The school of performing arts is the brainchild of Dipuo Lekalakala

Dipuo Lekalakala, founder and director of Puo Media, an accredited school of performing arts based in the South African State Theatre in Pretoria. Director of Puo Casting Agency; a professional entertainment company that identifies potential candidates for work on stage, radio and movies. She is the chairperson of Thuto Masedi foundation, a Non-Profit Organization (NPO) that aims and cares to invest in every pupil’s education by keeping them in school for sustainable future. Furthermore; she is the co-founder of Surface Noise Records, an entertainment company that specializes Public Relations (PR), production, studio rental, artists booking & management, and deejaying studio.

Growing up in the ‘80’s in the dusty streets of Marapyane, Mpumalanga with limited career exposure, no art galleries and definitely no electricity; very few would have expected anyone to fall in love with arts industry let alone television. At her house in Legotlhong Section, where she was raised; they had an old television that used batteries to power up, she told us the love for television came from there onwards. It was during her high school years when she started pursuing the dream of becoming a TV presenter, as she was able to attend Saturday classes (audio visual and communication) with Thuthuka Casting in Johannesburg. 

Her journey has not been smooth sailing, she has had her fair share of challenges from lack understanding how broad the industry is and lack of support from her parents as they always associated careers within the entertainment industry with drugs, partying, unruly behavior etc., “it was more of proving not just to my parents but to the community to say that you can make a living out of this, you can make a career out of this” she explained to us why she was so committed to her vision.

Prior to the formation of Puo Media, in 2012; Dipuo joined a production called Pan African Music and Theater (PAMATA) at the University of Pretoria, as a dancer whilst she was still a student at the Tshwane University of Technology. She was given the opportunity to go to Italy to represent South Africa at the Folk International Concert for six (6) weeks. This is where she was exposed to the business side of performing arts, before then she was doing it for fun, fame and quick cash. Puo Media was officially registered in 2012 after coming back from Italy, but for two years after registering it, she was busy with due diligence “paperwork” to ensure compliance, it only started operating in 2014. It has been a bumpy and exciting six years ever since. The most challenging part about her work she tells us – is that in most cases lack of understanding of what performing arts and media studies is on the part of parents; is what really disturbs and discourages students from harnessing and ultimately unable to see their full potential using their talents/skills. In most cases you find that parents do not understand why they have to pay for their children to take dance classes, and as a business unfortunately you need that money to operate and pay your bills.

The word performing arts has been used broadly, it is simply a practice by an individual or a group at a particular workplace to achieve a certain goal, usually to send a message to its audience through the creative and artistic performance (e.g. drama, music, dancing etc.). Talent alone is not enough, training and understanding the business is key to survive in any industry. Puo Media as an accredited school of performing arts; amongst other offerings they offer NQF Level 4 Certificate in Performing Arts (Drama, Music & Business of the Arts), furthermore they offer grade one to five of Music Theory Studies – a qualification accredited by the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the UK based Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). Prospective students and parents are encouraged to always check with the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA); whether the school their children wants to enrolls with is accredited as there are many fly-by-night colleges out there.  

Dipuo Lekalakala the founder and director of Puo Media Image: Supplied

The world through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4.0IR) phenomenal is going digital and in the times of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the need for human action has become less desirable in almost all industries (education sector included), when asked whether there is a place for the performing arts in the 4.0IR, Dipuo emphatically played down any prospects of going digital in that sector as it is a contact requirement in the form of 90% practical’s and 10% theory most of the time. It is very difficult for facilitators and the school management at large to mentor, monitor and assess rehearsals of their students online and also because of connectivity, data, hardware (e.g. laptops) related issues our country faces to-date, it is very unlikely that the arts sector is anywhere close to moving their operations digital. Part of what they do is to work with individuals who have no natural talents but have the dedication and the will to learn, so as you can imagine more work is needed to assist the student, for now students are encouraged to work from home with communication done purely online via e-learning. The industry at large is frustrated by this pandemic but everyone is just optimistic

As fans we have come accustomed to the notion or reports of artist falling from grace though famous and eventually unfortunately die poor – the reasons for this always differs, whether it was due to inconspicuousness or basic financial illiteracy and mismanagement, the most common denominator however is the inability by the artist to understand the Business of the Art, this is the same in any industry whereby in most cases talent is the main source of income. Sectors whereby the athleticism ability of an individual is a major factor such soccer, players/artist tend to enjoy the flashy perks that comes with that lifestyle forgetting to plan for life post that career. In his recent interview with goal.com former Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana skipper Benson Mhlongo said the South African lawmakers should expand on the current labor laws and “Make it a must and say, ‘during your playing days‚ you can only earn 60% of your salary and 40% must be invested’”. Business of the Art forms part of their modules offered at their school, it deals with financial and contract management equipping the student with the basic skills to navigate their way around.

This article is based in two parts, stay tuned for next month’s article when the Part 2 shall be published.

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