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Arts lecturer receives international recognition for her work

by Gerrit Bester

Shortly before Women’s Day, one of the Faculty of Arts and Design’s foremost staff members, Dr Refiloe Lepere, lecturer at the Department of Performing Arts, has been recognised with the esteemed Artist | Scholar | Activist (ASA) Award for her exceptional achievements within the cross-disciplinary field of performance. The award, presented to individuals who have dedicated at least a decade to fostering exchange among artists, scholars and activists while facilitating interdisciplinary or international collaborations, carries a cash prize of $1000 (USD) and is made by Performance Studies international (PSi).

The renowned theatre director, black feminist playwright, drama therapist, journalist and facilitator’s illustrious career, spanning over 17 years, has made a profound impact in the areas of participatory theatre, postcolonial and feminist theories in literature and performance studies, and artistic activism. Her therapeutic theatre work addresses critical issues of social injustice, trauma, intersectional identities of black women, and labour as a performance, blending history, statistics and personal narratives to evoke powerful emotions and stimulate discussions.

Asked what the recognition means to her, Dr Lepere says: “I am truly humbled by the award. One does a lot of work and it’s an honour to have peers acknowledge that work. Throughout my journey as an artist, scholar and activist, I have witnessed the tremendous impact that art can have on society, as it transcends boundaries, challenges norms and ignites conversations that bring about positive change.”

“This award not only recognise my individual contributions, but it also celebrates the collective efforts of all those who have walked this path with me. It is a testament to the power of collaboration, interdisciplinary exploration and international exchange in pushing the boundaries of what art can achieve, fostering understanding and unity among diverse perspectives. I share this award with every artist, scholar and activist who has dedicated their time, energy and creativity to breaking barriers and reshaping our world for the better,” Dr Lepere adds.

With a wealth of academic accomplishments, Dr Lepere holds a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, an MA in Drama Therapy from New York University, a Bachelor's degree in Dramatic Art, and an Honours degree in Journalism and Media Studies, all from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Her tireless efforts towards arts for social change, Pan-African feminist aesthetics, and the development of inclusive creative communities globally have garnered her recognition as one of the most versatile and prolific South African theatre directors. Dr Lepere's productions have graced stages not only in South Africa but also in Botswana, Germany, the UK, the USA, Canada and Swaziland.

Beyond the stage, Dr Lepere's creativity transcends into other mediums, as seen in her radio dramas that have been broadcasted in multiple countries across Africa. Her work has been admired for pushing boundaries and addressing social issues using drama-based techniques to create positive change.

Furthermore, she has curated and hosted several symposiums on Arts in Health, Stigma and Theatre for Human Rights and Social Justice. She collaborates with academics, politicians, celebrities and businesspeople, providing creative solutions using theatre and drama-based techniques for training seminars, large-scale events and conferences.

The ASA Award is a testament to Dr Lepere's immense talent, dedication and innovative approach to art, education and activism. Her ongoing creative research project, 'Creative Research Lab,' funded by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), exemplifies her commitment to artistic inquiry, scholarship and cultural innovation.

The award ceremony took place at the PSi conference held in Johannesburg where Dr Lepere was celebrated for her exceptional contributions.

· Performance Studies international (PSi) is a professional association founded in 1997 to promote communication and exchange among artists, thinkers, activists and academics working in the field of performance.

Dr Refiloe Lepere, lecturer at the Department of Performing Arts, Faculty of Arts and Design, has been honoured with the prestigious Artist | Scholar | Activist Award from Performance Studies international (PSi).


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