Can Themba’s SA is still relevant todayComment on this story
KGOMOTSO Matsunyane, the daughter of actor and director Neo Matsunyane and niece of filmmaker and TV personality Kgomotso Matsunyane – and who was named after her aunt – has to deal with the mistaken identity issue regularly.
This is why she has chosen to be known professionally as Momo Matsunyane, and she is one of the leads in an adaptation of Can Themba’s Crepuscule, to be staged at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective from today until Saturday.
Directed by Khayelihle Dom Gumede – the third 2012 winner of the Theatre Arts Admin Collective’s Emerging Theatre Director’s Bursary – Crepuscule is a fiction alised tale about a black man who falls in love with a white woman when the Immorality Act was introduced.
It is a story close to the hearts of the director and the cast. “This is my third time doing this play,” Momo tells me as we soak up the sun on the Theatre Arts Admin Collective’s stoep.
“I remember the first time I was in it was actually when Dom was doing his directing piece at Wits. He gave me the script to read and I just kind of cast myself. I was so captivated by the way that he wrote and the fact that it’s a South African story.
“It’s more than the racial or political aspect, it’s a story about love. It’s about a man who is so conceited and I play his black lover. So from her perspective it’s like, ‘How dare you be dating a white woman? When the struggle is living amongst us, how can you bring a foreigner here?”
Considering that the cast, and even the director, are on the younger side of their 20s, one has to wonder where, other than the glorified Sophiatown days they’ve seen in films or read about in retrospective books, they get their scope of such a time from.
Gumede and Momo say the legacy of apartheid didn’t come to an abrupt end when Nelson and Winnie walked hand in hand in 1991.
“You see it now,” Momo says, “where we can sit in the same lecture halls but there’s an underlying tension. That’s because apartheid wasn’t actually dealt with. There was a mental conditioning. Overseas, concentration camps are used as museums, but in South Africa, people still live and continue to have babies in Alexandra and Soweto and those places they were placed in. You can’t expect people to think differently if their surroundings say nothing about change.”
But does that mean Crepuscule is preaching to the converted about apartheid? “What makes Crepuscule different is that it is based on work by Can Themba,” Momo says.
“Although set in that time, we’re looking at a black intellectual whose contemporaries were the likes of Eskia Mphahlele – black intellectuals in a time where black people were expected to be labourers. We have music and text that’s so beautiful it’ll remove thoughts about it being all about apartheid.”
Momo will be seen in Dreaming In Jozi, based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in SABC 1’s Shakespeare series, on Thursday.
She’s not dropping her surname from her professional life just yet.
“Sometimes people are more inclined to listen to you when they see the surname, so it’s got its perks,” she winks. Either way, we’ll be watching her.
• Crepuscule is at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective on the corner of Wesley and Milton streets in Observatory. Book at the box office.