NUMB City Productions, operators of the Athenaeum Complex, have appointed a new, dynamic team to manage and transform the building into a creative hub servicing the emerging creative sector in Nelson Mandela Bay.
At the helm, in position of project manager, is former ArtEC gallery manager Asanda Mlata, who brings to the project her gallery, marketing and administration experience.
Mlata’s vision for the Athenaeum building is to see both its strategies and expectations exceeded – and for the building to become a leader amongst its competitors.
“I feel like I am where I always wanted to be, working with people – not just individuals – but organisations across the creative industries and beyond. I feel challenged in so many ways each and each day this encourages me to stop selling myself short and grow,” Mlata said.
“In this position I am allowed to use my talents to my best capabilities and this is making me push myself even more. Honestly, I feel like I am getting closer to my dreams.”
That dream is to become a high level curator managing calibre exhibitions around the country, while developing and showcasing Eastern Cape talent, Mlata says.
Currently Mlata is working on building the membership of the Athenaeum, which targets non-profit organisations that have traction in the creative industries. “We need a thriving membership base to ensure that the building is guided by a committee of organisations that have the growth of the creative economy at heart,” she added.
The Athenaeum is the community hub for the emerging creative industry in Nelson Mandela Bay, recently renovated by the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA). It has been operational for just over a year.
The venue is home of the colourful Little Theatre and is a multi-purpose centre offering diverse spaces for live performances, exhibitions, events, conferences, workshops, meetings, showcases and launches.
Also on the team is playwright and director, Xolisa Ngubelanga, who was recently appointed Numb City’s as the performing arts intern. Ngubelanga is tasked with building a theatre programme for the Little Theatre and ensuring the space is utilized to both showcase big productions and grassroots performances.
His vision is to ensure the community is able to access cultural experiences at an affordable price, but with maximum impact on the way people see the world after their theatre experience.
“It is such a great opportunity to showcase craft independent of traditional platforms,” said Ngubelanga.
Ngubelanga developed the concept of ASS, or the Asylum Seekers Sessions, a relaxed, public-orientated initiative taking the format of an open mic session, but is also a platform for experimental drama, art, music and poetry for the community.
The Asylum Seekers Sessions takes place in the Athenaeum gardens every two weeks and engages the Afro-cosmopolitan community in Central and gets them involved in the building’s activities.
Ngubelanga is also overseeing a research survey of the community’s knowledge of the Athenaeum and the Central-based drive led by the MBDA to develop a cultural hub, making him a “general nuisance,” as he informs people of the creative industry actives in the area.
Sibongile Sontsonga is another addition to the team and is Numb City’s marketing and administration intern. Sontsonga is promoting the building, ensuring it is a high-traffic area for creative pursuits and is intent on cultivating arts and culture in the community.
She has a natural role in the team and brings to the project her background in law and a passion for people and events.
“I love my job, it has always been something I have wanted to do, particularly public relations and event management. It is the perfect platform and I am eager to learn in my current position,” she says.
Sontsonga manages the building events, taking control of the administrative activities and giving clients what she calls a “real Athenaeum experience”.
Numb City directors, Jacques Nel, Amy Shelver and Brett Jackman guide the overall strategic direction of the building and manage various creative industry projects including playing a key role in the city’s public art consultancy team, hosting events such as the Donkin Downhill Dash and developing cutting-edge film and television productions telling Eastern Cape stories.