#WomensMonth: Giving women a voice on stage

By Virgilatte Gwangwa Time of article published Aug 17, 2017

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The South African State Theatre in Pretoria is again providing a stage for hidden female figures to tell their story, own their narratives through poetry, music, dance, drama and all things art during Women’s Month.

It has launched the fifth annual Vavasati International Festival under the theme “Flowers of the Revolution” and promised audiences bigger, better and uplifting performances throughout the month.

“This year the festival is bigger than ever. We're catering for all artists, from hip hop dancers, choirs, photography exhibitions and everything you can think of. And it is the first year we have opened our theatre to everyone in this way,” State Theatre deputy artistic director Napo Masheane said.

She said this year they were telling stories in different ways since the realisation that story-telling was not only about drama and music.

“Story-telling is not only about theatre drama and music, and this month we will be telling stories through photographic exhibition and playing dress-up to tell stories of femicide,” she said.

Masheane told those at the launch that the festival was an opportunity for women to talk, as they hardly had a chance to speak.

“Women hardly speak up unless of course we are plaiting each other’s hair or cooking at funerals and weddings. So this festival gives you a chance to speak up. I know we are all creators but we are also fragile souls and we need each other.

“This is where we take off our high heels and strip off the front of being a celebrity and talk about the person behind the work,” she said.

Excited about the line-up, Masheane said she was happy at how much the festival had grown over the years, as it now featured artists from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, the US, Italy and elsewhere, unlike when it began in 2013, when there was only one international artist.

Audiences were teased with some of the performances expected to take place throughout the month, and among the artists that performed was the city’s own Tselane Mashilo, and Kharyshi Wiginton from the US.

Mashilo, from Mamelodi, rendered a poem for audiences but promised that her show titled Nyala O would provide fun and energy.

“South Africans are used to the term nyala o nyele, which basically means that marriage is not an easy process as things get messy once married”.

“Through my play Nyala O, I am challenging the woman's voice because female voices are captured in our traditions as compared to Western cultures,” she said. The play aimed at moving away from the general concept that “marry and be bitter, unhappy, miserable” and all negative things but rather that one had to create their own ending and make marriage what they wanted it to be.

The 25-year-old University of Pretoria graduate went on to further her drama degree at Wits and is now one of the youngest lecturers at Tuks teaching drama.

“Audiences must be sure to be challenged in this show because I am not just going to give them a play. I am going to give them experience, art and the show will challenge them and how they see the reality they live within art,” she added.

Vavasati is a Xitsonga word meaning women and the showcase of art at the State Theatre is to reiterate the power and strength that women possess when they unite.

And through the festival, the State Theatre noted that it wanted to give accessibility to space and theatre resources to women artists whose names did not appear in any theatre history books.

Shows to be featured this month include Too Much Woman for this World, where Wiginton speaks of body image and the development of self-esteem; Gug’Othandayo by older women aged between 50 and 79; Mary the Unfaithful Woman, jazz and many more.

“This is for the hidden figures, the revolutionary flowers who wear their crowns with pride and dignity. These are our hidden figures coming out because like flowers they always rise, because they are so rooted in who they are that they will always find a reason to rise,” Masheane said.

Pretoria News

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