Donaldson Orlando Community Centre

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The name

Officially named the Donaldson Orlando Community Centre (DOCC), after its first sponsor, the Donaldson Trust. It is usually referred to by its acronym (DOCC) but has also been referred to as the Donaldson Orlando Cultural Club (DOCC) by a number of speakers and writers about theatre. This is most probably an error deriving from a misreading of the acronym. Among those using the alternative name are Ian Steadman, Philemon T. Wakashe (1986), Ramolao Makhene (cited by Geoffrey V. Davis and Anne Fuchs) and Loren Kruger. However the official name appears in most other documents, including interviews with Gcina Mhlope, the Donaldson Trust website and South African History Online.

It was later renamed the Orlando East Community Hall, though the DOCC acronym is still used by many.

Its function

A community centre and community hall in Soweto, originally funded by the Donaldson Trust, later by different organisations and trusts and run by people who live in Soweto. Uncomfortably squeezed into a corner of one of Soweto's busiest streets, the DOCC had no dedicated theatre space , just a fairly big room called "the hall" which offered little more than an all-purpose space with no theatrical facilities.

The Donaldson Orlando Community Centre had rehearsal rooms that Gibson Kente rented to stage his plays, as well as a dance studio, a hall and administration offices. Principally, the venue was used for many activities including boxing (in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Nelson Mandela trained there), dancing, musical presentations (Miriam Makeba and Dolly Rathebe performed there), the performance of plays, theatre workshops, by ballroom dance clubs and for political meetings.

Mandla Dube was in charge in the early 1980s.

Its use for theatre

In 1976 FUBA was founded there.

Productions there include: Maishe Maponya’s The Hungry Earth (1979) and Pula (1982); Gibson Kente's Take It Easy Papa (1984), Mbongeni Ngema's Asinamali, Sol Rachilo’s play Grounded in Mshenguville (1989), a revival of Bopha! (1989), Dukuza ka Macu’s drama Shades of a Conflict (1989) and Night of the Long Wake (1990), Vusi Shashu’s My Desire,

Used for the Soweto Festival since its inception (??**)

The Soweto Dance Theatre (SDT), which was started by Jackie Semela, was also based at the DOCC. Street Beat, a dance company, also operated out of the DOCC.


Andile Xaba. 2021. 'Collective memory and the construction of a historical narrative, analysis and interpretation of selected Soweto-based community plays (1984–1994)'. Unpublished PhD thesis.

For more information

See also Donaldson Trust website at

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