Able to Act, Lesotho 2018
Hijinx's community work is going global in 2018, from 10-25 February - a group of learning disabled actors and staff will tour and perform in Lesotho for our project Able To Act.
In the foothills of the Lesotho mountains there is a large blackboard painted on to the side of a breeze block stand alone room. At the top of the board are 12 inch high crudely painted white letters spelling out ‘KE LABALABELA HO BA’ (I aspire to be) and then a series of dotted lines where people are invited to fill in the blanks. The board is empty for lack of chalk, it is hoped, rather than from lack of ambition.
On the 10 February four professional actors with Down’s Syndrome (Justin Melluish, Gareth Clark, Laura Tilley and Victoria Walters), from www.hijinxactors.co.uk and trained in the Hijinx Academies, will be making the journey to Lesotho, the tiny landlocked Kingdom in the south of Africa.
Lesotho is a place where disability is perceived as a curse, where babies with a disability are abandoned at orphanages. So Hijinx’s decision to tour the country with a production involving visibly learning disabled actors is a bold and courageous act.
"Our mission is for it to be commonplace to see actors with learning disabilities on our stages and screens," says Clare Williams CEO of Hijinx, "and to change perceptions of disability, so that society can see beyond the disability to the talent, charisma and extraordinary ability of people who are not neurotypical."
The actors will also be joined by Hijinx staff members. During the trip, they will be partnering with participants to rehearse a new piece of creative theatre, which was initially developed at the Hijinx Academies across Wales.
"We want to work with the local rural communities in Lesotho to help them recognise the value of giving aspiration to people with disabilities," adds Jon Dafydd-Kidd, who heads Hijinx's outreach programme, "to this end we are devising a new production that will involve young people from a Machabeng College in Maseru and children from the Phelisanong Orphanage."
The trip in 2018 follows on from an initial scoping trip in 2016, where links were developed with the local organisations.
The visit in February has been made possible through funding from Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme through Hub Cymru Africa, the British Council, and in association with Machabeng College and Dolen Cymru.
Hannah Sheppard, Grants Manager at Hub Cymru Africa said: “People with disability are often the most excluded and discriminated against in any society, and I hope that this project can begin to change the way that people see disability and how learning disabled young people view themselves and their own capabilities. It’s an exciting project for everyone involved and I look forward to seeing the results.”
The production called ’KE LABALABELA HO BA….’ (I aspire to be) will tour to cultural sites across Lesotho from mid February. This will be a totally new experience for the actors from Wales and everyone involved in the production.
It’s going to be a busy trip from start to finish and we’ll be posting regular updates on our social channels so that you can follow their experiences, including vlogs from the team, so make sure you stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube