Online concert: Celebrating 50 years from Nico Malan to Artscape, online from March 20, 2021

Celebrating 50 years from Nico Malan to Artscape in grand style

What: Series of online concerts When: From March 20, 2021 – 1st concert -directed by Basil Appollis Cost: Free Viewing platform: Artscape YouTube channel Direct link:  

The Artscape Theatre Centre –formerly the Nico Malan Theatre Centre –is celebrating its milestone 50th birthday, this year, 2021, with a series of concerts, around the theme:” yesterday, today and tomorrow”. The 1st concert, is going out online, on March 20, to celebrate Human Rights Day. Direction is by Basil Appollis. This concert will feature companies and artists which have or have had an association with Artscape. Companies include Cape Town Opera, Jazzart, Unmute Dance Company, Cape Town City Ballet, the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Zip-Zap Circus and artists such as Dizu Plaatjies, Vicky Sampson, Hilton Schilder,  Zinzi Nogavu, Sylvia Mdunyelwa, Diana Ferrus and Nicola Hanekom. The concert has been recorded in the Artscape Opera House and will be streamed, at no charge on the Artscape YouTube channel.

Celebration concerts will be presented throughout 2021. Other concerts scheduled include, Joyous Choirs – a mass choir presentation in celebration of choirs from the Western Cape Province. It is hoped that an outdoor community concert will be staged on the piazza in front of the building. With uncertainty around the Covid pandemic and lockdown regulations which may change, it is not possible to say if all the events will be online or if some may be held on stage or if others will be staged as hybrid- streaming combined with some in-person attendance at the venue. Check back with TheCapeRobyn, for updates.

As part of the 50th anniversary, Artscape will be launching a virtual tour – audio-visual- to provide insights into the physical building. Part of this audio-visual tour, will include access to the history of the building, its former name as The Nico Malan and its transformation into the vital centre it is now with access for all – across demographics,  gender and other challenged. There will be exhibitions and interactions with icons and people who worked there – past and present.

Artscape CEO, Marlene le Roux says: “When I think of this building and the theme we have chosen to celebrate its golden jubilee, “yesterday, today and tomorrow”, I am reminded that the Nico Malan just five decades ago opened its doors, excluding the largest section of the population, as if we just didn’t exist, treating us like the second-class citizens the Apartheid Regime believed us to be. And yet, here we are, in 2021, in all our glory, telling our stories on the very stages that alas were denied us when it first opened its doors. That is what this building represents: the evolution of a species, the struggles of stalwarts, the wherewithal of those that helped to bring us to this point in our history. And it is to them that we give thanks as the building turns 50.”

The building goes back to May 19, 1971, when it was opened as the Nico Malan Theatre Centre. It was named in honour of Dr Johannes Nicholas Malan, the former National Party administrator of the Cape Province, who initiated the project. The complex was constructed on land which was ‘reclaimed’ in the Foreshore area. About 194 hectares- which had been previously been underwater – were reclaimed from the sea and dried out, between July 8, 1941 and July 31, 1945. []. The Nico Malan was operated and managed by the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) as a production house. There were four arts companies – orchestra, opera, ballet and drama. In 1971, it was a facility for Whites only. After extensive lobbying, in 1975, The Nico Malan, became the first South African theatre that allowed all races into its premises, by the Apartheid government, under the National Government’s reviled ‘permit system’.  On March 11, 1978 the Nationalist government of the time revoked legislation forbidding mixed race audiences and casts. The Nico was open to all. However, the name remained and with that name, a host of unpalatable associations lingered. The Nico – as it was commonly referred to – had to shed its old identity. This dovetailed with the disbanding of performing arts boards in the post-1994 era. Performing arts boards became “playhouses”.  CAPAB ceased to exist. On March 27, 2001, The Nico Malan was renamed as Artscape and opened up to other “art genres, performers and patrons”, not previously in the mix.  In 2021, Artscape operates as “an agency of the National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.” The building, as a property, belongs to the Western Cape Government. 

Happy birthday to Artscape – here is to celebrating “today” and “tomorrow”, and at the same time recognising the importance on reflecting on “yesterday” and excavating through some of the many untold stories of people who made their mark from Nico Malan to Artscape.

Featured image: Taare Dance Group. Supplied.