Rhodes University Educational Sociologist Dr Dylan McGarry to present new collaborative short film at United Nations World Ocean Week

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A scene from Indlela Yokuphila: The Soul's Journey
A scene from Indlela Yokuphila: The Soul's Journey

Acclaimed South African Theatre Collective, Empatheatre, which was established as part of Dr Dylan McGarry’s postdoctoral research, will present its new short film "Indlela Yokuphila: The Soul's Journey" at United Nations World Ocean Week in New York on 07 June 2023.

Empatheatre, a renowned South African theatre collective, is thrilled to announce the screening of their latest collaboratively made short film, "Indlela Yokuphila: The Soul's Journey," at the United Nations World Ocean Week in New York. 

The five-minute film, which explores an aspect of intangible ocean heritage, has been in the making for nearly four years and involved the participation of Indigenous knowledge holders from South Africa.

"Indlela Yokuphila: The Soul's Journey" was instrumental in three court proceedings in South Africa, brought successfully by Indigenous fisher leaders and ocean defenders against oil and gas giant Shell and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

These judicial decisions mark the first time that an animation has been used as evidence in a South African court, serving as a proxy for the intangible cultural heritage related to the ocean. The film, along with two other Empatheatre films and a radio play, sheds light on and allows to connect with the intangible ocean heritages in the realms of governance and education.

Empatheatre co-director Mpume Mthombeni, co-writer, researcher and narrator of the film, has been invited to address the United Nations on World Oceans Day on 08 June. Her spotlight address entitled "Storytelling is the sacred medicine ocean governance needs" reflects on the power of public storytelling in creating new ways of making decision-making more inclusive and fair.

The film draws upon Empatheatre's unique co-developed methodology and utilises animation to bring forth Zulu traditional ancestral beliefs and cultural valuations of the ocean. "The largest oversight and gap in ocean governance is how to include spiritual and cultural heritages in decision-making and marine spatial planning," added Dr Dylan McGarry, co-founder of Empatheatre and educational sociologist at the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) at Rhodes University.

The film bridges the gap between indigenous and scientific knowledge, enhancing our collective understanding of the water cycle. Visually arresting, the film encapsulates the essence of the sacred knowledge it derives from, thanks to Empatheatre's collaboration animation Studios Shells & Spells, and Triggerfish. Working closely with Indigenous knowledge holders this exceptional team of creatives in South Africa have undergone numerous iterations to ensure a respectful and accurate representation that moves the soul. The film also includes ecological knowledge and imagery, drawing from South African biodiversity science to reflect the changing ecosystems during the soul’s journey.

The film has been created by Empatheatre in collaboration with Shells and Spells, and funded by the One Ocean Fund, The ELRC, Urban Futures Centre (Durban University of Technology) and Triggerfish.

See teaser of the film here: https://www.empatheatre.com/IndlelaYokuphila