Opera House at centre of new arts, skills training partnership

Shaanaaz de Jager

SKILLS training to boost the Eastern Cape’s creative industry is at the heart of a new partnership signed by key players in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

The National Arts Festival of South Africa, the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council (ECPACC) and the Opera House signed an agreement which will help artists reach their maximum potential and also give them exposure to a wider audience in the country.

Ismail Mahomed, National Arts Festival artistic director, said at the announcement yesterday that Port Elizabeth was the “cradle where arts, passion and culture has been nurtured”.

“Despite artists coming from PE the challenge is that they go to cultural institutions elsewhere. The Opera House, the oldest theatre in the country, will become the cradle for the cultural institution in the Eastern Cape,” Mahomed said.

Mahomed also said he would like to see Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism come on board as a partner, as “tourism is the key to take this partnership forward”.

Mandlakazi Skefile, chief executive of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, said she was “considering” a partnership.

“I have some crazy ideas in my head. I feel challenged to put my ideas into concrete form, to explore the tourism opportunity around the festival,” she said.

New Brighton-based actress and PE Opera House patron Nomhle Nkonyeni said the partnership was “great news”.

“A partnership with the Opera House is long overdue. In the past we had to move to Cape Town or Johannesburg, but with this partnership it could mean that artists from all genres are based locally,” Nkonyeni said.

Raymond Mehlala, chief executive of the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council (ECPACC), said he was “elated”, at the opportunity the partnership was providing. “This is a unique situation where the Eastern Cape’s arts identity can be exposed,” Mehlala said.

Mahomed said six artists from Nelson Mandela Bay would perform at the festival in Grahamstown and six Opera House productions would be taken to the Fringe.

Opera House general manager Monde Ngonyama said the productions would then be sold to national theatres.

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