Simangele Mabena

Education Coordinator, From the Hip: Khulumakahle

Simangele Mabena finds she often gets lost in translation. As education coordinator for From the Hip: Khulumakahle (FTH:K) � a theatre company that integrates hearing and deaf performers � it's to be expected. It's not that she can't speak South African sign language, which she can, or that she doesn't understand the theatre space intimately, which she definitely does. It's just that this kind of "miscommunication� happens organically when you bring sign, body and theatre language together in one experimental room. And that's what makes integrated theatre so exciting to create, intensely interesting to perform and ultimately riveting to watch. Mabena may have fallen into this particular position on her way to an MA in dramatic arts, but she's always believed in drama as an effective educational tool. It all started in 2006, with her work as a special-needs youth worker in Canada, and continued back home in Soweto, where she began volunteering to work with deaf youth, using drama processes to help them understand English literature better. As education coordinator Mobena oversees FTH:K's Tell-Tale Signs programme, designed to lead deaf learners through a three-tier programme that will prepare them for the challenging world of the performing arts. For Mobena, this means conducting weekly classes at deaf schools and institutions, providing additional after-school training for promising learners and eventually integrating successful graduates into the company. She also helps to develop and plan the curriculum for each level. It's not an easy job for a 26-year-old, but it's one that this 2008 Mandela Rhodes scholar is more than capable of juggling, even while she plans a deaf performance and educational tour through four provinces this year. And after that? Well, she would like to get sign language passed as South Africa's offi cial 12th language. Here's betting she will. � Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Knead, Muizenberg