The inspiration to create a cultural centre grew out of the June 1976 Soweto uprising, a movement of students in Johannesburg’s townships to free the education system from the cultural and racial biases that were poisoning the nation. Communities around the world supported the students and were shocked and outraged at the brutality with which the student protesters were suppressed.
It was followed by a period of three years of work within township areas eg. Soweto, Kliptown, Eldorado Park and Lenasia when the founding Director and cultural activist, Benjy Francis setup a circuit of workshops in the arts focused on liberation and development. The difficulties on moving to these areas and working in unstable environments due to apartheid oppression made it difficult to build the programme. The need to find a fixed setting to develop a full spectrum of facilities grew out of this situation .
The ACC opened its doors in 1980, empowering children and students from Soweto and other Johannesburg townships with artistic , cultural social, educational and developmental programmes within the framework of the liberation struggle. Over the years, the ACC has undertaken innumerable programmes for young people, always with the purpose of affirming the rights of Human Rights through artistic expression. The building project was the result of some ten years of struggle inclined to acquire a suitable site. The present situation which was the old market of Johannesburg was least from the City Council (municipality) in 1992. We have struggled since then to develop the vision as shown in the plans. We have built a children’s Museum, an Operational Centre with resource library, crafts workshop, video studio and edit suite, cafeteria and small theatre since then. Since funds for capital development became difficult since post 1994. We have improvised and converted space for use with a wide variety of materials acquired through donations this has led to a development of a theatre and backstage area including dressing rooms, large arts studios, large flexible gallery spaces, workshop spaces, large store rooms for art materials and recycled waste materials for creative productive. The spaces are all very flexible and can be adapted according to event needs eg. we have had several large sit down receptions and performance events. The external spaces are being slowly landscaped and includes space for open air activities eg. theatre and dance activities, there is a play area adjacent to the Children’s Museum as a discovery park for children. The entire space is dynamic and allows imaginative and creative usage. Art instillation’s, theatre productions and children’s performances could brake all conventional bounds in this environment. We have restored and converted a 90 year old Edwardian toilet building to be developed either as a mythology centre or a radio station. The market sheds and the Edwardian toilet are protected as historical and important heritage structures. Therefore development is guided by the conditions of the heritage status of the sit. The ACC channels the vibrant language of children to express their cultural, social, and political voices. It is the only children’s and young people’s arts and culture programme in South Africa to utilize this unique model of rights-based socio-cultural intervention.
Former use :
The Market site of the city of Johannesburg (till 1972)was also used as a transport depot for municipal vehicles.
Surface of the site : 2 Hectares
Location : On the western side of the city in an area designated as Johannesburg’s cultural precinct which is currently being developed.
Foundation year :
1980 – the organisation. 1992 the development of physical activites.
Type of occupation : Lease
Owner of the building : Johannesburg Metropolitan Council
Art gallery/exhibition places
Artist residencies spaces
Outdoor space for performances
DISCIPLINES AND ACTIVITIES
Contemporary education for children and young people, including integrated workshops on weekday, Saturdays and school holiday programmes.
Fulltime programme for artists educators using a interdisciplinary and holistic methodolgy.
Visual arts : installations/performances ; sculpture ; painting ; ceramics
annual Children’s Creativity Carnival
Children’s Parliaments – Local, Provincial, National, Continental and International
January – March; Theme Child Rights and Responsibilities: Exhibition, Parliament(local), Play/Performance, Publication (radio, video, print & photography) and excursion.
April – June; Theme Africa and Africanity: Exhibition, Parliament (continental), Play/Performance, Publication (radio, video, print & photography) and excursion. 16 Days in June, children’s action for creative development.
July – August; Theme Creativity, Culture & Development: Exhibition, Parliament (National), Play/Performance, Publication (radio, video, print & photography) and excursion. National Festival of Arts and Development for Children and Young people.
September – December; Theme From the Cradle of Humankind to Humanity: Exhibition, Parliament (international), Play/Performance, Publication (radio, video, print & photography) and excursion. Made by Children Human Rights Festival.
Other structures settled on the site:
4 shipping containers adapted for accommodation
Totally reliant on generating income through activities, project facilitation and management and donations and sponsorships. Occasional location fees for film shoots and promotions.