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By Mthokozisi Zulu


The Next Generation Programme changed my life when I was fortunate to be part of it in Germany as ASSITEJ celebrated 50 years.  My eyes were opened up to not only a new way of thinking but also, a new way of creating.  How would I not break away from the old and branch into the new? My work ever since, changed!

It was a great honour, to be called back to do my Alumni in the United Kingdom last year.  Unfortunately, I was not granted a visa and could not be part of that Artistic Gathering.  I have heard the phrase, ‘Everything happens for a reason’, but I am only starting to believe it now.  This year, my country hosted the World Congress and the International Theatre Festival for Children and Young People.  It is only after this amazing gathering, that I became joyful for having missed last year’s encounter.  I got to do my Alumni in my country, South Africa.

In Germany, two years ago, I met Nishna Mehta from India.  We decided to collaborate on a  project and have been in contact ever since.  On the first day of this year’s gathering, one of  the Next Generation Pragramme participants this year, gave me a book which Nishna had  asked her to give me.  This was one of the most beautiful moments for me because I had only  spoken to Nishna on whatsapp and via video calls but now; I got a physical book from her.  This book will help as we continue working on our collaboration, which is largely about finding  similarities between our countries.  It was also good to see other friends that were part of the  Next Generation Programme with me in Germany.  Nina Scarlet, Petra Jeroma, Jere Ikongio  and Minoovash Rahimian-all delegates in this year’s gathering. Minoovash even had a  presentation!

On the Friday before the Cradle Of Creativity began, two friends of mine that I studied Drama with, were kidnapped.  On Monday, two days before flying down to Cape Town, their bodies were found raped and killed. I headed down to this gathering, numb and in deep pain.   Somehow, the shows that were on our Next Generation schedule, were shows that ended up healing me. Some examples are the rape scene in Karoo Moose and the stories told by ex-convicts in Phefumla.  This whole experience reminded me of the power the arts has in societies. However, my favourite show has to be It’s Dark Outside closely followed by Us/Them and Sandscape.  Okay, I cannot decide and that is one of the reasons my blue mood turned to a bright yellow throughout my whole experience facilitating an amazing group of artist.

The programme was packed and I loved that.  This meant we got to experience many different shows from many different artists from all over the world.  How could one not be inspired after such? Many participants of this year’s programme, have spoken about possible collaborations and I believe that these will be successful because of the drive in them after going through this life changing experience.  Seeds were planted and trees WILL grow. You just watch and see!

During the times that we attended the Congress, it was good to hear Next Generation being mentioned a lot. This showed me that ASSITEJ really believes in the passing of the baton to people who will continue running the raise for the VIP’s of this world, our Children and Young People.  I was touched when I saw members of the Executive Committee bidding against each other during the Next Generation auction.  One shouted ‘Next Generation’ whenever something was ‘SOLD!’ to him.  A lot of money was raised which will help change many lives, yet again! That is just BEAUTIFUL!

Addressing the participants at our last workshop titled ‘Where to from here?’ Nina Hajiyianni said, “This programme is different every year and will be experienced differently.”  That is true!  As Alumni I got to experience the programme again with an outside eye yet still being able to be fully immersed in it!

I have SO much to say about my wonderful experience but will not write it all down as I believe in saving paper yet still avoiding to eat beavers.  I would like to thank ASSITEJ, the Executive Committee, the Next Generation Network, Yvette Hardie and Nina Hajiyianni for this healing and inspiring experience.  Furthermore, I would like to thank Yusrah Bardien and my co-alumni Sacha Copland, who both made the load not too heavy to carry. Not that it was heavy. No. I actually go to the gym. Believe it or not.  

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