In March 2007, Grassroots Theatre Company hosted the Sanganisai Children's Festival (SCF) to provide support for rural Zimbabweans facing economic difficulties - in particular, for children orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS. The event attracted around 3,000 people and included workshops and performances by students from four schools from the Masvingo region, as well as a group of international musicians from the United Kingdom (UK).
According to organisers, Sanganisai is a Shona word that means putting together or mixing. It is a festival of dance, song, drama, storytelling, poetry, and other dramatic art forms. The acts are performed for and by children in the villages of Zimbabwe, and are designed to be a platform for village children to share their inner feelings and issues that affect them, as well as to elicit the support they need from their communities.
The festival is run under Grassroots Theatre Company's programme "Education and Development (ED)", a Theatre in Education (TIE) programme. The organisers use theatre to stimulate community action and bring awareness on pertinent issues affecting the development of people. Grassroots Theatre Company facilitated the theatre processes in collaboration with all the schools participating in the festival.
As part of the process, schoolteachers were trained on theatre for development/education techniques and concepts. The workshops covered issues such as play-making, use of the stage, theatre approaches, and acting skills. The teachers then used these skills to work with their students to develop dramas and performances for the festival.
Performances included collaboratively developed and performed poems, traditional dance performances, and traditional music and dramas. All performance pieces focused on issues related to HIV, including testing, disclosure, orphans and vulnerable children, and living positively. Performances were also developed by Edimbira, a UK-based music/dance group.
The festival began with a procession involving all the performers that went past the local clinic and shops, through the fields behind the shops, and back toward the school where the festival took place. After speeches and welcomes by traditional leaders, as well as the singing of the national anthem, the festival was officially opened. While the festival was underway, local women were enlisted to cook food, which was shared by everyone once the festival was finished. The day was rounded off with certificates for the teachers who had participated in training workshops.
Grassroots Theatre Company was formed in Bulawayo in 1990 with the aim of using dance, music, and drama as a means of educating and empowering urban and rural communities throughout Zimbabwe and abroad. The organisation works to educate local communities to identify the root causes of their predicaments and limitations, to stimulate community action to break the poverty cycle, and to foster international understanding about global development issues, particularly around poverty.
Grassroots Theatre Company is part of an exchange programme supported by the Daneford Trust. Every year, five Grassroots facilitators tour the UK, participating as volunteers on community arts programmes in England, Scotland, and Wales. They inform and educate youth and adults about Zimbabwe and development issues.
Grassroots Theatre Company, Grassroots Arts UK, and Edimbira
Grassroots Theatre Company website on May 12 2011.