Chosen by the Arts
Mentioning the job title of artistic director to someone usually conjures up an image of a dreary job description that entails directing art in a literal sense. This is not true for Tebogo Maboa, artistic director at Lenstwe Arts Projects (LEAP), who, in his 25 years in the industry, still sees his job as a vocation that has been a ‘wonderful journey’ thus far.
Tebogo explains that, as artistic director, he is responsible for the conception, development and implementation of the artistic programme for the year. “This entails selecting the finest South African stories. We are currently running a production called Potchefstroom Road in the North West. This is a unique story written by Martin Koboekae,” reveals Tebogo, who, even after many years in the industry, still has his hands as full as on the first day that he started in the arts.
Arts: A Healing Therapy for Society
It is all about celebrating our culture, particularly that of the North West, notes Tebogo. In this regard, he is an artiste who has come full circle, for he has not only been involved in the arts for 25 years, but has also worked across genres that include theatre, television, feature films, radio dramas, puppetry, and facilitation of drama workshops. Having been in an industry for so long - and this in an age when people are hopping from one industry to the next - means that the arts are doing something right by Tebogo. “The arts are the therapy that we, as a nation, need in order to heal. Through interaction with various audiences in South Africa and abroad, LEAP is closer to that objective, and it makes us one with the world,” he states.
Tebogo points out that South Africa has a long past, with stories that need to be told. The past brought with it sad and happy memories, but, unfortunately, the sad seems to outweigh the fond memories. Hence, Tebogo believes that society needs people to open up and be healed – and the only way he sees this healing taking place is through the arts. He elaborates that the arts fraternity is the one aspect that can put “our intentions as a people back into one frame of mind. We need the arts to keep our sanity.” Did Tebogo then choose the arts to maintain his sanity? He is adamant that this is not the case, for it is the industry that chose him. “This is what I know and do best. The arts chose me and I accepted,” he says.
Tebogo works in close collaboration with Karabo Kgokong, a colleague at Lentswe Arts Projects who is the production manager of a popular television comedy show that airs on SABC 2 on Sunday nights. He takes time to share some of his career highlights in the arts. “Amongst the mentors, tutors and directors that lent a hand in honing my skills are the late Matsemela Manaka and Walter Chakela from South Africa. Others from the local scene include Professor Bob Leshoai, Martin Koboekae, Carol Ashman, Mpumelelo Grootboom and the Arrep Company.” Internationally he has worked with American Professor Rodney Whitaker, Austrian Dr John O’Toole and Belgian Charles Cornett. Tebogo has also worked abroad in such countries as Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Spain and in Luxemburg.
However, Tebogo’s role as artistic director at LEAP has its fair share of challenges. He explains that, in order to tell the true South African story, artistes of the right calibre need to be selected. “We have to ensure that we are able to select, in the right frame, the people whom we want to use. Choosing what kind of stories to tell is also a poser, as the country has so much to share,” he elaborates.
Tebogo adds that the challenges faced are minor compared with the gratification that he and the team have when a project is completed. “Once we have overcome the obstacles of choosing the right people to tell a particular story, and that story has been told, only then do we achieve fulfilment. In the end, each and every story that we tell has the required impact on the audience. It is worth the trouble,” says Tebogo. In his work in the arts and as artistic director of LEAP, Tebogo has met and worked with the ‘who’s who’ in the entertainment industry. Among the people he has worked with are television actor Don Mlangeni-Nawa and internationally acclaimed Mbongeni Ngema, who is well known for the production, Sarafina.
While there are many lessons that Tebogo has drawn from his interactions with such people, there is one unique and important ‘take-out’ that remains: as an artist, one has to tell stories that touch the lives of ordinary people, that reach their souls and that bring healing in the process. Tebogo is looking forward to possibly another two decades in the arts industry. The past has been filled with many a story to tell and, if that is anything to go by, the future promises a lot more stories. Is his career at its peak in the arts? Tebogo opines that while he feels that he has given his best, there is still more that needs to be done: more stories to be told by South Africans for South Africans.
Having told stories that touch lives, reach souls and bring healing, Tebogo is of the opinion that he has lived his ultimate dream in the industry. “After realising how I had touched lives, my career took a positive turn. I can easily say that there is no reward or success that can surpass that. It has been the highlight of my life in the arts,” he concludes.
Giving Back to the Community
LEAP is a nonprofit organisation that was established in March 2011.
Since its inception, LEAP has been involved in artistic and social development projects in the North West.
LEAP was involved in the Maitiso Le Kea project and bought school uniforms for needy children at Magokwane Primary School on the outskirts of Mafikeng.
Another of its contributions has been the provision of a school uniform for a needy child at Redibone Middle School in Mmabatho.
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