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WATCH: South African play, an ode to protectiveness amid society’s warped beliefs about albinism

Published Jun 14, 2022

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Cape Town - June is International Albinism Awareness Month and the statistics around discrimination and dangers that people with albinism face are absolutely horrific.

According to the United Nations, since November 2014, there have been more than 20 murders of people with albinism and at least 170 attacks in total.

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These incidents are not isolated to Malawi, with the UN saying that around 75 albinos were killed in Tanzania between 2000 and 2016.

A South African duo is looking to change the narrative and wants the world to see how through friendship, anything is possible.

Imbilini…my friend is a brand new South African play, written and performed by Bulelani Mabutyana, along with Siphenathi Mayekiso, and directed by the award-winning Mdu Kweyama. Photo: Supplied.

Imbilini…my friend is a brand new South African play, written and performed by Bulelani Mabutyana, along with Siphenathi Mayekiso, and directed by the award-winning Mdu Kweyama.

This important story made its debut at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio in Cape Town recently.

The physical theatre two-hander explores trust, empathy and that of being the other. A deep and profound friendship is put to the test between two young men who must grapple with issues of poverty, alcoholism, prejudice, society’s beliefs about albinism and the harshness of urban life, all of which pose challenges to the bond between the two.

The play was selected from a cohort of 10 creatives who attended The Baxter Masambe Playlab, a four-month long, writing residency which was held at the Baxter last year and which offered writers time, space, peer-to-peer mentoring and financial resources to create new work, as part of the Baxter’s Platform for Special Talent programme.

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The play was developed and mentored under the guidance of revered writer and director Lara Foot, Mabutyana and Mayekiso wrote Imbilini as an ode to their friendship, one of protectiveness amid society’s warped beliefs about albinism.

They navigate Mayekiso’s daily lived experience of albinism in a society that simply knows too little about the condition and how alcohol becomes a crutch to deal with the hardships faced by young men in South Africa, the Baxter Theatre said in a statement.

Mabutyana is protective of his friend and concerned for his safety

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The duo is directed by Mdu Kweyama, who is the curator and artistic director of the Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival, while Bulelani Mabutyana, a theatre graduate from Magnet Theatre, is a former recipient of the ICA’s emerging directors’ programme.

Written and performed by Bulelani Mabutyana, along with Siphenathi Mayekiso, the physical theatre two-hander, directed by the award-winning Mdu Kweyama, is now on at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio and runs until 25 June 2022. Baxter Theatre.

Siphenati Mayekiso is a graduate of the Magnet Theatre training programme. In 2013, he joined the Garage Dance Company in Okiep under the tutelage of Alfred Hinkel. As a freelance performer, he has done puppetry work for UNIMA South Africa and facilitated workshops for Magnet Theatre’s Culture Gangs Project.

He has acted as a stage manager for various productions and appeared in the short film Nommer 27, which won two awards in the Kyknet Silwerskerm.

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In 2021, he performed in Trapped, a brand-new work by Unmute Dance Company which challenged the ‘trapped mentality’ that society uses to stereotype persons living with a disability.

In 2017, The Baxter launched an innovative playwriting residency, a laboratory space for new writers to create and develop new plays under the guidance of a dramaturg with the goal of developing a full-length play.

It was within this space that Imbilini … my friend! was chosen to be developed and mentored by Baxter CEO and artistic director, Lara Foot.

Imbilini…my friend! runs at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from 9 to 25 June 2022 at 7.30pm nightly, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. There is an age restriction of 13 years.

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