the public school system wherein 93.2% of 10 600 plus high schools do not offer any of the five creative subjects: Music, art, drama, dance and design.

The top three skills for the future world of 2020 and beyond are Creativity, Complex Problem Solving and Critical Thinking (World Economic Forum). This is one of a few findings by global research companies. With the populations of African countries being predominantly made up of youth, high percentages of whom are unemployed, the teaching of these skills is absolutely vital.

As emphasised by Thobile Chittenden, “successful entrepreneurs need the ability to think analytically and creatively. Unfortunately, this whole-brain concept of learning is absent from the high school system, other than the privileged private schools.”

An innovative, high-impact, extra-mural curriculum that will run from August to November has been developed with input from Vega School, WITS School of Arts and FUNDA Centre. Thobile is adamant that collaboration with all relevant organisation in the city precinct and outlying areas is vital to success. “NGOs must work better together and not take on a competitive stance. This way we can achieve a lot more.”

 

Play in the “sandpits” of music, arts, drama, dance and design.

 

The pupils were selected from three inner-city high schools: Africa House College, SEDCO High School and Johannesburg Polytech Institute. The Reimagination Board members believe that pre and post-assessments will show the efficacy of this intervention and will attract support to roll the programme out into far-flung communities. The intervention will be known as MADDD Labs.

The programme will expose the participants to the importance of the human imagination, the innovation process and will afford them an opportunity to play in the “sandpits” of music, arts, drama, dance and design. Afro-centricity is at the core of the curriculum and the Reimagination Board members are adamant that we need to start leveraging creativity as Africa’s most sustainable competitive advantage.

The renovation of the Alhambra is taking place in a phased approach with a focus on making ready an art-design studio, music and dance studio as well as one of the smaller theatres for drama and performance. Graduates will exit with a portfolio of evidence and an endorsed certificate of performance.

We need to start leveraging creativity as Africa’s most sustainable competitive advantage.

In tandem with the pilot programme, Thobile and the Reimagination Board are developing a sustainability model that will maximize the use of all the theatre spaces as, for example, co-working spaces, venue hire for corporates as well as community organisations.

 

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