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Spreading message of peace through theatre

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TO NDR Maluju1

Val Adamson

TRIBAL WARS: Bheki Hlabisa, Bongani Mbatha and Siphamandla Zwane in Maluju Zulu.

GROWING up in rural KwaZulu-Natal exposed writer/director Bonginkosi Shangase to faction fighting that tore families and communities apart.

It’s this experience that has seen him develop a passion for peace and spreading the message of conciliation over conflict – one he drives through his stage musicals.

One such production is Maluju Zulu, which makes its way to the Playhouse Drama theatre from 24 to 27 July, partly to commemorate 20 years of peace and democracy in South Africa.

In the musical, Shangase uses a love story, in the context of tribal wars, to help realise his goal of being a messenger of peace.

The musical is set during the time when British forces occupied the village of Nkandla in what is today KwaZulu-Natal.

Shangase explained in an interview that the musical reflected on how borders created between local communities during British occupation led to ongoing strife.

“I started to write this piece in 2002. At that time, I had a production that was already on stage, but I felt it wasn’t really teaching anything – it was just an entertaining show.

“But I felt a need to write something more, something that would be educational as well as entertaining. Faction fighting was on my mind,” he explained.

“As a man from the rural areas, I always experienced faction fighting. And it was just so wrong. People were always fighting and killing each other, but when you asked them why, they didn’t know exactly why.

“They were just continuing to fight for the sake of their clan’s name. So Maluju Zulu was inspired by the cause and the need to teach people about peace.

“Personally, I don’t like seeing people suffer like that. I wanted to push for peace and teach people about faction fighting.”

But Shangase said that even today Maluju Zulu had its relevance, in that there was always conflict in communities.

“In our (workers’) hostels in the city areas, there is conflict. On the mines, there is striking. People are angry… Conflict will always arise. But we don’t have to solve it by killing one another. Let’s sit down and talk to resolve the conflict.”

A mix of narrative, song and dance, as well as being a love story, Maluju Zulu has previously proved to be a hit with local crowds.

“I believe in writing about real life, and I wanted to restage Maluju Zulu as we celebrate our democracy. Yes, we have this great democracy, but we still have minor issues of conflict. I think this story is relevant for us.”

The production stars Linda Ndawo, Doh Kwela, Zwakele Gazu and Mjakajaka Bhengu, among others, in a cast of 30.

Shangase’s ultimate goal is to spread his message of peace through Maluju Zulu tours at schools and hostels around the province, but funding is needed to achieve this.

He said he hoped that some government officials would come and see the musical to see its value in encouraging social cohesion in communities.

• Tickets for Maluju Zulu are selling at R80 through Computicket or the Playhouse box office at 031 369 9540. Evening performances are at 7pm (Thursday to Saturday), with matinees at 2pm on Saturday, July 26 and 3pm on Sunday, July 27. Performances for schools will be given from 23 to 25 July at 11am at R20 a pupil. Schools and block bookings are through Ailsa Windsor at 083 250 2690.


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