Africa ‘PACES’ Up For The Business of Theatre

By Toyin Akinosho

But Funding challenges, amplified by the presumed “Lagos Disappointment” threaten what could have been a grand entree

Nigeria’s Qudus Onikeku, Egypt’s Noon Creative Enterprise and South Africa’s Gregory Maqoma and Vuyani Dance Theatre, are some of the over 30 artists and performing companies from 13 countries expected to present their work at the PACE in South Africa in early July 2018.

PACE organisers were relying on the Lagos State of Nigeria (the West Africa country’s most affluent state), to fund part of the programme and were disappointed almost at the last minute. “They designed the programme in the nexus of the Lagos-Johannesburg or Nigeria-South Africa relationship

The PAN AFRICAN CREATIVE EXCHANGE (PACE) is a programme of short theatre skits and feature length performances, debates, networking events and seminars, coming up JULY 6-9, 2018 in Bloomfontein in the Free State Province.

Some of the invited participants have been applauding the potential value of the proceedings.

“I never came across an organisation that truly helped facilitate a Pan-African exchange programme for the performing arts”, says Wole Oguntokun, Artistic Director Renegade Theatre, Nigeria. “Often, the only chances for cross-cultural exchanges are when we look to Europe and the Americas”, he explains. “It is why the possibility of being a part of the first edition of PACE and the benefits that might come with it, fill me with such excitement”.
The key aims are to raise international awareness of African artists and their work and increase national and international arts networks, increase business opportunities for African artists to take their work to high profile international arts events and support opportunities for critical debate on existing and new art.

It’s not exactly clear, at this late stage in preparations, how many of the invited artists, let alone those who applied, would make it to South Africa. Most participants, including members of those selected performing companies, have to fund their way to Bloomfontein. Some of them even have to arrange their own visas.

“You cannot quote me on this”, one artist (named on the programme headline) tells, but I can’t go. I can’t see that the preparations are tight. It looks like they are struggling with money and I am not sure of their logistics”.
PACE organisers were reportedly relying on the Lagos State of Nigeria (the West Africa country’s most affluent state), to fund part of the programme and were disappointed almost at the last minute. “They designed the programme in the nexus of the Lagos-Johannesburg or Nigeria-South Africa relationship”, comments one Nigerian theatre maker sympathetic to the cause. “They were asking for very little, but in spite of what looked as a promise, they were spurned.”

But Steve Ayorinde, Lagos State’s Commissioner for Culture and tourism, stated that the state was not approached for funding. “Participation of the state yes, but funding of the event certainly not. There are several state events listed in our calendar that are yet to hold because funding is never enough so how possibly can the state be the preferred financier of an event holding in South Africa?” Ayorinde explained that Lagos State government did not hold any meeting or make any promises to PACE. “Polly Alakija, the Chair of the Board of Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture expressed interest in having the state participate at the event. It’s still being considered but does not look like the state would be able to participate this year”.

Nike Jonah, the driving force behind the event, did not return calls and sms message by

In the event, artists were told to cut their budgets, reduce overhead and deliver tighter performances in order to save costs.

The programme brochure lists, among others, Onikeku’s new dance work Spirit Child; Paw Productions’ experimental devised theatre piece Esther’s Revenge; Thespian Family with Comic Republic’s Itan (The Story), “a theatre show developing over 50 comic books with back stories of characters.
“An array of full productions, tour ready, work in progress and pitching sessions will be presented”, say the organisers, coordinated by Nike Jonah: Visiting Research Fellow at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in England, who is the Executive Director, PACE; Erwin Maas: Artistic Associate, International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) and Creative Director, International Society for Performing Arts (ISPA); Dr Ricardo Peach: Director, Vrystaat Arts Festival; Isobel Hawson: Freelance Arts Consultant and Producer and Director of On Tour Ltd; Rosemary Mangope: Chief Executive National Arts Council – South Africa and Rea Mokone: PACE Co-ordinator.

“Comic Republic is one of Africa’s fastest growing comic book companies. Renegade Theatre’s Winter’s Tale Shakespeare in 37 languages; and Wole Oguntokun’s Chibok Girls, verbatim theatre based on testimonies of several of the Chibok (Boko Haram) survivors, will also be must sees”, according to the promotional material.

Gregory Maqoma and Vuyani Dance Theatre’s Cion, described by the promoters as “ spectacular, internationally acclaimed” and the Market Theatre Laboratory’s new works Hani: the Legacy, a musical theatre piece based on the life of anti-Apartheid activist Chris Hani, and The Little Prince – an African reworking of this popular children’s novel are some of the works that will be on view..

PACE is a 4-day biannual business-to-business arts market and showcase, developed in partnership with the Vrystaat Arts Festival, for African artists to network and share work with national and international arts presenters and producers.
Over 20 artists will share their work at a one-day Market Place.


The Programme is designed for national and international:

  • venue managers
  • artistic directors
  • promoters
  • producers
  • festival organisers
  • funders
  • development agencies
  • policy makers
  • critics
  • artists
  • academia and
  • international peers


About The Author

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *