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There was plenty to celebrate when the grand Soweto Theatre finally opened its doors to the public on Friday, 25 May.
THE Soweto Theatre will afford the local arts and culture fraternity a platform to showcase their work as well as an environment where the community can access the arts in their own time and space.

Executive mayor Parks Tau opens the new theatre (Photo: Enoch lehung, City of Johannesburg)Executive mayor Parks Tau opens the new theatre (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Artists will be able to develop their skills in a setting that gives them immediate public exposure, while locals will hopefully embrace the theatre as part of their entertainment calendar.

These are some of the sentiments echoed by officials responsible for the establishment of the site who were present for its grand opening in Jabulani on the evening of 25 May. Mayor Parks Tau, who had attended his office’s Budget Golf Day in the city earlier in the day, was present, as were a number of prominent television personalities and professionals from the theatre industry.

Live music from the Soweto Jazz Orchestra, singer Gloria Bosman and bassist Concord Nkabinde kept guests entertained, as did recitals by local poets and a theatrical dance number.

The theatre’s first production, the timeless short story The Suitcase, originally written by the late playwright and author Es’Kia Mphahlele and adapted and directed by James Ngcobo, was preceded by a vocal tale of the history of Soweto by poet Mzwakhe Mbuli. Jazz legend Hugh Masekela is the music director for The Suitcase, while the choreography was directed by multi-award winning dancer Gregory Maqoma.

Executive mayor Parks Tau was joined by minister of arts and culture Paul Mashatile and City officials to officially open the Soweto Theatre on 25 May. Watch video.
The indoor foyer of the theatre features a head-and-shoulders sculpture of former mayor Amos Masondo, to whom the vision of the theatre is attributed.

Portfolio head of community development in the City, Chris Vondo, said the venue would provide a platform where creative commentary about social ills could be made.

Vondo further described it as a monument that would help demystify the stereotype that the arts shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Well-known artists (Enoch lehung, City of Johannesburg)Well-known artists welcome the opening of the theatre (Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)“The theatre was created as an outlet of entertainment and it is hoped that it will help lure people from beer halls”, he said, adding that it should not be perceived as a “preserve of the elite”.

In his address Tau recognised Masondo for his contribution to the development of Soweto and for conceiving the construction of the theatre. He also launched the Jabulani Heritage Project, which will collate stories about the historic amphitheatre, preserve its original structure and integrate it with the Soweto theatre as part of one arts precinct.

Minister of arts and culture Paul Mashatile expressed his excitement at the idea that local artists now had a home at the Soweto theatre to perform, show and develop artistic skills.

“Let’s keep it as a beautiful legacy for Soweto for generations to come,” he said, adding that his department throws its support behind the project.

The theatre, on Bolani Road, near the intersection with Soweto’s second busiest thoroughfare Koma Road is oversubscribed. It will serve mainly as a receiving house in the first year of operation and in the long run will double as a production house.

The R150-million facility is part of an extensive development project for Jabulani, which when complete will comprise a fully-fledged business and residential node, the revamped amphitheatre, standalone cluster homes, a shopping mall and a residential area flats units.

There will be 25 000m² of retail shops, 10 000m² of offices and 4 000 mixed income residential units, 30 percent of which will be for low income earners.

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