Shakespeare in Africa

Quelimane, the capital of the Zambezia province of Mozambique, lies on the coast of Africa on the Indian Ocean. Prone to floods in the rainy season, the city has just under 200,000 inhabitants and high HIV/AIDS and illiteracy rates. Though the official language is Portuguese, the most common language is Chuabo. Many aid groups work in and around Quelimane, including World Vision International and Save the Children, UK.

Toronto’s Shakespeare Link Canada, a non-profit group dedicated to unified global communication through the works of William Shakespeare, has toiled for almost 5 years developing partnerships with companies such as A Companhia de Canto e Danca Montes Namuli, a renowned traditional song and dance company.

The group has been able to travel to Quelimane in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2006, SLC raised enough money to fund travel to Toronto for 16 members of Montes Namuli for the International AIDS Conference. SLC has adapted several Shakespearean plays, in collaboration with Montes Namuli, to an HIV/AIDS awareness theme.

Among these plays are Sonho Nocturno – Dream at Night (A MIdsummer Night’s Dream) and Medida por Medida (Measure for Measure). This partnership has also given way to opportunities for the group to form other community partnerships in and around Quelimane, including PEDRA Program for girls 9 to 14 which promotes HIV/AIDS awareness, self-confidence and life skills. The result has been a developed trust, shared vocabulary, unified vision and a process involving working within a bilingual environment with a common goal of using theatre to educate.

Looking to the future, the group has committed to building an Arts Centre in Quelimane to house Montes Namuli and an international residence to safely house future artists working in the community. With a generous donation from the Mozambican government and public support, these plans will be underway soon. Artistic Director, Kennedy C. MacKinnon, General Manager, Dana Vranic and Associate Director, Ed Daranyi are expanding their vision and hope to be able to take their new model, developed in Quelimane, to Kenya and Japan.

Though Shakespeare Link Canada receives some support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian International Development Agency, the Africa Project: Dance With Us Not AIDS has been funded primarily through private and corporation donations and always welcomes any assistance offered. Much more information can be found at SLC’s brand new website. SLC is also on Facebook.

Article originally published on examiner.com.