MINING is a strong theme at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this year.
Last night Aubrey Sekhabi’s Marikana, a musical, opened at Graeme College to a shaky technical start.
The first afternoon performance had to be cancelled after transport problems delayed the arrival of the set from Pretoria.
Adapted by Sekhabi from the novel We Are Going to Kill Each Other Today, this musical explores the days leading up to the shooting, then touches briefly on the aftermath.
It is sympathetic to both sides of the story, even as it pits the police against the strikers.
When asked why he chose a musical style, Sekhabi said that during the strike, the miners had used songs to express their frustration and misery, so it seemed a natural fit to employ the medium to express emotion.
Marikana tries to tell the story of the miners as a group and many of the songs are initiation songs, which have been turned into songs describing the miners’ stories.
However, it is when the cast eschews the traditional choral singing for isicathamiya (a cappella) that it actually works.
One of the people spotted in the audience at the musical was the young director Eliot Moleba, whose play The Man in the Green Jacket offers another perspective on the events of that fateful day.
His two-hander, which opens on Thursday, tells the story of those relations and friends who were waiting at home for the miners during the Lonmin strike.
The play asks what our responsibility is, as a society, in the aftermath of the deaths.
Moleba is in talks with the Soweto Theatre to bring the drama to Joburg.
Cape Town-based director Tara Notcutt has brought Undermined to Grahamstown.
It’s the story of a Mozambican man who comes to work in a South African mine in the hopes of making enough money to start a life with his fiancée.
Comic books meet African storytelling in this story about hope, perseverance and an unexpected hero.
Another play that also touches on the concept of mining is Goon, which takes place in Kimberley, where five men and a woman illegally surf for diamonds at a mine dump.
Kimberley is also the scene for Big Hole, a musical play staged by six women telling the story of a little known mining disaster that took place in the city around the turn of the 19th century.
Aryan Kaganoff’s documentary, Night is Coming: Threnody for the Victims of Marikana, plays heavily on the concept of listening and music.
Unlike Rehad Desai’s Miners Shot Down, the first South African documentary to play on the local circuit since Hidden Heart, Kaganoff’s documentary does not unpack the circumstances leading up to the Marikana massacre.
Instead, he questions the irony of a liberation movement internalising terror and turning it on its own population.
• The National Arts Festival runs in Grahamstown until Sunday. Check our daily coverage on www.iol.co.za