Boy Ntulikazi tells the story of a 14-year-old girl living with her parents in extreme poverty who falls pregnant and decides to leave her home, fearing that her elders will not accept the child.
She gives birth to a baby boy and subsequently goes to the nearby river and places the baby on a rock at the riverbank, hoping that the strong winds of July (Ntulikazi) will push the baby into the river. She leaves the baby there and walks away.
Years later, the child has become a young man, questioning his own identity. In an effort to better understand who he is, he sets out in search of his mother.
Boy Ntulikazi is an exploration of displacement and its far-reaching implications within a rural black South African context.
Knowing your roots in South Africa is something people of colour sometimes struggle with internally. The lack of documented ancestral knowledge is something I also struggle with as a coloured millennial urbanite, and watching Boy Ntulikazi really hit home.
Contextually, there are a lot of differences. However, it still struck a chord with me, especially the need to know where you come from.
The writer and star of the show, Thobani Nzuza, takes a difficult concept and tells a uniquely South African story that uses the concept of displacement as a vehicle to address other issues in the country.
The way Nzuza tells the story of Ntulikazi and his search for belonging is the reason he won so many awards at the 2017 Zabalaza Festival. The fact that he plays multiple characters and is able to deliver fully developed personalities is truly amazing. The stage for the show is also fantastic. It is very minimal but through the use of props and lights, Nzuza is able to convey exactly what he wants to throughout the play.
His integration of song is an astute move. Music plays a big part of South African culture, especially when it comes to people of colour. Songs are not just used for entertainment. They document stories, pass down information from generation to generation and can also connect people on a spiritual level. This is important during the play’s climax when Nzuza finally receives an answer to his burning question.
Nzuza does a stellar job of telling a thought-provoking story while giving room for the audience to breathe through the hard-hitting moments. Boy Ntulikazi is a brilliant show and a uniquely South African story. It fully deserves all the recognition bestowed upon it.
* The Baxter’s Best of Zabalaza 2017 winner, Boy Ntulikazi, from KZN, is playing for a limited season until May 13 at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio at 8pm nightly.