Through your love and support we have made it this far in our campaign funding. This is extremely exciting! We boldly decided to forge ahead with another year of programming. Welcome to the 2017/18 Season of Nomads. The Watah Theatre is now accepting applications for its Artist-in-Residency programs.
Watah is the ONLY theatre company in Canada offering over TUITION-FREE residencies for the professional artistic development of BIQTPOC (Black, Indigenous, Queer, LGBT+, Trans, People of Colour) peoples as future artist -leaders. We do this with little-to-no funding.
In March 2016, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognized the power of the arts as a mechanism for promoting and protecting the human rights of Black people in Canada. It released a statement saying:
'The Committee is concerned about the inadequate funding and promotion of African art and culture, that adds to the structural discrimination faced by this group in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in the State party (art. 15). The Committee recommends that the State party promote, and increase the funding to, the art and culture of African Canadians, and to this end, use the International Decade for People of African Descent, proclaimed by General Assembly, as a vehicle to promote and protect the human rights of this group.'
What this means is that the United Nations has officially observed that mainstream Canadian arts and cultural funding institutions are failing to uphold Canada’s international human rights obligation to provide equitable support for Black arts, artists and arts institutions.
The Watah Theatre contributes to, supports and develops the legacy of Black Theatre in Canada by cultivating and sharing a unique African-Caribbean-Canadian feminist theatre aesthetic, heavily informed by the radical performance tradition of Jamaica’s dub poetry and dub theatre. The company insists on challenging systemic barriers that exclude Black and diverse theatre artists, giving Black and diverse arts practitioners a local, national and international platform to showcase and celebrate their work.
Radical arts-engagement sits at the core of Watah's commitment to providing artists with the tools to self-actualize, create relevant art and uncover crucial mentorship skills for each one to teach one. The company insists on giving Black arts practitioners a local, national and international platform to showcase and celebrate their work. Since its inception, Watah has facilitated the growth and development of over 700 artists locally, nationally and globally through residencies, workshops and one-to-one mentorship.
WHO AM I
Hello my name is d'bi.young anitafrika and I am a Jamaican-born, Toronto based multidisciplinary artist. My parents brought me to Canada at age 15 and I can remember, even from then, having access to rigorous mentorship through people who cared so deeply about my growth and development as a person, that they were willing to share their time, their resources, their expertise and their love with me.
The village who raised me provided me with positive reflection and an optimistic outlook on life that lifted me up and out of deep self-loathing and lack of self-worth. It challenged notions that as a young Black, queer, working class immigrant, I was worthless; and instead gave me the tools to write my own life-script filled with adventure and promise. Without the guidance of my elder aunties and uncles, a community of compelling, creative and compassionate human beings, I would not be the artist I am today!
This is the reason why I began the initiative of 'anitafrika dub theatre' in 2008, which re-emerged as The Watah Theatre in 2014, offering tuition-free wholistic artistic professional development through its PADI Program, to emerging and mid-career Black, POC (People of Colour) and LGBTQQIP2SAA artists.
This space, Watah, which has nurtured the growth of hundreds of artists across race, gender, class and orientation is now in danger of closing due to a lack of operating funding to cover the cost of rent, salaries and programming. Since founding the theatre in 2014, I have funded it out of my pocket, channelling the money I earn as an artist directly into covering the operational budget of The Watah Theatre.
I have, from the very beginning, volunteered as Artistic Director while teaching the tuition-free residencies myself, using the Anitafrika Sorplusi Method. I do this because I was taught by a community of people that to create the world you want to live in, you have to make choices grounded in integrity, gratitude and kindness. You have to put in the hard work and you have to know that you are in it for the long haul. I am in it for the long haul. But I must share with you that the pervasiveness of this deeply institutionalized system of racial discrimination oozes itself into every facet of life. First Nations, Black and POC arts initiatives and companies routinely receive disproportionately less or no funding resulting in a shorter life-span and forced closure. This reality makes building and sustaining an institution for Black people very very very very very very very difficult! However, I am not about to give up!
The staff at Watah Theatre is mostly comprised of Artists-in-Residents themselves, who barter their resources in exchange for a place in the residency. After receiving no funding in 2014, we came to you, dear village, for support, and you helped us then in raising $8000. Thank you tremendously! We have received numerous project grants from grants from The Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council however have recieved NO FUNDING FOR OPERATIONS!
