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‘Nguvu yaMbengu… eNtabelanga’ commemorates the centenary of the ‘Bulhoek Massacre’ on stage

The cast of ’Nguvu yaMbengu… eNtabelanga’. Picture: Rob Keith

The cast of ’Nguvu yaMbengu… eNtabelanga’. Picture: Rob Keith

Published Oct 22, 2021


Theatre production “Nguvu ya Mbegu...eNtabelanga” commemorates the centenary of the Bulhoek Massacre.

Currently showing at the Theatre Arts in Cape Town, the play follows the tragic events of 24 May 1921, at Bulhoek in the Eastern Cape when193 worshippers were shot dead, another 129 were left wounded and 95 were taken as prisoners.

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“Nguvu ya Mbegu…eNtabelanga” tells the story of prophet Enoch Mgijima, his followers the “Israelites”, who were shot by the Union of South Africa’s police and army shot for refusing to leave their mountain of prayer in eNtabelanga near Komani (now Queenstown).

Performed in isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, SeTswana, and Swahili, the production strongly draws its aesthetic from African storytelling traditions, incorporating dance, song, and ensemble work.

Some performances will be accompanied by post-production conversations, exhibition, and virtual talks.

“Nguvu ya Mbegu” is a Swahili title meaning the power of the seed.

Elaborating on the show, Mbothwe said: “The voices of Abantwana Bomgquba (the Children of the Earth) whisper into the ears of the present and future child, a reminder that they have never been alone.

“A reminder that it takes the weeds to grow the strength of a seed, regardless of the pain, and historical, racial and colonial injustices,” he added.

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SA reported that some historians believe that the “Israelites” were the victims of the segregationist government, as their struggle was a fight for land and exemption from taxes, as well as self-rule to end White oppression.

While others argue that they were endangering the people around them as well as taking possession of land they did not own.

The production boasts a stellar team boasting names such as Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre 2021 Thando Doni, internationally acclaimed choreographer Mzo Gasa, and award-winning musical director Zimbini Makwetu.

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The run of the production is supported by the South African State Theatre, Institute of Creative Arts, UCT Centre for Theatre Dance and Performance Studies, Distell, and Magnet Theatre.

“Nguvu ya Mbegu…eNtabelanga” is currently showing at Theatre Arts in Observatory and runs daily at 7:30pm, till Saturday, October 23.

There will be additional matinee performances at 2pm on October 23.

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