The Watah School (as anitafrika dub theatre) under the leadership of d’bi.young anitafrika, has created and successfully run 7 years of training/skills development projects for young people, not only in Toronto and Canada but across the globe. Beginning in summer 2007, d’bi. designed and facilitated along with Rea McNamara, ArtStarts’ summer training program for 18 young people from priority neighbourhoods, based on the Sorplusi Method. Sorplusi is a ground-breaking self-actualization, art creation, and mentorship methodology for artists, instigators, educators (and everyone in-between). Inspired by the seminal dub theory work of d’bi’s mother – pioneer dub poet Anita Stewart, as well as the dub theatre work of her mentor ahdri zhina mandiela, Sorplusi provides an intersectional framework, rooted in art-creation, for individual and collective empowerment. The culmination of the ArtStarts program was a theatrical production entitled Jinch Malrex, a self-published anthology of the youth’s creative works, as well as study guide for high school teachers interested in using the play to foster dialogues around race, class, violence and youth empowerment. Jinch Malrex was a huge success and toured libraries across Toronto, mobilizing young people and providing them with a positive reflection of themselves and their potential for change.
From 2008-2010 the company provided two foundational year-long tuition-free performance skills development residences, primarily to young emerging Black theatre practitioners such as Lisa Paul, Bahia Watson, Amanda Parris, Jamilah Malika, Natasha Adiyana Morris, and Kim Katrin Crosby, artists of colour such as Che Kothari, Leah Stintson and queer-identifying artists Cassy Walker and Natalyn Tremblay. Residencies consisted of weekly group sessions, one-on-one mentorship with d’bi and other guest artist-educators, and 3 festivals – Mikey Smith Raw Works, Audre Lorde Works-In-Progress and Word! Sound! Powah! – showcasing the developing works of each artist in the program as well as professional development opportunities through community-engagement and field visits to theatre.
Other skills training and development programs in the past include projects with Arts For Children and Youth, Toronto Community Housing, Gabian Way, Children’s Peace Theatre, Woodgreen Community Centre, to name a few. From its inception to present, The Watah School (previously anitafrika dub theatre) has facilitated the growth and development of over 300 artists locally, nationally and globally through residencies, workshops, courses, conferences, events and one-on-one mentorship. 90% of these artists today, are leaders in their own creative fields, incorporating The Sorplusi Method as well as transformational theatrical techniques they acquired under d’bi.young’s mentorship, as crucial, political, pedagogical and philosophical frameworks.
Liza Paul and Bahia Watson recently returned from the Edinburgh International Theatre festival where they presented Pomme is French For Apple, a play birthed and nurtured during the 2008-2009 anitafrika dub theatre program. Amanda Parris’s play 32C has gone on to critical community acclaim and she is now working on her second play through The Ride or Die Project. Natasha Adiyana Morris recently founded Piece of Mine Theatre Festival, which is now promoting the works of emerging and mid-career theatre practitioners. Photographer and founder of Manifesto Festival Che Kothari and Artivist and co-founder of The People Project Kim Katrin Crosby regularly teach The Sorplusi Method in their national and global development work with young people. Other alumni of The Watah School include Actor-producer of da kink in my hair tv series Ngozi Paul, Co-founder of fashion house Norblack Norwhite Mriga Kapadiya, celebrated poet and artist-educator Lishai Peel, emerging artist, youth artivist and founder of R.I.S.E Randell Adjei, emerging photographer Anthony Gebrehiwot, Performer artivist Koby Rogers-Hall and many more.