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South African theatre producer and director Yvette Hardie has been announced as the new President of ASSITEJ, the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young people.

The ASSITEJ 2011 General Assembly took place in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Malmoe (Sweden), under the theme “Building Bridges, Crossing Borders”, from 20-29 May. “Yvette Hardie’s activism and commitment to advance the access that young audiences have to the arts is well known and highly respected. Her visionary leadership will allow international role-players to sharpen their focus on the African continent,” said Ismail Mahomed, Director of the National Arts Festival and a Board member of ASSITEJ South Africa. “Her appointment as president of the organisation is both a remarkable scoop for the continent and it’s an outstanding tribute to her years of activism,” he added. Mpho Mabule of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) responded to the announcement by saying: “This is great news indeed. Ms Hardie’s election to lead ASSITEJ International, as the president nogal, not only propels South Africa once more onto the international cultural pedestal, but also puts immense pressure on all the role players, mainly the DAC and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to ensure that all young people (mainly those of school going age and lower) have access to high quality theatre education and productions.” Commenting on her election, Hardie said: “I am honoured to have been elected to the position of President of ASSITEJ. I see ASSITEJ as creating an enabling space where artists can imagine new possibilities for theatre for children and young people across the globe. I believe we have an excellent team in the newly elected executive committee, representative in terms of gender and diverse cultures, continents and languages. It is also composed of a younger generation of theatre makers than has been the case in the past term.” Hardie said that ASSITEJ knows that the future is in the hands of children and young people, and that it is most crucial to provide them with inspiring theatre experiences which will help give them tools to navigate this new and challenging world. “We promote cultural diversity, uphold cultural identity and actively advance the importance of a vibrant and inclusive cultural landscape for children and young people,” said Hardie. ASSITEJ exists, Hardie explained, because of a deep and long-standing belief in the necessity of theatre in the lives of children and young people. “ASSITEJ is a member-driven association with 83 national centres on six continents which seeks to foster a healthy, vibrant and collaborative community of artists, administrators and educators that reaches across cultural and international boundaries.” She added that ASSITEJ believes theatre happens at the magical place where artists and audiences intersect, and in our rapidly-changing world, the relevance of telling our young audiences stories of life as they were, as they are and as we wish them to be is becoming increasingly important. Hardie and her Executive Committee will serve a three-year term up to the next ASSITEJ World Congress to be held in Warsaw, Poland in 2014. Interim ASSITEJ meetings will take place in Okinawa, Japan in 2012 and Linz, Austria in 2013.

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