A Legacy carried out by Passion
A woman, who could have thrived in the business world, assured a position in a family business, chose to follow her purpose discovered on the field. Fatima Dike had a passion for education, wanting to impart the wealth of knowledge she had, down to the next generation.
She says she grew up fascinated by English as a language and subject. Her teacher at that time made it all easy for her to understand the language. She then told herself that she would live to teach and specialize in English, because she believed that as an educator, when you teach what you love, you do it with passion. That was part of the reasons why she started to pursue Education. Politics at that time became a stumbling block which then lead her to abandoning the dream. Unhappily, at the realization that she would never be able to specialise in two subjects she was most passionate about, English and History, she decided to neglect her passion at the time and focused on the family business, Equally passionate about History, as she was with English, it was in the early months of 1970, during the years of the Black Consciousness Movement in the US and in South Africa, that she was introduced to and started learning about the laws, by going to the libraries. She recited books that were banned in South Africa and that was how she became a Poet. In 1972, Ms. Dike had an opportunity to meet a person who had introduced her to many other Poets. That was how her interest in the Arts started and grew. She was exposed to poetry readings which at the time were held at University of Cape Town ( UCT), and there, she met people who influenced and inspired her greatly. “I don’t believe things happen by mistake in life – I believe they are meant to happen” as she went on to explain how her theatre journey began.
“Opposite my friends’ workplace, at the time, was a warehouse that was being renovated into a theatre and she suggested that we go volunteer as tea ladies so that we could get into the theatre. I looked at her and said; you are white, you have money and can afford working for free. I am black and when I work, I work for remuneration. She didn’t even consider that – pulled me into the theatre and forced me right into the project and that’s how my career started in theatre”. In the process of the renovation of the theatre, a fundraising concert was hosted. Ms Dike was granted an opportunity to read one of the black poems and she had at that point never been on stage before. Little did she know that, this marked the beginning of her life on stage and in theatre.
“I can be guilty of everything but not of spoiling the mind of a young black child” - Fatima Dike
In 1975, when the theatre was up and running, they seemed to have never forgotten about her. They called her, and she started working at the theatre, though they never really had a job for her. She ran errands and eventually, her intelligence was realized, and her hand was tried out as Stage Manager. She, as she says, failed dismally. She was then put in a space where she had guidance and learnt along the way. Being a stage manager meant Ms Dike sat in the rehearsal room together with the Director and actors because her job would then be to help out where actors
would happen to forget a line or word… “And that’s when and how I learnt to write,” she says with great satisfaction. In the same year Rob Amarto, a white man who had great love for theatre, arrived from East London. He kick- started Fatimas’ career as a writer. “I, personally, had no interest whatsoever in Writing plays until Rob gave me his research. It changed my mind and on the research, what blew my mind was a copy of The Daily Dispatch of 1896 that had an article on the Son of King Hintsa and that story evoked much emotion in me and I had to do it,” she says with so much emotion, passion furring through her eyes. In July of 1976, she wrote her very first play and was announced a professional writer. That play toured the Eastern Cape, where families watched and according to her, was the best acted out play and her favourite performance of all time.
She then started writing plays annually because she now had a skill to improve and by 1980 she had written four plays. Ms. Dikes’ theatre life spanned forty years and she refers to herself as the embodiment of protest theatre because she was born into it – literally. In 2002 she partnered and started a foundation called Siyasanga Cape Town Theatre Company and it moved into Guga S’thebe and started a performing arts project with schools, where they teach all drama subjects. Children in the location started to come into drama school. This project made it possible for all those with passion and love for theatre but financially burdened to pursue their dreams to realize them. And into this Haven – all are welcomed.