While travelling to school on the busy roads of Cape Town, navigating the sea of taxis, buses and the occasional cyclist riding the wave of early morning traffic, you may see the countless posters hung up. Registreer en Stem! Bhalisa, away vote! Register and Vote!

As we near thirty years of democracy, one cannot help but think about how far our nation has ventured in pursuing Madiba’s Ubuntu philosophy. I am because we are. Cape Town has something for everyone regarding the arts, spreading the idea of Ubuntu far and wide through various colours, languages, and genres. From the annual homage to the Bard at the Maynardville festival to the various performances celebrating colourful diversity in Suideoosterfees. The performing arts have a long tradition of allowing people to express themselves uniquely and creatively as it brings them together.

Ubuntu is still alive and practised today. For some, it is helping one’s neighbour; for others, it’s teaching the young or inexperienced. For many, it’s coming together to celebrate a shared victory and recognise all that made it possible. Devin Reed, 19, shares his insights on learning about the spirit of Ubuntu through community theatre at the Masque Theatre.

Reed and several others volunteered their time, passion and talents to help create Rapunzel: Untangling the Truth, the Masque’s third annual Fairytale Pantomime. Many of these individuals had not been formally trained and worked in various fields of expertise. These included, but were not limited to, law, journalism, facilitation and management, teaching and Human resources. Despite different backgrounds and skills, the group created a fun show for people of all ages to enjoy. Reed’s role as Production Secretary and Assistant stage manager led to him learning from fellow Masque Members who have served as guardians of the theatre and avid supporters of its mission.

The Masque, a certified non-profit organisation, strives to make theatre accessible to everyone – onstage, backstage, and in the audience. Established in 1959 by Bertie Stern, it aimed to create a platform for all performers, independent of their current social or political standing. When The Masque first opened, it was one of the few theatres in Cape Town that invited people of all ethnicities. Reed states he has been inspired by the experience.

Community theatre plays a crucial role in nurturing young talent and provides opportunities for exploration in a world that may have previously been overlooked. Theatre is a truly inspiring and impactful art form that can connect with people in unique ways and can be closely tied to the development of a nation’s culture, as it showcases the richness of its heritage.”

Reed is not the only theatre lover welcomed by the Masque Family. Young UCT Drama graduate Andrew Munnik, 25, who played the lead in the show, notes how wholesome it has been to be part of the community theatre’s endeavour to bring joy to others. The impact of Ubuntu has not washed over Munnik as he affirms the experience of coming together and being connected by a passion makes him “even more adamant that the arts help one find their voice”. At the same time, teaching them how to live in harmony. Applied theatre practitioner Nawaal Adams, 25, advocates for the performing arts as she has witnessed them make a difference in the lives of many. This includes the marginalised and those in need of a second chance.

The arts help the youth to develop their sense of self and their sense of identity, as well as to discover the various aspects that make up their identity. I’ve seen this with the youth I’ve worked with during my time with the Second Chance Theatre Project. I’ve been a part of school tours and December holiday programmes. These programmes are developed to bring youth together to work creatively through dance, drama, writing, and art. They’ve used these platforms to grow their understanding of themselves and, who they are, and how they want to grow. The same applies to youth in prisons, particularly Drakenstein Medium B Youth Centre of Excellence. Here, I was privy to the growth of these individuals through role play, storytelling, and imagery. They’ve been able to use the arts to reflect on their lives and to reflect on their future. I’ve seen how, through the arts, their smiles have grown.

The performing arts are a valuable tool in helping navigate the difficult waves of time. It can help us teach, heal, restore and celebrate while fostering a sense of community amongst brave individuals from different backgrounds. Reed, Munnik and Adams all confirm that the arts help encourage others to embody Madiba’s Ubuntu while making a splash.

Question: What cultural events or practices have you experienced that make you think of Ubuntu?