It is challenging at best and heart-breaking at worst to see the links between systemic racism and the lack of financial support that The Watah Theatre is getting, in spite of the incredible impact it is having within our communities and within the broader Canadian cultural landscape.
I remain DEEPLY optimistic!
WHAT DO WE NEED
Will you HELP to SAVE The Watah Theatre? We need ongoing funding to cover rent, to pay salaries and to support with programming! Right now we need to secure a new home and EVERY contribution (no matter the amount) will make a HUGE impact! If we cross this bridge, then we can continue the inward journey of creating TUITION-FREE space for BIQTPOC artists!
Founding Artistic Director of The Watah Theatre
It is our mission to create, support & nurture:
• the development & production of excellent Black & diverse theatre productions
• a space for Black & diverse artists who are under-represented in mainstream theatre, addressing challenges in accessing mentorship & professional development as theatre practitioners by eliminating racially & economically restrictive selection processes
• a new generation of African & diverse Canadian theatre-makers, arts-educators & mentors who are able to innovate future projects that further cultivate equity, justice, fairness, and accessibility in Toronto & Canada’s arts and social sectors
• an intersectional (w)holistic approach to artists’ lives, their art & their communities, allowing them to tell their stories, create their art & lead others with compassion, authenticity & professionalism
• a circular mentorship framework that nurtures strong engagement-based artistic practice between artists & community, developing artists who change the Canadian cultural landscape through their practice & their roles as ambassadors of change
• an established practice of archiving African & diverse Canadian theatre in Toronto & Canada’s arts and social sector through ongoing publication via Sorpluis Publishing
• to grow collaborations with allies of individuals, groups & organizations who can support Watah's vision & mission
Watah has also published three popular anthologies through Sorplusi Publishing featuring the theatrical and literary works of alumni arts practitioners; making archiving a priority. The company has also produced 57 new plays (from 2008-2016) by resident artists in our annual festivals: Mikey Smith Raw Works, Audre Lorde Works-In-Progress and Word! Sound! Powah Festival of Monodrama.
Watah Alumni include change-makers such as Amanda Parris of CBC's The Exhibitionist, Randell Adjei - founder of R.I.S.E, Che Kothari of Manifesto, Kim Katrin Milan & Naty Tremblay of The People Project, Natasha Adiyana Morris of Piece of Mine Festival, Mriga Kapadiya of Nor Black Nor White Fashion House, Lishai Peel - poet & arts educator, and Liza Paul and Bahia Watson of Pomme is French for Apple. These artists today, are leaders in their own creative fields, incorporating the Anitafrika Method's transformational skills-building and mentorship techniques as crucial facilitative, pedagogical and social frameworks in their creative and activist endeavors.
PLEASE help spread the word! Black Arts Matter!
BIOGRAPHY - d'bi.young anitafrika
d'bi.young anitafrika is a queer Black feminist artist, United Nations speaker, Canadian Poet of Honor, InkTalks/TED speaker and YWCA Woman of Distinction. The internationally celebrated African-Jamaican dubpoet, dramatist, educator, director and dramaturge is also a 3 time Dora Award winning writer-performer.
Her groundbreaking creative praxis - the Anitafrika Method - uses the Sorplusi Principles as an intersectional anti-oppression human development framework, which is studied and practiced globally by artists, instigators and policy-makers. d’bi is the founding Artistic Director of Watah; Canada's only professional theatre company that offers tuition-free artist residencies to over 25 Black and diverse artist-leaders per year. She is also the founder and CEO of The Sorplusi Institute and Sorplusi Publishing, a research-based social enterprise with a micro press extension producing works by Black and diverse creators.
Author of 5 books, 7 plays, and 6 dub albums, d'bi has toured nationally and internationally. She is currently creating the first ever Dub Opera, tackling global environmental issues through a large-scale political musical entitled Lukumi, scored by her Afro-fusion-Reggae band The 333. Catch d'bi this fall in the remount of her critically acclaimed play Blood.Claat, exploring menstruation as a right of passage and exposing childhood sexual violence. Blood.Claat was nominated for 5 Dora Awards and garnered 2 of them in the categories of Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance. dbiyounganitafrika.com