65521.06.2012Women inmates reharse thier play that will be performed to the public at Johannesburg Correctional Centre on June 30 2012.Picture:Sharon Seretlo. Credit: INLSA

With weaves in place, nails manicured, make-up applied and dressed in their blue and white attire, they look beautiful!

Were they not behind bars, you would not be able to tell they are actually prisoners serving out their sentences.

The Star Africa met with a group of more than 30 female prisoners at Johannesburg Prison in Naturena, south of Joburg, during rehearsals of their stage play recently.

Most of the women are serving sentences for drug trafficking, murder and armed robbery.

In preparation for “Serious Fun at Sun City 2012” – the drama theme for this year, directed by award-winning director, Rhodessa Jones from the Medea Project in San Franciso, US, and Idris Ackamoor from Cultural Odyssey as the assistant director – the women gathered at the female-section quad to practice for their big concert to be held on Saturday.

They start with a 10-minute exercise before proceeding to their rehearsals.

The drama contains scenes where inmates ask their families for forgiveness by reading letters to their parents, children and siblings and giving their side of the story on how they landed up behind bars.

They sing and dance to traditional and modern songs, full of tears, and with smiles on their faces, as if they were born to one big family.

In the play, Mamosa Kok, a woman born in Mfuleni, Cape Town, shared a story of how she was forced to swallow drugs and transport them from Brazil to SA.

As she interprets her journey to prison, her fellow inmates start humming a song in the background. According to this mother of an eight-year-old boy, swallowing drugs was not part of the original deal she made.

“It was my first-time attempt at drug trafficking and I was told by the dealers that drugs would be body packaged, but the deal was changed,” she said.

Kok said drug dealers had locked her in a flat for three months after had she refused to swallow drugs, and that she had tried to escape through a window.

“I decided to escape, but unfortunately police officers who saw me walking down the street did not understand English,” she said. “I was caught again by my dealer, who punished me for three days without food. I then decided to give in.”

She was arrested at OR Tambo International, when she arrived on a flight from Brazil with drugs in her stomach. “Being arrested in another province is hard, because my mother visits me once after a long time. Being part of the drama makes me forget about the difficulties I went thought in life”, said Kok.

The drama programme is so popular that in August 2010 more than 24 female prisoners performed their production at the Star Theatre in Pretoria.

Gauteng correctional services spokesman Ofentse Morwane said

: “We are encouraging people or stakeholders to come on board to help us with rehabilitation programmes for inmates”.

Jones said: “‘Serious Fun at Sun City 2012’ uses theatre as a form of social activism to develop life skills to deal with prison life and beyond.

“It promises once again to be a unique and moving experience that will give the South African public an understanding of the intricate lives of women inmates.”