Artscape's Marlene le Roux given prestigious royal award

Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)




HIGH HONOUR: UK High Commissioner in South Africa Nigel Casey hands Artscape chief executive Marlene Le Roux her award. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Artscape chief executive Marlene le Roux was handed a prestigious award on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II at the British Council in Cape Town Wednesday night.

She received the Commonwealth Point of Light for her dedication and lifework in the disability sector.

“I felt quite surprised because I wasn't aware of the nomination process, so it was a huge surprise for me,” Le Roux said.

Le Roux has frequently been outspoken about the plight of disabled people in South Africa.

“To be disabled you have to have money to have a quality of life. What many people don't understand is that to be mobile you need to have money,” she said.

Le Roux was appointed as chief executive of the Artscape in 2015. She was the first woman and person of colour to fill the role since the inception of the theatre complex in 1971.

Le Roux contracted polio as a child growing up in Wellington. Polio is a virus that may cause paralysis.

Read: Inside Marlene’s theatre of dreams

“Transformation in disability has not yet started, if you look at the functionalities of NGOs there are hardly NGOs that are headed by people with disabilities. There's nothing wrong with people's brains, it's about being given the opportunity to prove yourself,” she said.

Le Roux has dedicated her life to community empowerment and disability rights, working closely with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to develop the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

Touching on her own experiences of living with polio, she mentors company executives and government institutions on how to improve the working conditions of disabled employees.

Five months ago, Le Roux’s son Adam died, aged 15. He had cerebral palsy, which is a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation that occurs while a child's brain is under development.

Le Roux said she was still mourning.

“I would like to congratulate Marlene on receiving this recognition for the wonderful work that she does," said Nigel Casey, the UK High Commissioner in South Africa.

"Not only is she an inspiration to persons with disability, but she is hugely respected as chief executive of the Artscape Theatre Centre, Cape Town's largest theatre.

“Well done Marlene on being South Africa’s Point of Light.”