The arts’ scene elite attended a ceremony in Mpumalanga recently to hand over a special award to a most deserving theatre company – the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative 

Dutch Ambassador to SA Han Peters, FATC Artistic Director PJ Sabbagh and NAF Executive Producer Ashraf Johaardien / Photo: David April

Dutch Ambassador to SA Han Peters, FATC Artistic Director PJ Sabbagh and NAF Executive Producer Ashraf Johaardien / Photo: David April

Members of the Forgotten Angle Theatre Company perform at the handing over of the Adelaide and Oliver Tambo award / Photo: David April

The Forgotten Angle Theatre Company perform at the handing over of the Adelaide and Oliver Tambo award / Photo: David April

The National Arts Festival Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Human Rights Award, sponsored by the Embassy of the Netherlands, was presented this month to the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC) for its remarkable contribution to the arts as an advocate of social change and promotion of human rights in South Africa.

The collaborative was recognised by the National Arts Festival for its prolific body of work in South Africa over the past two decades. “It affirms our belief that sustained access to quality arts and culture practice and education is a critical tool for transforming the ways in which people view themselves, the world they live in and their futures,” Artistic Director and FATC founder PJ Sabbagha said at the Festival.  

“FATC has become South Africa’s leading contemporary dance company in addressing the overwhelming presence of HIV and AIDS in contemporary South African society,” said Ashraf Johaardien, Executive Producer of the National Arts Festival. He also praised FATC for producing a prolific body of work dedicated to the probing of critical personal and social issues under the artistic directorship of founder PJ Sabbagha.

To mark the achievement, a hand-over ceremony was hosted on FATC’s home turf at the Ebhudlweni Arts Centre in rural Emakhazeni, Mpumalanga on 8 September. Han Peters, the Ambassador Designate of the Netherlands to South Africa, was an honoured guest and officially handed over the award to Sabbagha and FATC.

“The Embassy of the Netherlands attaches great value and appreciation to the work that institutions like FATC do. With this award, we not only recognise FATC’s use of arts and culture as a medium to promote social change and the promotion of human rights, but also encourage others in this sector to do the same,” Peters said.

Former recipients of the National Arts Festival Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Human Rights Award include Irene Stephanou, the Market Theatre Laboratory, Drama For Life and Ngizwe Youth Theatre. The inaugural award was presented in 2014 by Tselane Tambo to honour her late mother Adelaide Tambo for championing human rights in South Africa.

Receiving the award is testament to the meaningful work FATC does in rural Mpumalanga. “We feel incredibly honoured to be named the recipient of such a prestigious award,” Sabbagha said.

In his speech, he spoke passionately about the challenges FATC face in their work in arts activism, human rights and social justice through the arts. But even though they often face a lonely road, they also continuously witness the impact of the arts in the lives of marginalised and under-served communities and individuals.

“Receiving an award of this stature provides us with a significant profile and gives our work the visibility it needs and deserves. It emboldens us to continue the critical work of FATC,” he said.

The handover ceremony took place during the morning and was well attended. The programme included a warm welcome speech by FATC chair Dr Mongezi Makhalima.

“Congratulations to PJ Sabbagha and the team of FATC,” Peters said.“We are looking forward to more great work from FATC for many years to come.”