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Saturday, June 3, 2017


(Themi Venturas)

Themi Venturas is one of South Africa's leading theatre practitioners and has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His medical aid will not cover the new chemotherapy drug that could help extend his life by years, and the cost of this treatment on an ongoing basis, is extensive.

“This appeal goes out to everyone worldwide, but in particular those in the South African theatre and entertainment industry who may know Themi. As someone who has known and worked with him on many productions since 1988, this campaign is solely my initiative, as Themi is far too proud a man to ask for financial help. However, it is clear that these unexpected costs will cripple any financial reserves he may have built up, and also render his family bereft of any financial security in the uncertain future,” says Jackie Cunniffe, manager of the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, who started the fundraising campaign..

From the time he was employed by the then University of Natal as the Head of Productions and Theatre Manager of the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre In 1984, Venturas has gone on to make his mark in South African theatre and further afield.

During this time many young performers were set on the path to working professionally in the industry including Thabo Mnguni, Tiki Nxumalo, Bongani “Pillay” Ngwenya, Mthunzi Namba and James Ngcobo (award winning stage and TV Star currently the Artistic Director of the Market Theatre).

Six years of teaching and management at the University of KZN, Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre saw the establishment of the EST Theatre Company which saw him actively involved in creating work with many disadvantaged students throughout Durban including such current and deceased luminaries like jazz musicians, Lulu Gontsana, Zim Ngqawana, Feya Faku, Jerry Kunene, Brian Thusi, Concorde Nkabinde, Johnny Mekoa, Victor Masondo and Andile Zwane and established theatre professionals Alfred, Patti & Tu Nokwe, Brenda Radloff, Celeste Litkie, Mark Faith and many others.

During this time he was also an active member and treasurer of the erstwhile Theatre Alliance of Natal (TAN) – an organization created by the UDF and COSATU to look after the underground interests of the disadvantaged theatre community along with struggle colleagues Kessie Govender, Mi Hlatshwayo, and Nise Malange.

Under the guidance of TAN he applied for and became the Community Programme Co-ordinator of the Natal Performing Arts Council (NAPAC), later to become The Playhouse Company, for four years during which time he was instrumental in creating the Kwasa internship Programme which amongst other things trained many of SA’ s successful and landed Black Performers including, Thabani Ngubane (CEO of Ingonyama Productions), Nothando Mbanda (Mam Gobozi on Gagazi FM, now owner of Ishashalazi Productions), Kenneth Kambule (starred in Oscar nominated Yesterday), Eric “Rasta” Hadebe, the late Collin Nhlumayo (playwright of Skwiza), the late Lindani Ngwenya (presenter with Group Africa) Gugu Mzobe ( Recently starred in Jimbo and Sophiatown) Hamish Kyd (playwright and performer), Mzwandile Kamaung (actor and opera singer) the late Thabani Tshanini (lead actor in worldwide tour of Umabatha) Thami S’kosana (actor, director) Tutu Goge (singer, actor in the New York Production of The Lion King) and many more.

In September of 1993 he took voluntary retrenchment from the Playhouse Company and started his own performing arts company (Themi Venturas Productions) which is in its 25th year of existence. At a time when most other theatre practitioners were leaving Durban for greener pastures, he stayed and dedicated his career to the development of a performing arts industry in Durban. He went out of his way to create products that employed local artists and the lists of names of artists that have benefited from his tutelage reads like the who’s who of the Durban performing arts industry.

As an artistic director he has been instrumental in the making of many of South Africa’s cultural exports including the historic Zulu opera Princess Magogo Ka Dinuzulu composed by Mzilkazi Khumalo from a book by Themba Msimang and adapted for the opera stage by Venturas which has toured to the USA, Norway, and the Netherlands. More recently he directed Ziyankomo, And The Forbidden Fruit composed by Phelelani Mnomiya from a book by Themba Msimang once again adapted for the opera stage by Venturas. He recently created the first ever Gospel opera called The African Passion that toured South Africa in 2013. Most recently he directed the world premiere of Mashu, the musical written by Lucky Cele at the Playhouse in Durban.

In the realm of corporate theatre, events and project management, Venturas has vast local, national and international experience and is widely regarded as one of the ‘best in the business’. Amongst his many achievements in this arena he can include:

-the ‘first’ opening of the Durban ICC,
-the Durban International Festival of Music in Africa which later evolved into the Awesome Africa Festival under the direction of Dan Chiorboli,
-the Africa Peace Award ceremonies for ACCORD in the last 20 years also at the Albert Luthuli ICC,
-the Durban Millennium Celebrations and World show,
-the Association of Olympic Committees (ANOC) Gala show in Bangkok, Thailand 2014,
-and the opening ceremonies of many conferences at the Albert Luthuli ICC and the CTICC over the last 25 years.

Venturas has been instrumental in the creation and management of the Durban International Blues Festival, now in its 13th year, and a variety of other music and festival events throughout South Africa. He founded the Catalina Theatre at Wilson’s Wharf in December, 2002 and temporarily saved the Kwasuka Theatre from closing in early 2006. He co-founded the Limelight Theatre in Umhlanga. In addition to numerous awards for acting and directing both at home and abroad, he has been awarded three lifetime achievement awards in the field of Arts and Culture, namely: The Fools Award for Lifetime achievement, The Ariel Award for lifetime contribution to the Arts from the PESF, and the Durban Theatre Judges award for lifetime achievement.

As a member of the Arts and Culture Community of KwaZulu-Natal he has tirelessly worked in various civic organizations on a provincial, national and international level.

- Chairperson of the Dance and Theatre Network of KZN
- Former National Chairperson of Performing Arts Network of Southern Africa(PANSA),
- Elected representative for KZN for the National Minister of Arts & Culture’s Task Team for Dance & Theatre,
- Elected councillor for KZN of the 60 member General Council of the Cultural & Creative Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA),
-President of the Alliance Fran├žaise de Durban,
- A director of Keep The Dream 144 t/a Catalina UnLtd which was a performing arts production company in SA which ran the Catalina Theatre,
- Former Trustee and now an Ambassador of the Arts and Culture Trust of the President (ACT).
- Arts & Culture consultant to several international organizations and was the World Vice-Chair of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee of the Athens Olympics 2004.

Themi Venturas is married to Patricia who is the principal of the Patricia McIntosh School of Ballet in Durban, and they have two sons; Matthew and Alexander.

To contribute to this fundraising campaign, visit