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Napo Masheane pays homage to the 1956 heroes in ‘Herstory International Theatre Festival’

Napo Masheane. Picture: Supplied

Napo Masheane. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 26, 2022

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Internationally recognised playwright and director Napo Masheane is hosting the “Herstory International Theatre Festival” in celebration of all women across all walks of life, at the Soweto Theatre this Women’s Month.

Arguably one of the biggest events in the arts calendar, “Herstory International Theatre Festival” features local and international acts from the US, Canada, the UK, Brazil, Nigeria, Botswana, Lesotho, Senegal, Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Sweden and the Caribbean.

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On August 9, 1956, thousands of women, mothers, aunts, sisters and daughters, of all races, marched to the Union Buildings to protest against pass laws. And now, over seven days, the phenomenal women will be honoured through art, poetry, theatre, song and dance.

Forming part of the star-studded line-up are more than 250 creatives from 17 countries, among them theatre practitioner Kharyish Wigington, dub poet d’bi.young, visual activist and photographer Sir Zanele Muholi, executive producer Darling Desperado, performing arts practitioner Ibokwe, and Liatile Mohale.

“The festival is a layered artistic programme that will represent women's works or works by women, for women with women, those who identify as women and those who come from or within the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Masheane.

“We have always used our art to inspire and empower others. We have used our voices to evolve with time, provoke thought, spark robust discussions and create positive change within our communities. Thus, womxn creatives must stop navigating and negotiating spaces in a culture that often mutes or censors their artistic talents and abilities.

“My take is that as sister-friends and creative-siblings, we need to collectively create our own stages where the focus will be igniting one another’s sparks while sharing parts of ourselves unapologetically.”

Masheane said the festival was also an opportunity to reunite the creative industry following the past two-and-a-half years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“Most of us before Covid-19, were booked for three years, we were going to travel both nationally, continentally and internationally.

“We woke up one day and were told that the borders were closed, the theatres were closed and the festivals were cancelled.

“And that meant that most of us lost work, and an opportunity to interact with one another and to share… As I always say: ‘For people like me, theatre is church.” This is where we pray. This is where we heal. This is where we bend. This is where our madness is allowed, for us to keep sane within this crazy world.

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“Most of us suffered from a lot of mental illness, isolation, depression and money issues. A lot of people have lost a lot of assets. And on top of that, we lost colleagues. To this day, we’re still losing colleagues.

“But, within my capacity, I can ignite another fire, I can bring the spark back, I can create a space that I have control over, which is my creative space to say: ‘Guys, let's come together. Let's share our work. Let's engage. Let’s think. Let’s re-plan. Let's reprogramme ourselves’.”

Masheane reflected on the life of theatre legend Mncedisi Shabangu, who died on Sunday, July 24.

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“I was with him three weeks ago. He’s one of my best friends. We were reminiscing about the past 25 years of our existence in the industry. What has sustained us and what we need to do for our communities. Then, I was woken up at 5am to be told that he is no more. I’m still in shock.

“Last week, it was Ntate Don Mattera… My mentor is gone. And the week before, it was Busi (Lurayi). So, we wake up to own peers disappearing, or sleeping and not finding a reason to wake up. There is something in a spiritual realm that is so heavy and yet in the theatre we’re saying: ‘The show must go on’.”

“Herstory International Theatre Festival” is set to take place at the Soweto Theatre from August 1 to 7.

For more information visit sowetotheatre.com.

Tickets are available from Webtickets for R150.

Napo Masheane. Picture: Supplied

As the country prepares for the Women’s Month commemorations in August, we look at theatre productions across the country that are set to pay homage to the women who fought for equal rights in South Africa.

Yekabani le Panty (Who’s Panty is This)

Artscape Theatre Centre from August 4 to 9.

The gripping performance by Peggy Tunyiswa and Carin Bester is about a white woman and a black woman who unpack their differences, challenge the oppression between them and take back their power. This site-specific interventional performance questions the patriarchal structure.

Yekabani le Panty. Picture: Supplied

I Am A Woman

The Market Theatre, on until August 14.

Nqobile Sipamla dazzles as Mmabatho in “I Am A Woman”, a new one-woman play by novelist Nthikeng Mohlele, set in contemporary and cosmopolitan Gauteng. The production centres on themes of love and belonging, female identity and feminist sentiments, the place of women in modern South Africa, tragedy and loss, and about the interplay between personal and societal tension.

Nqobile Sipamla. Picture: Supplied

"The Seagull’ and “Stupid F*****g Bird”

Theatre on The Bay, on from July 27 to 30.

Set in the Russian countryside at the end of the 19th century, Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull“ tells the story of the romantic and artistic conflicts between four characters: the famous story writer Boris Trigorin, the ingenue Nina, the fading actress Irina Arkadina and her son the playwright Konstantin Treplev.

Aaron Posner’s “Stupid F*****g Bird” is an irreverent, contemporary, petulant and very funny spoof of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” as it sends up its themes of the battle between old and new, the past and present and its tale of unrequited love, lost opportunities and unfulfilled dreams.

scenes from LAMTA production of The Seagull. Picture: Instagram

Old Soul Waiting”

Redhill Arts Festival, on July 30 and 31.

2021, Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award Winning experimental production “Old Soul Waiting”, by Slindile Mthembu, is making its debut at the Redhill Arts Festival, in Joburg.

“Old Soul Waiting” explores how ancestral calling is misdiagnosed as a form of mental illness and combines narrative and interpretative dance into a fascinating hybrid experience of what a spiritual awakening possibly looks like in the Western and the spiritual realm.

Old soul Waiting. Picture: Hymie Sokupha

JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience”

Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, UKZN from August 30 to September 11.

The 24th annual “JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience” is back with its first live programme after a two-year hiatus.

Under the theme "(im)possibility of home”, JOMBA! offers dance and theatre lovers a treat of 13 days of world-class contemporary dance and performance from local and international dance-makers.

The festival offers a powerhouse of performances by artists from Mozambique, Switzerland, Reunion Island, India, and Mzansi’s powerhouses including Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe, Mamela Nyamza, Nelisiwe Xaba, Fana Tshabalala and Sandile Mkhize.

Mamela Nyamza. Picture: Supplied

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