Richard Kroeker


Hills of Music Theatre

Mochudi, Botswana

The Hills of Music Theatre was completed in February 2014. It is located near the village of Mochudi in the Bakgatla tribal region of Botswana. The site is surrounded by natural rock formations that create a visually dynamic acoustic space. Visitors arrive at the site on foot; vehicles can be parked in a nearby field one kilometer away. The country has a strong tradition of harmonic choral music sung in the Tsetswana language with accompaniment of with dancing and rhythmic instruments. Usually these are narrative songs, passing on the stories of many generations in a multi-faceted theatrical performance. There is a strong tradition of improvisation, creating lyrics, rhythms, melodies and choreography to historic and contemporary narratives. Performances take place outdoors, often including audience participation, and the presence of shade prescribes where people will gather in a climate where daytime temperatures are very high and the sun is almost always shining. The performance space is laid out as a thrust stage, with two earth-built, thatched huts with their surrounding low wall or lolwapa forming the backdrop and change rooms. The tensile shade canopy structure is inspired by the structure of drums from the region, and received the blessing of local stick insects. The thatched canopy at the entry serves as place where villagers can sell crafts and refreshments to the audience. The space follows the geometry of traditional Tswana villages, where private household groupings of huts are enclosed by a low wall called a lolwapa, and encircle a shared public space called a kgotla where community ceremonies are held. The design of the performance venue was built in collaboration with Mma Diswai, Unity Dow, Sedikwa Diswai, together with local performers and craftspeople from the Mochudi area.