We held a book launch recently at the performing Arts school and first off I have to say that I am very proud to be a dance student at the Eoan Group School of Performing Arts. Why you may ask? I will tell you for its history and to be part of something beautiful and rich and culture as well as one day I will be part of Eoan Group’s history…
“The Eoan Group was started in 1933 by a British immigrant, Helen Southern-Holt, as a cultural and charity organisation for the coloured community of District Six. At first, only elocution and physical training classes were presented, but in later years the Eoan Group performed theatre, ballet and eventually operas. Today the organisation provides dance classes (such as ballet, contemporary, modern, African jazz, belly dancing, hip-hop) to members of the community from the Joseph Stone Theatre.’
Our school’s greatest success in South Africa was with opera productions which were performed in the Cape Town City Hall and later in the Joseph Stone Theatre situated in Athlone, Cape Town. The Eoan Group runs a dance company and school from the Joseph Stone called the Eoan Group School of Performing Arts. Eoan Group is a bearer of an important part of South Africa’s heritage.
“Life for EOAN was not easy. The group experienced enormous difficulties related to apartheid legislation, political repression and financial constraints. As a result of these factors the group performed its last full-scale opera in 1975. In many cases these concerts took place before packed houses. In the 1970s, however, many members of the community withdrew their support for EOAN because they regarded the group as folding before state demands and financial support.”
Eoan – Our Story was compiled by a committee, known as the Eoan History Project, with Dr Hilde Roos and Wayne Muller as editors. It is published by Fourthwall Books. The book is an oral history comprising extracts from interviews of previous Eoan members which has been structured into a narrative around themes and complemented by photos and other archival material. The book is thus the result of five years of historical and archival research, the collective efforts of a book committee and the accumulation of interviews and personal testimonies.
The process in the creation of the book and its approach to Eoan’s history can be seen as one of its most interesting facets. The book is not a chronological history of the group but rather an oral history. The language used by interviewees (mixing of languages, grammatical errors, use of the so-called Afrikaaps dialect) has been retained and, according to Roos, preserves the “texture of a person’s way of speaking”.
Eoan Group made an invaluable contribution to Cape Town’s cultural life, and it is wonderful that this history has been documented.
Some of the pictures that I took at the book launch: