by Kutloano Kunutu & Daniel Charvat
pic by Karen Crouch
Janet Buckland is the artistic director of the Eastern Cape’s first full-time professional drama company, Ubom! This year, Buckland has been honoured with the Shoprite Checkers/SABC2 Woman of the Year award. Since her move to Grahamstown in the early 90s, Buckland has worked with the community to bring dance to the people, and has been involved in many community dance projects. Kutloano Kunutu and Daniel Charvat speak to Buckland about her award as well as her invlovement in Grahamstown theatre.
Is ‘Woman of the Year’ one of your more important awards?
You know, it’s a little embarrassing. I’m really happy when the projects shine. It was a little disconcerting, being awarded. I think it’s a little unrealistic because you’re part of something bigger, you know. There were things that did bug me; it’s not a personality competition. I think the whole idea of a competition is unrealistic; it’s the media that loves a competition. I believe the idea of the competition is artificially constructed – people love sensational things. Not in a million years did I ever consider I would win this award. I was convinced that somebody else was going to win it, so I was there, drinking wine and having a party, just having a jol. The first shock was the arts and culture award and the other [Woman of the Year award] was so enormous. I think the excitement here is that they recognised how important arts and culture is. So, it’s now the Eastern Cape being looked at as achieving something rather than being like ‘shame, backwards Eastern Cape’ sort of thing. Personally, what I’ve loved has been the affirmation from everybody else. That’s been lovely. The way Grahamstown’s taken it to heart, that kind of brings it home. That kind of makes it feel lekker.
How long have you been involved in theatre South Africa?
Gosh, I think ever since I was a child. I think the way that Grahamstown is set up, access to the community is very, very easy and the ‘need’ made itself very obvious quite early on. I think, in the kind of work that I like to do, since 1993. But theatre, all my life– and I’m 52 so it’s quite a long time.
Were you reluctant to come back to Grahamstown in 1993?
Oh, very. I was born in the Eastern Cape and I love the Eastern Cape, but we’d gone to Johannesburg and we’d just got to a point where we’d bought a house in Parkhurst. In 11 years you make a lot of deep friendships, so it felt like we were going backwards.
Do you and your husband, Andrew, work together a lot?
We do, and we work very well together. We tend to be able to just push the fragile egos aside. I remember when we did Feedback. That was amazing because it was as a result of working most ridiculously difficult hours and in a style we got used to, which was quite informal really. He’s such a humble, amazing man, so there’s never been an ego problem in the house, he just lets my ego reign and he just reins his in.