Hani: The Legend Celebrates a Hero’s Life with a Youthful Ensemble at Market Lab

The ensemble of Hani the Legacy1
The Ensemble of Hani: The Legacy

Pictures: Craig Chitima



DIRECTOR: Leila Henriques


CHOREOGRAPHER: Teresa Phuti Mojela

CAST: Graduates of the Market Lab (Boikobo Masibi, Darlington Khoza, Khanyiswa Mazwi, Mathews Rantsoma, Mthokozisi Dhludhlu, Ncumisa Ndimeni, Nosipho Buthelezi, Pereko Makgothi, Sinehlanhla Mgeyi, Thabiso Motseatsea, Tumeka Matintela and Vusi Nkwenkwezi

VENUE: The Ramolao Makhene @The Market Theatre Square


TIMES: Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7pm and Sunday at 3pm until January 28


It’s bold, brash and brilliant just like Hani and the youthful ensemble who are celebrating a hero’s life.

How do you reimagine a hero, perhaps forgotten or not known by particularly the young, and push him to the forefront where he belongs?

In this instance, they played it smart by taking a group of energetic and enthusiastic Market Lab students under the guidance of someone with the insight and experience of director Leila Henriques and you get those young minds fine-tuned and into the zone.

You play to their strengths and then you redline it with some hip-hop and rap with beat. It hits all the right marks with the young who are the target audience but because of the quality and the exuberance, it reaches much wider.

What is impressive is the text that so encapsulates the genius of Chris Hani while cleverly shining a light on his desire and determination to give his people, especially those at the bottom of the rung, economic freedom. This is also what bumps this one brilliantly into where we are right now. It emphasises how on the mark Hani was all those years ago – almost a quarter of a century back.

Because his wishes were so all-embracing and inclusive of especially those who had nothing, his outcomes would have delivered a much different country. That’s also the country so many are pointing to right now. In a world turned upside down by greed, it’s time which is what makes him such a prefect role model for the young and this such an exciting and invigorating show.

Sinehlanhla Mgeyi
Sinehlanhla Mgeyi

But that’s just a part of it. It’s storytelling from start to finish no matter the means. It starts with Hani’s humble beginnings and how he witnessed his parents’ suffering and how that contributed to his political fire and eventually fighting spirit. And it concludes with advice on how to light that torch and take it forward.

It’s all good if you have worked wonders with the script, but then you also have to execute. Inspired by the way the US musical phenomenon Hamilton stands and delivers with hip-hop at the forefront, that’s exactly what they do with this one.

The performances – one and all – are firebrand from the movement to the emotional impact of every word uttered either in speech or in song.

How does one so youthful capture someone so iconic as Mandela? And that’s all part of the fun as well as the gauge of where they’re going in search of their heroes.

Storytelling is such a powerful tool to achieve different things. In this country with its horrific past, this is arguably the purest way to engage and to get to know one another, amongst other things. What better way to explore one another than to celebrate our extraordinary talent?

Mathews Rantsoma
Mathews Rantsoma

Once you discover the transformative excitement of theatre there’s no turning back. In Newtown, both at the main theatres and at the Market Lab, there’s a strong push to engage with young audiences by telling stories that will both educate and entertain. That’s a big ask.

But they have been making inroads on all counts with South African theatre surging ahead as the winner.

These actors were all Market Lab students when they started this production for Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival last year. They have recently graduated, and this short season is their first foray onto the professional stage.

What a way to jumpstart what is not an easy if hugely satisfying profession. And hopefully they can take this one on tour to schools around the country. It is a play that will work for scholars on so many various levels – from creating role models to showcasing the possibility and potentials of theatre and more.

It’s a win for everyone.

But there’s still a week to catch the spirit of Chris Hani as nurtured by this very exciting group of young players. And well done to the Market Lab for giving the play another airing.