The EOAN Group Print E-mail

The EOAN Group was founded by Helen Southern-Holt in District Six in 1933. It functioned as a cultural and welfare organisation. The name EOAN derives from the Greek word ‘Eos’ which means ‘dawn’, referring to the enlightenment it strove to bring to individuals.

Initially the group had their central offices in the Isaac Ochberg Hall in District Six. Fifteen branches were established throughout the Cape Peninsula by the mid-1950s, offering a wide range of activities that included ballet, folk dance, speech, drama, singing, painting and sewing. From 1956 until the late 1970s EOAN featured an active amateur opera section responsible for numerous arts festivals, annual opera seasons and tours throughout South Africa (1960 and 1965) and the United Kingdom (1975).

At the invitation of Helen Southern-Holt, Joseph Salvatore Manca joined the Music Section as choral conductor in 1943. He developed the small choir into an amateur opera company who presented their first full-scale opera in 1956. This production was followed by annual opera seasons, arts festivals and tours locally and abroad. Their repertoire included works such as Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto and La Traviata, Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme. The EOAN Group also performed the first full-length indigenous ballet by a local composer for a South African ballet group. The Square by Stanley Glasser is a depiction of gang life in District Six and was choreographed by David Poole, with Johaar Mosaval in the principal role.

The EOAN Group achieved great heights despite working under the constraints of Apartheid. Intensifying Apartheid legislation since the 1960s affected the Group’s morale, although they continued to perform whenever they could before mixed audiences. Forced to accept financial support from the Coloured Affairs Department, their standing and support in the community suffered. Eventually Apartheid legislation saw the total prohibition of mixed audiences. Complying with these requirements, the EOAN Group applied for permits to perform in the City Hall for mixed audiences from 1966 and onwards. Despite these conditions, the successes of the Group were widely reflected in ticket sales and in the press.

After the destruction of District Six, the EOAN Group moved to their new premises in Athlone, now known as the Joseph Stone Theatre, named after its benefactor who donated R100 000 towards the building of the theatre. The Joseph Stone Theatre, comprising various practise rooms, studios and offices, was inaugurated on 21 November 1969. The move to Athlone also removed the EOAN Group from the hub of Cape Town’s cultural life. Due to a combination of political repression, the renovation of the City Hall where they continued presenting their annual opera seasons and financial difficulties, producing opera became increasingly difficult for EOAN in the 1970s. After Manca’s resignation in 1977, the demise of the EOAN Opera Group was evident.

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 August 2010 )
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