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‘Blacksmith’ is a thought-provoking new play that delves into the untold truths of African history

Published Sep 19, 2023


“Blacksmith” is a thought-provoking exploration of the tension between Western and African traditions, the struggle for cultural and spiritual authenticity and the transformative power of reconnecting with one’s roots and heritage.

Written and performed by Thabo Ramaine, “Blacksmith” is directed by Lonwabo Bhele,” under the director mentorship of MoMo Matsunyane and dramaturge mentor Monageng “Vice” Motshabi.

“Blacksmith” will be staged at the Market Theatre from September 23 until October 8.

“Blacksmith” serves as a celebration of African history and heritage, while also acknowledging the challenges and struggles faced by African people throughout history.

The production employs innovative mask work and a live musician to breathe life into its powerful narrative.

At its core, “Blacksmith” is driven by a profound sense of urgency to address the issue of mental slavery among Africans.

The title of the play, “Blacksmith”, draws upon a historical concept where the blacksmith is the one who crafts weapons and sharpens metal with the power of fire.

“The name ‘Blacksmith’ is a historical concept from the original meaning that describes the one who crafts weapons and sharpens metal with fire,” said Ramaine.

“The title of the play is the metaphor that describes the one who sharpens the mind and creates weapons of consciousness. The communion between fire and metal becomes the key significance of the communion between African stories and the minds that conceive them.”

“Blacksmith” also addresses pivotal moments that have shaped the African trajectory, acknowledging the historical impact of colonialism and white supremacy on the continent.

Through its narrative and performance, the production offers a platform for reflection on these important historical and cultural themes.

When the stage lights come up, a central character of profound significance takes the spotlight.

This character is entrusted with the sacred duty of preserving a heritage that emerged from the crucible of struggle. The production takes audiences on a journey that delves deep into the untold truths of African history.

“Blacksmith,” focuses on the clash between Western and African traditions and the inner conflict experienced by individuals caught between these two worlds,” elaborates Bhele.

“The play follows the journey of Thotokiso as a preacher, who along the way gets a spiritual awakening or calling from his forefathers, urging him to turn away from the Western way of preaching and instead embrace and teach African traditions.

“This calling represents a powerful theme of cultural and spiritual reconnection, where Thotokiso is drawn back to his roots and ancestral heritage.

Thabo Ramaine in Blacksmith. Picture: Hoek Swaratlhe

“Thotokiso initially resists this calling, perhaps reflecting the internal struggle that many individuals face when confronted with a shift in their beliefs or a return to their cultural origins.

“This resistance leads him into a trance-like state, a transformative experience where he is confronted with the consequences of colonisation and the Western gospel.”

During this transformative experience, Thotokiso is guided towards embracing and teaching African values and traditions.

This evolution sees this character move away from the Western influence and towards a deeper understanding of his African identity.

“Blacksmith” promises to be a production that not only entertains but also challenges and enlightens its audience by delving into the complexities of cultural identity and spirituality.

“Blacksmith carries a lot of African history that blends with storytelling, mythology, folk-tales and fables. It celebrates who we are as a black society and it reminds the African people of their heritage,” explains Bhele.

The Artistic Director of The Market Theatre, Greg Homann expressed the significance of “Blacksmith”, emphasising that the production served as a valuable reminder of the importance of acknowledging and engaging with the impact of our colonial past.

Homann highlights how “Blacksmith” shines a piercing light on the complexities and wounds that continue to shape the nation and its sense of identity.

“The upcoming restaging of this work in Heritage Month will no doubt encourage dialogue and contribute to a path where, one day, our colonial legacy no longer haunts us.”

“Blacksmith” runs from September 23 until October 8 at the Market Theatre.

Tickets are available at Webtickets from R100 to R200.

Vusi Kunene in ‘The Suit Concer-tized’. Picture: Supplied


“The Suit Concer-tized”

Where: Joburg Theatre.

When: Until September 24.

Cost: R140 to R500 via Webtickests

“The Suit Concer-tized” is a musical adaptation of Can Themba’s classic short story, set in the Sophiatown era, which revolves around themes of lust and betrayal.

Directed by Warona Seane, the production features outstanding musical arrangements and original compositions by Tshepo Tsotetsi and Viwe Mkizwana, performed live by the talented New Skool Orchestra.

This reimagining of Can Themba’s story takes a feminist perspective, offering a fresh interpretation of the narrative.

It explores the story of a jilted husband seeking revenge on his unfaithful wife and incorporates themes related to gender-based violence.

The production is executive-produced, conceptualised and adapted by Dr Mothobi Mutloatse, with Bridget van Oerle as associate producer.

James Ngcobo, artistic director of Joburg City Theatres, highlights that “The Suit” is a timeless story of romantic betrayal and revenge that transcends its period setting.

The production places a strong emphasis on feminism, giving the female protagonist, Matilda, more agency in the story. The live orchestra enhances the storytelling, and the production promises to be a captivating experience for audiences.

The cast features Vusi Kunene as Philemon, Khutjo Green as Matilda/ Mbalenhle, Brian Temba as Thozamile/ Orpheus, Lebogang Ledwaba as the young Matilda, Kgaugelo Mpiyane as the young Thozamile, Job Kubatsi and Alistair Dube in supporting roles.

“The Suit Concer-tized” promises to blend various musical genres, including classical music, gospel, choral, jazz and modern South African sounds, to create a unique and immersive theatrical experience for the audience.

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