28 July 2023 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Leonie Bolleurs
Attending the ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the UFS Department of Drama and Theatre Arts and the OSM with PACOFS, were from the left: Prof Anthea van Jaarsveld, Prof Mogomme Masoga, Themba Dlamini, and Dr Jan Beukes, Head of the Odeion School of Music.

The University of the Free State (UFS) Department of Drama and Theatre Arts and the Odeion School of Music (OSM) recently (26 July 2023) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS), linking the sciences with real-world practice.

The MoA includes the use of PACOFS facilities, joint art and culture development projects, joint community projects, and overall cross-pollination between academia and the industry in the sphere of the arts. It is merging the strengths of the two entities for the development of the Free State.

Prof Anthea van Jaarsveld, Head of the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, said signing this agreement is more than a ceremonial act, it is a testament to the UFS and PACOFS’ commitment to progress and innovation.

“It is the first time that the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts and the OSM have signed a memorandum of agreement with PACOFS. We also consider this as an extremely important and valuable collaboration that speaks to the values in the UFS Vision 130,” she said.

The event was also attended by the Chief Executive Officer of PACOFS, Themba Dlamini, and other PACOFS representatives, as well as Prof Mogomme Masoga, Dean of the Faculty of The Humanities, and staff and students of the OSM and the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts.

Relevance of academia in the growing industry

According to Prof Masoga, this agreement gives testimony to how the university expands its focus and pushes for engaged scholarship. “It is quite exciting, because it brings communities very close to the university and the university very close to communities. I am thrilled about this. We are looking forward to exciting projects that will come out of this collaboration.”

As stated by Prof Van Jaarsveld, this agreement brings value to the curriculum and effectively links the sciences with real-world practice, building on sustainability, excellence, impact, and visibility. She holds the opinion that it also demonstrates the relevance of academia in the growing industry.

She said that this event is not about merging names on a piece of paper or simply sharing resources. “It is about bridging the gap between academia and the arts, where knowledge is nurtured, and creativity flourishes. It is about fostering an environment where diverse perspectives merge, giving birth to innovations that shape the very fabric of society.”

Enriched education experience for staff and students

Prof Van Jaarsveld believes that this collaboration between the UFS and PACOFS holds immense promise and has many benefits. For instance, for the UFS this collaboration means an opportunity to enrich the education experience for staff and students, while it signifies a new chapter for PACOFS where the talent of artists is nurtured, amplified, and given a platform to thrive, said Prof Van Jaarsveld.

More importantly, she said this alliance between the UFS and PACOFS is an opportunity to address the challenges faced by communities, and blending the art industry with education can inspire hope, provoke thought, and foster the resilience needed to overcome the trials of the time.

Leaving no one behind

“We are here because we do not intend to leave anyone behind on this journey. As institutions with convening authority, we have a responsibility to Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education, which includes increasing skills in the youth and the promotion of sustainable development in education,” said Dlamini.

According to him, this partnership allows the entities involved to use drama and theatre as a game changer to address the social ills in society. He added that the MoA will not have any significance until it has a meaningful impact on the institutions, and everyone associated with it. “This partnership must translate into a real impact on the aspirants in performing arts,” he said.

Dlamini concluded by saying that he has no doubt that the agreement would inspire confidence in his institution both among the beneficiaries and the broader communities in and around the Free State.

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