When the name “Animal Barn” was suggested for our organisation what we thought was “How clever! How profound! How astute!” How suited to our cause, we thought, that our name should reference George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” from which the famous quote “All men are created equal but some are more equal than others” stems from. How perfectly reflective that is of the problem in this country we are concerned with – a constitution that promises equality but a social reality in which access to basic human rights is determined by class. Yes, “Animal Barn” is a reference within a reference within a reference. “How convoluted” was unfortunately not what we thought. More importantly, we did not think of how misleading it would be to give a such a name to an organisation that has nothing whatsoever to do with animal rights. We let our tendencies towards loftiness and over-intellectualisation (every artist’s tragic flaw!) get the better of us and for that we apologize.
In light of this we have decided to change our name and to take the opposite approach in doing so. And our new name is…. (drumroll please) ….The iNtombi Workshop! For the non-xhosa speakers amongst you, “iNtombi” means “Girl”. Alright, to be honest, none of us are actually xhosa speakers either. But the majority of the girls we work with are and we feel it is important to represent them in our name. We used the word “workshop” because, well, hosting weekly workshops is what we do. But the word is also a reference to the workshopping process. This is a method of creating theatre in which scenes are improvised and refined until the play or piece of theatre is performance ready. This method was popular in creating protest plays during Apartheid ( think “Woza Albert” and “Sophiatown”) as it is all inclusive. It is a democratic process and literacy is not required. It is the method of theatre-making we employ with our students. And there you have it, a name that is straightforward and clear-cut!
So, to recap, The iNtombi Workshop is an arts education organisation. We realise that arts education within South Africa’s school system is only accessible to the privileged. Many disenfranchised schools have no arts department nor do they have the means to create one and so a career in the arts is often not seen as viable. This means that a huge amount of talent and potential is being overlooked and the arts industry remains exclusive. We also realise that, as both artists and women ourselves, it is especially difficult for women to make it in the industry. The iNtombi Workshop seeks to solve these problems by implementing an arts education programme which focuses on empowering women through art in disenfranchised schools in the Western Province. We are currently working at Marion RC High School, an all-girls’ school in Elsies river, with a group of 12 girls. We facilitate workshops every Saturday and source successful female artists to host them on their particular area of expertise. We see the work we are doing at Marion High as our pilot project and although we plan to continue our work there for at least the next two years, we hope to expand to other schools in the future.
Lastly, we want to explain the thought process behind our new logo. It is essentially a culture jam. Our logo aims to comment on the ubiquity of westernised approaches to art. We feel that the mass institutionalisation of western aesthetics have resulted in a system where western modalities and aesthetics are seen as more legitimate than African ones, even within a contemporary African context. That the Greek masks of tragedy and comedy are the most well-known symbols of theatre illustrates this fact. We have “Africanised” the Greek masks in order to symbolise a reclaiming of space in the art world. Lofty and over-intellectualized you say?
Lastly, lastly we want to say a HUGE thank you to Jendrick Schroeder (who is, ironically, from Germany) for designing the logo and to everyone who has hosted workshops for iNtombi Workshop so far. We will be posting a review of the work we have done during the first term of running the programme at Marian RC Girls High School soon.