Press: Unmute ArtsAbility Festival

November 8, 2015

It is easier to notice a person’s disability than their ability. With this in mind, the Unmute Dance Company will be celebrating the International Week for People with Disability, with South Africa’s first Integrated Arts Platform- the Unmute ArtsAbility Festival.

The company has partnered with a host of local organisations to bring performers with and without disabilities together in a series of theatre events in and around Cape Town and its townships.

Sign language interpreter and company manager Mphotseng Shuping points out: “Disability is not a challenge.” Instead she sees people who “cannot deal with disability” as a bigger challenge. “Inclusiveness is important.”


The festival challenges choreographers, directors, filmmakers, photographers, visual artists and musicians to collaborate or create inclusive works of art for people with mixed abilities. It aims to challenge people’s misconceptions about disability and focuses on ability rather than disability.


The program for the first Unmute ArtsAbility Festival includes live performances, exhibitions and installations that have been refined through artistic workshops facilitated by artists from the Unmute Dance Company who are the pioneers of integrated arts in South Africa.

The company was born out of deaf dancer Andile Vellem’s search for his voice as a choreographer. As the country’s first fully-fledged integrated performing arts organization, they seek to inspire the inclusion of differently abled people in society through the arts.


One of the highlights of the Unmute ArtsAbility Festival is Imbizo Ability, which will be staged in celebration of International Day for People with Disability at the Artscape Opera House on Thursday 3 December. Directed by Mandisi Sindo and Themba Mbuli and performed by Lingua Franca, Unmute Dance Company, Muziek Sensation, Art of Hearts, Project Playground, Filia School for Special Needs, Light of Life Theatre, Rainbow Arts Organization, Jazzart and ArtsAbility Trainees. The show brings together performers from different genres and disciplines to create an artistic work that interrogates, integrates and celebrates people’s different abilities.


Other exciting events include a Sign Language and Dance Technique workshop hosted by Andile Vellem and Nadine Mckenzie, a programme showcasing female choreographers and directors which features commissioned works by Chuma Sopotela, Asanda Rilityana and Louise Coetzer and the screening of the 24-minute Unmute documentary.


For more information about the festival and productions, visit or search for the “Unmute ArtsAbility Festival 2015” page on Facebook.


Programme 1 – Inzalo Ability

Where: Theatre Arts Admin Collective
When: Monday 30 November and Tuesday 1 December
18:30 – 19:15 Public Art Performance Installations directed by Themba Mbuli
19:30 – 20:15 iSalad: Directed by Mandisi Sindo and performed by Unmute Dance Company, Lingua Franca, Muziek Sensation and Art of Hearts
20:30 – 21:00 These Hands by Andile Vellem and Limitations by Nadine Mckenzie and Yaseen Manuel (both works performed by ArtsAbility trainees)


Programme 2 – EnAbled
Where: Black Box Theatre, Rent Office, 583 Delft Main Rd, Delft
When: Tuesday 1 December:
10:00 – 13:00 Sign Language and Dance Technique workshop by Andile Vellem and Nadine Mckenzie
14:00 – 14:45 Public Art Performance Installations with Light of Light Theatre, Rainbow Arts Organization and Unmute Dance Company and trainees
15:00 – 15:30 Production by Rainbow Arts Academy
15:40 – 16:30 Unmute by Andile Vellem (performed by Unmute Dance Company)


Programme 3 – AccessAbility A
Where: NY 6 (Fezeka Street) to Gugulethu Sport Complex
When: Wednesday 2 December
10:00 – 12:00 Assitej South Africa Children’s Theatre Production
13:00 – 15:00 Public Art Performance at NY 6
15:15 – 17:00 Indoor Performances at Gugulethu Sport Complex – Curated by Mandisi Sindo and featuring works by Project Playground, Unmute Dance Company and Trainees, Light of life Theatre, United We Stand and AssitejSA.


Programme 4 – Imbizo Ability
Where: Artscape Theatre, Opera House
When: Thursday 3 December
11:00 – 11:45 Opera House foyer Installations
12:00 – 14:00 Opera House Theatre Performances featuring works by Lingua Franca, Muziek Sensation, Art of Hearts, Unmute Dance Company, Light of Life, Project Play Ground and more.


Programme 5 – AccessAbility B
Where: Youngblood, Beautifull Life Building, 70-72 Bree St, Cape Town
When: Thursday 3 December (part of “First Thursday” initiative)
18:00 – Late - Inside-Out Installations at Youngblood Gallery with performances by Lingua Franca, Muziek Sensation, Unmute Dance Company and more)

Programme 6 – Imbokodo Ability
Where: Theatre Arts Admin Collective
When: Friday 4 and Saturday 5 December.
4th & 5th December – Evening (Fri & Sat)
18:00 – 21:00 Female directors/choreographers programme showcase featuring commissioned works by Chuma Sopotela, Asanda Rilityana and Louise Coetzer.



More about the Unmute Dance Company:
Unmute Dance Company is a company of artists with mixed abilities using Physical Theatre, Contemporary and Integrated Dance to tell stories that resonates with South Africa’s journey of the last 21 years.

Unmute Dance Company’s aim is to address and challenge people’s state of mental-misconception on disabilities, encouraging people to break barriers and realize that South Africans are all-abled and have our own abilities and no one is confined by physical limitations. Having a disability does not make any person less a human or less capable, therefore removing shame from people is the company’s mission towards building an integrated society.


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