On the 16 March H.E. Fionnuala Gilsenan, Ambassador of Ireland to South Africa hosted Ireland’s National Day at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg.

The Market theatre celebrated this momentous occasion with the Irish Embassy .
‘ Theatre of the Struggle’ to host a performance of world-leading Irish playwright, Irish music and remarks by Irish and South African Government Ministers.

Ireland celebrates over 100 years of independence this year and 30 years of diplomatic relations with South Africa. To celebrate these important milestones, the Embassy of Ireland was proud to partner with the Market Theatre Foundation for an evening of Irish culture and companionship on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.

This year’s celebration featured both Irish and South African Performers and included a short performance of Samuel Beckett’s play: An act without words. Keynote speeches were be given by Mr Zane Dangor – Director General DIRCO and by the Irish Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte, who travelled from Ireland for the event.
In 1966, leading Irish playwrights such as Samuel Beckett and Seán O’Casey refused permission for their plays to be performed in front of segregated audiences in South Africa. Beckett’s most famous play, Waiting for Godot was finally performed again in South Africa at the racially integrated Market Theatre, Johannesburg, in 1976. It was directed by Benjy Francis and starred an all-black cast.

The Irish Ambassador, H.E. Fionnuala Gilsenan said:
“Culture and theatre in particular is an important part of Ireland’s national story. Irish playwrights and authors have been to the fore in telling Ireland’s unique story to the rest of the world. Irish Culture has also been an important means of expressing solidarity with those fighting for justice all over the world.”
“Much like our playwrights, the Irish Government refused to establish diplomatic relations with the Apartheid Government of South Africa, only opening relations in late 1993 when the transition to democracy was underway. The Market Theatre played an important role in the history of Irish solidarity with the anti-Apartheid movement and so we are really honoured to host this celebration of 30 years of relations between Ireland and Free South Africa at the Theatre this year.”

Situated in Newtown Junction Johannesburg, the Market Theatre Foundation is a historic landmark and is renowned as South Africa’s “Theatre of the Struggle”. The Market Theatre challenged the apartheid regime, armed with little more than the conviction that culture can change society.
Greg Homan, Artistic Director of the Market Theatre Foundation said: “We are proud to bring Samuel Beckett back to the Market Theatre to celebrate this landmark year in Irish- South African Relations. We look forward to welcoming the visiting Irish Minister Anne Rabbitte and all of our guests for a special evening of music, theatre and laughter.”
An evening enjoyed by the Diplomatic Corps and other honourable guests.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Ireland!

by Marion Kate