Soweto theatre group Ngizwe, has been named the recipient of the National Arts Festival’s Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Human Rights Award, sponsored by the Embassy of the Netherlands, for their production of THE LITTLE ONE.

According to the Festival’s Executive Producer, Ashraf Johaardien, the aim of the award is to recognise artists whose creative practise is grounded in exploring the potential of the arts to advocate for social change and to entrench South Africa’s human rights culture.

“Adelaide Tambo shared a birthday with Nelson Mandela and was a champion of human rights.  Her daughter Tselane Tambo presented the inaugural award in 2014 in honour of her late mother,” he said, announcing that this year the award is being rededicated as the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Human Rights Award in partnership with the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation to mark the Centenary of the late Oliver Reginald Tambo.

In addition to the cash prize sponsored by the Embassy of the Netherlands, the Festival will invite the winning production to return the 2018 National Arts Festival Fringe and will waive the costs of registration. The winner will also have the option of presenting a new work on that basis.

“O.R Tambo was one of the founding fathers of our constitutional democracy so I am really excited that the Fringe as a platform is able to recognise his contribution and to reward artists who keep his spirit alive,” said Festival Fringe Manager, Zikhona Nweba.

Ngizwe Youth Theatre has harnessed the power of theatre to share a narrative that is not often highlighted. While many playwrights may present work about the unique reality faced by children living on the street, Tshabalira Lebakeng’s direct and personal experience conveys an authenticity and creates a deeper understanding of the harsh realities,” commented Festival Artistic Committee Member Tracey Saunders. “Through the performing arts, he has created opportunities for disadvantaged youth and the experience afforded them of participating at the festival and having their lives validated cannot be underestimated. In addition to the social value of the production he has created, it was thoughtfully designed with some incredible performances,” she added.

THE LITTLE ONE was presented at the National Arts Festival Fringe 2017 by Ngizwe Youth Theatre and was co-directed by Emma Delius,  with writer Tshabalira Lebakeng who also features in the piece along with Thembelihle Hadebe and  Nobuhle Mbanjwa. The play is the true story of a group of homeless children living on the tough streets of Durban. Tshabalira takes us on a journey back to when he himself was a street child living in Durban. Interwoven into his story are the experiences and testimonies of a young cast, who themselves know the betrayal of family and the daily grind of surviving poverty. THE LITTLE ONE uses song, movement and humour to chronicle an authentic picture of the daily experiences of a mismatched group of children, who sleep beside each other at a train station.

Director Emma Delius and writer Tshabalira Lebakeng commented, “We are deeply honoured to be the first Fringe production to receive this rededicated version of a prestigious award . THE LITTLE ONE brings to life the experiences of street children, drawing on the childhood of co-director Tshabalira Lebakeng. The story was brought to life by a community project called Ngizwe Youth Theatre  based in Diepkloof, Soweto. Ngizwe, harnesses the untapped but huge potential of children who live in the area.  We are deeply grateful to the National Arts Festival fringe and our sponsors for giving us the opportunity to stage this production for the first time.

Former recipients of the (previously named Adelaide Tambo Human Rights Award) have included Irene Stephanou’s SEARCHING FOR SOMEBODY, the Market Theatre Laboratory’s NOORD! And Drama For Life’s AFRIQUEER.