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Ms Janet Buckland
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Written by: VVR

Ms Janet Buckland or simply known as Mama J to the communities in the Eastern Cape has been responsible for the initiation and creation of a significant number of very successful arts and culture projects in the province.

She combined her understanding of the value of the arts and particularly theatre in the lives of all South Africans with her skills as a performer, director, fund raiser and administrator to direct these projects over a number of years in the Eastern Cape.

The most notably project is UBOM! the Eastern Cape Drama Company, which was the first full time professional drama company in the province. It brings theatre presentations and drama workshops to literally thousands of people in schools and communities all over the Eastern Cape.

Ubom! is a dynamic blend of drama honours graduates and grass-roots community professionals working under the artistic directorship of Ms Buckland in an independently funded and autonomous project of Rhodes University.

Since its start almost six years ago Ubom! has reached audiences totaling more than 178 000. It also has provided 36 full time contracts for actors to work in the Eastern Cape. Ms Buckland is raising the funds to sustain it.

She also started the Amaphiko Township Dance Project which currently teaches well over 150 young girls and boys the joy and discipline of dance. Besides dancing the project also promotes a sense of self-worth and builds self-esteem within these young people.

In recent international dance exams the dancers earned themselves 25 distinctions - some of the best results in the country with one of the dancers receiving a full scholarship to Rhodes University and two additional bursaries as a result of both school and dance exam results.

Other than these two projects Ms Buckland is also involved in community projects, which are part of Ubom!, such as Art of the Street which is a workshop and performance programme working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds at the Eluxolweni Street Shelter in Grahamstown. It culminates in a therapeutic performance in which the children enact their stories in a theatrical and entertaining way on the official Street Theatre platform of the National Arts Festival.

When Ms Buckland first moved to the Eastern Cape in the early nineties she became Director of Arts Education Projects at the Grahamstown Foundation. There she ran amongst other ten High School Festivals of the Arts across six provinces every year. The North West, Western Cape, Mpumalanga Schools Festivals and an additional Gauteng Festival were all originally piloted by her Department.

She was also responsible for the growth and development of the Studio Project of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown which showcases Eastern Cape artists and has been nationally and internationally recognized for her community work, performances and directing.


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