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Ansisters Event August 2005


Detail from the performance 'Patterns Outside My Head' by Janine Lewis, Rantebeng Makapan and Bonisile Nxumalo. As part of the FACE Ansisters 2005 event, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg.

Copyright © FACE 2005.
All rights reserved.

workshops : hlumelo theatre philosophy

empowerment techniques
training workshops
creation and destruction
diverse social reality
therapeutic stage
bodies remember
empowerment process

eugenie grobler
Eugenie Grobler, founder of Hlumelo Theatre and the FACE project. Facilitator of FACE workshops.

To find out more about Hlumelo Theatre, please visit the website at

or contact Eugenie at

action oriented empowerment techniques

Hlumelo theatre is an organization that initiates projects as well as specialised and training courses within a wide range of settings, using custom-made action oriented empowerment techniques developed in South Africa.


training workshops and outreach initiatives

Currently, the main components consist of training workshops and specific outreach initiatives in the form of different programs addressing aspects of disempowerment aimed at pre-identified targeted communities/ organizations/ audiences, around pre-determined social problems.


cycle of creation and destruction

Hlumelo, a Xhosa word, means ‘shoot of a dead tree’ and refers to the eternal cycle of creation and destruction that is part of life. It encapsulates our mission, which is to facilitate the release of old patterns of thought and behavior that are disempowering to us as individuals, groups, organizations or society, and to welcome new ways of being with ourselves, each other and the structures and communities that we are part of and through which we express and experience ourselves.


diverse cultural and social reality

Hlumelo Theatre Therapy has been operational since 1995.  The time and place in which it developed (South-Africa in the mid 90’s) had a big part to play in the design of the Hlumelo Theatre Therapy techniques.

The methodology and techniques developed within a very diverse cultural and social reality at a time of accelerated change, as South-Africans struggled to address and come to grips with a history of oppression, disempowerment and trauma, whilst trying to move forward through efforts at re-conciliation, transformation and a search for new identity. It resulted in a series of theories and applications that celebrates that which is universal as it applauds the expression of diverse cultural and individual identity. During the time that Hlumelo Theatre Therapy has been operational, the techniques used in the workshop space have been developed and refined.


forms of intervention

These techniques consist of a unique set of experiential action-oriented forms of intervention that support and challenge people into actively seeking ways of authentic empowerment for themselves, the communities they are part of and society as a whole.

The techniques used by Hlumelo Theatre Therapy have been influenced by international practice in diverse fields, including:

  • Drama, drama therapy, theatre as weapon, psychodrama and theatre in education
  • Psychology, specifically Jungian analysis, and Process work.

The influences from the various fields are brought together into a dynamic innovating learning approach, where the specific problems, needs and growth challenges of a specific audience determine the outcome. The work draws from many fields. In the centre of it, is the stage.


the therapeutic stage

To me the therapeutic stage is incredible for two reasons. The first is what happens to our experience of time when we enter the stage. It is a space that stands out of time, where people completely accept that the past, the future and the present can meet each other and be experienced simultaneously in the here and now. When we enter on stage, we move out of our linear experience of time and enter circular time in which it is completely acceptable to fast forward, rewind (remind), pause, skip or change channels.

The theatrical space, when activated to serve its original purpose, is becoming increasingly important. It is a space with the potential to invoke and support us in the search for balance as individuals, communities, society and humanity as a whole, where we can do our bit to become balanced individuals, and through that contribute to bring balance to the world.


our bodies remember

In addition, through the Hlumelo Theatre Method, we do not only talk about empowerment - we do it. We get up, in the here and now and we do it. We rehearse, with our bodies, minds, words, emotions, with all of us the changes we want to make in our reality. When we leave the stage, we have already practised and embodied new behaviour. We have already shifted into more balanced behaviour. When we leave the stage, our bodies remember how it moved and how it felt to shift from crooked to straight, because they have moved through it already, our hearts remember how it feels when we make this change, we’ve tasted, tested and chosen our words already, our intentions are clear, we are prepared, in as much as one can prepare for life and still be open and spontaneous. Moreover, with every step we take to empower ourselves in a balanced way, we are doing our bit to set the world around us straight.


empowerment process

In the Hlumelo method, the individual and their empowerment process is like a point of entry. As we work together to achieve empowerment for ourselves, we constantly integrate this within our place in the world - how the changes and choices we make impacts our loved ones, our community, our country and finally the world

In principle, Hlumelo aims to address both people’s inability to recognize their own potential power and to capitalize on sometimes hidden opportunities, by offering an effective alternative to current forms of intervention. 



Each citizen is a co-creator of the reality of South Africa. Our individual actions and non-actions are the contributing factors that shape the fabric of our collective reality.  Instead of being at the mercy of powerful forces outside our control, Hlumelo facilitates a process where participants can move away from being passive spectators/victims and become authentic actors in the unfolding story of their reality.

To break cycles of disempowerment (victim/perpetrator/rescuer) by working towards a culture of active participation of the ordinary citizen, through enabling people to address and self-create solutions to issues of disempowerment, whether individual, therapeutic, communal or around social and economic concerns.


Authentic empowerment can only take place when we operate under a sustainable value system. When we look at today’s norm of what people aspire to, there is an alarming emphasis on material success, which is supported by media across the world. The American dream of “bigger is better” is not sustainable for all, only for a lucky few, and the result is unrealistic expectations, which is especially harmful in the South-African climate where traditional cultures and their underlying value systems are threatened. There is a lot of talk in South Africa about change management, but very little talk about value management. In my opinion, the outcome of what we create will finally reflect the values from which our ideas, aspirations and goals came from. If those values are not sustainable, the structures we create will, in the end, not be sustainable. Therefore, it is crucial to be conscious of the values we choose to support, and to entrench a sustainable and practical value system for the future in what we create today.



The Hlumelo theatre method operates within the philosophy of Ubuntu - it seeks to create and activate an environment in which people can become human in the highest sense of this word, through the co-creation and consequent transformation of the playing fields of power in which we realize our highest aspirations, potential and capacity as fellow journey (wo) men.  In accordance with this, our work seeks to:

  • Explore and improve inter-personal relationships
  • Question and challenge (where necessary) societal structures that reflect the way we relate   and co-create as members of a community, organization or society.
  • Explore, expand and respect authentic individual identity.
  • Practice the acquisition of conscious congruent communication-both verbal and non-verbal.
  • Activate spontaneity and creativity, and therefore the emergence of individual power.
  • Unleash the power of individuals to participate in the co-creation of their reality.
  • Challenge ourselves to strife to become that which we seek to call forth in others.

Posted 28 May 2005,, author: Eugenie Grobler