The National Eisteddfod of South Africa® provides a platform in a non-competitive environment where young and old in all communities can perform, learn, develop and showcase their potential in music, dance, theatre and fine arts. One of the features of the National Eisteddfod that distinguishes it from other similar events, is a unique style of adjudication. The National Eisteddfod Academy has always considered the eisteddfod experience as a learning opportunity. For the NEA it is not merely another “Who’s got talent? event.
Adjudicators of the NEA Adjudicators Forum adjudicate all performances with a focus on the individual achievement. Participants are not compared with each other and no winners are announced in each of the adjudication session. In its quest for excellence in adjudication the NEA has established clear guidelines regarding the expected levels of performance and has defined a style of adjudication that acknowledges individual achievement and emphasizes the joy of participation in the arts.
“Adjudication in the arts is not only an evaluation of a performance, but also the art of sensing possibility”, says Dr Francois van den Berg CEO of the National Eisteddfod Academy. “Adjudication deals with human beings and their feelings. An insensitive adjudicator can kill underlying potential and future interest in the arts”.
SETTING THE SCENE: Detailed explanation of the adjudication process and award system
Generally speaking an objective “measurement” of any performance in the arts is very difficult, if not impossible.
Ample examples of this are to be found in the arts industry/ professional world where a performance might be applauded by one and despised by another review.
Within this context it is of critical importance to be reminded that the NEA considers the eisteddfod process to be an educational and developmental tool that promotes the interests of both the participant in particular and the arts in general. The adjudication of any event should then sensibly provide for the basic human desire for recognition when adjudicating and giving feedback to the
- talented learner (who might follow a career in the arts and who requires meaningful feedback);
- majority of participants (who might become the future supporters of the arts, and who will gain self-confidence, assertiveness and the courage to take a stand in this world).
In doing so the adjudicator should never lie or give false feedback to any participant. At all times the individual achievement of each participant, within the framework of his own developmental phase, should be considered and acknowledged.
Having said that, one can now consider the fact that the performance or presentation of any art work requires certain “measurables” or yardsticks that refer to the skills level of the performer and his/her knowledge and understanding pertaining to the art form and particular piece. (Yardsticks in this context refer to all the elements of the relevant discipline that contribute towards a successful performance. ) Within the unique makeup of each individual performer or artist, these elements work together in producing a result that can be rated in general terms as:
- Excellent – above the typical / ideal level on most yardsticks
- Good – well above the minimum level on most yardsticks
- Acceptable – just above the minimum level on most yardsticks
- Below Expectation – below the minimum level on most yardsticks
The critical challenge is to define an ideal or typical level of performance in the arts (in this context not to be confused with an idealistic / supreme / ultimate level). For this purpose the NEA considers this ideal or typical level to be when all the basic requirements pertaining to the objective measurables / yardsticks of the art form are sufficiently met and executed with ease. This stage lies well above the minimum level and goes hand in hand with a progression from “conscious awareness” to “unconscious unawareness”. The preceding level of “just above the minimum level” implies that the candidate is in the process of gaining control, although this might not always be well maintained. In real terms the ideal level is probably the highest level that the majority of all participants might be able to achieve.
Given this frame of reference, the NEA system of awards and certificates can now be defined as follows:
DIPLOMA is awarded for an excellent performance where the participant has performed above the ideal / typical level on most yardsticks – this is to say that the skills level, knowledge & understanding pertaining to the yardsticks / measurables are above the ideal / typical level. An excellent performance is not necessarily perfect in all aspects, however a performance on this level will most definitely display originality (“spark”), creativity and sincerity.
* A special Junior Diploma will be awarded to learners in Foundation Phase (Gr. 0 -3) to acknowledge the special requirements when working with small children.
GOLD is awarded for a good performance where the participant has performed well above the minimum level on most yardsticks – this is to say that the skills level, knowledge & understanding pertaining to the yardsticks / measurables are well above the minimum level. A good performance is not necessarily perfect in all aspects, but generally displays a high level of skills, knowledge & understanding pertaining to most of the yardsticks / measurables, as well as some initiative/creativity.
SILVER is awarded for a performance that one can described as acceptable / satisfactory / adequate. The participant has performed just above the minimum level on most yardsticks – this is to say that the skills level, knowledge & understanding pertaining to the yardsticks /measurables are just above the minimum level. Although the basic skills, knowledge and understanding are present; the candidate has not acquired full control and still has to work on one or more of these aspects.
BRONZE is awarded for a performance that is below expectation and indicates an performance below the minimum level on more than one yardstick. Although the candidate has developed some skills, knowledge and
understanding relevant to the genre, it is still below the minimum level with regard to more than one aspect.