Writing is What Debut Author Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu Wants to do With her Life

A writer that was born to write is a wondrous thing as DIANE DE BEER discovers when first reading The Theory of Flight (Penguin Books) and then speaking to the author Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu:

 

book Siphiwe and mom
Author Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu and her mom Sarah Nokuthula Ndhlovu.

 

On the third of September, not so long ago, something truly wondrous happened on the Beauford Farm and Estate. At the moment of her death, Imogen Zula Nyoni – Genie – was seen to fly away on a giant pair of silver wings…

 

These are the first words in Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu’s debut novel The Theory of Flight (Penguin Books) and it never lets up. From that first sentence, it grabs your attention and keeps you in a state of wonderment about this first-time fiction writer’s glorious gift of storytelling.

She says that an immensely strong connection to her family and a similar one to Bulawayo, the city where she was born and raised, informs her writing.  “I am also deeply invested in Zimbabwe’s history. These things not only influence my sense of self but also inform my writing. The Theory of Flight is marked through with these influences and Beauford Farm and Estate is built on the memory of the place I grew up as a child – Rangemore.”

She was born in 1977 in the former Rhodesia during what she calls “the country’s civil war, but what most call the war for liberation and others call the bush war or terrorist war”. At the time of her birth, her family was going through a rough time as her grandparents’ nationalist politics had her grandfather imprisoned as a political detainee and her grandmother blacklisted from her teaching profession. “When my grandfather was released from prison in 1978, my entire family left the country as political refugees. We lived in Sweden and then the USA before moving back to Zimbabwe when the country became independent in 1980.

“I grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in the 1980s and 1990s, in 1997 I left Zimbabwe for college in the USA. I lived in the USA for 18 years, furthering my education until I received my PhD from Stanford University in 2013. When my grandmother passed away in 2014, I realized that I had lived in the ‘diaspora’ long enough and that it was time to come home. I got a job in Johannesburg in 2015 and worked and lived in South Africa until July this year. I had decided to take a year off to just focus on my writing, so that is what I will be doing, now back in Bulawayo, starting in October.”

book flight

The remarkable thing about her book is not only the writing but also the way she tells her story which she says she has been doing since she was a very young child. With a grandmother who was a teacher, she was taught to read from a young age and was told these amazing stories. “I have always had a vivid imagination and a passion for storytelling. My grandmother used to tell the most amazing stories so from a young age I was very aware of what a great and wonderful expanse the imagination was. I visited the places in my imagination many times as a child. I remember standing in sunflower and maize fields lost in my imagination.” (All images which are very present in her book).

“As my vocabulary grew, I started drawing stick figures whose lives grew more and more complicated as I grew. In my teens, I started writing general ideas for stories and short stories. I loved reading ever since I started reading at around the age of 4. And at some point it occurred to me that I wanted to be a writer. It was a distant dream, but one I firmly believed I would realise. So at college I studied Writing, Literature and Publishing.”

She then went on to pursue an MFA in Film and a PhD in Modern Thought and Literature, but she held tightly to the dream of becoming a writer. “It was something that I always knew I was going to do. Doing it, however, proved somewhat more difficult and complicated than I had imagined.”

She started writing The Theory of Flight in 2010. But she was writing her PhD dissertation as well. The situation was untenable because she was losing her heart to her characters but she didn’t have time to spend with them. She talks about being a conduit for these stories, that it feels as if they come to her and she simply has to listen.

She finally finished writing the dissertation in 2013 and the first draft of The Theory of Flight in 2015.

What she discovered was how difficult it is to transport the world you visit in your imagination onto the page. But however difficult, she fell in love with the process of writing, of getting to know the characters better, of having more of their world revealed to her. “This was what I want to do with my life.”

She can’t remember how the title of the book came to her but there is an explanation in the book. The story, she explains, was a means for her to deal with the loss of her aunt, Sibongile Frieda Ndlovu to whom the book is also dedicated, who passed away in 2007, at the age of 34. “She was four years older than me and we had grown up as sisters.”

She wanted to explore the many ways we love and lose the people in our lives. She also wanted to examine Zimbabwe’s own history of loss — civil war, ethnic cleansing, HIV/AIDS, genocide. “The country has lost millions of people, all within the span of a generation – what does this mean for the country, who are we now?”

It’s clear when reading the book that the writer is someone extraordinary and when you chat to her, that feeling is reinforced. Having been out of her country of birth the past 20 years, she could watch from afar, think about things more clearly and come to very specific decisions. In a time when it is all about me, Ndlovu believes strongly in the Kennedy adage: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

But she was also very clear in her mind that she did not want The Theory of Flight to be a doom-and-gloom African tale. “I wanted all that loss to be put in the context of all the love that existed throughout all those difficult events in our history. I wanted the story to also be about the sunflowers, the friendships, the loves that people experienced. I also wanted the story to capture the way stories are told in this place: anything is possible, the imagination is a great big expanse, people can fly.”

She does all that and so much more. When she was a little girl, soon after her grandfather came out of prison, she saw the torture marks on his body. When she asked him about them, not fully understanding yet feeling the pain, her response was that she hated all white people. “He looked at me and asked me what had white people ever done to me?” She describes this as her most teachable moment which says everything about who she is and has become – and it runs through her writing with clarity and charm.

And if you lose your heart to the people of her world in The Theory of Flight, there’s good news. She’s in the process of planning the second book of what she hopes will be a trilogy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mighty Man and His Music – Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo

prof khumalo2
Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo and his passion for choral music.

At a recent conference held at Unisa titled The Intellectual Legacy of Professor James Steven Mzilikazi Khumalo, DIANE DE BEER discovered how this great man became the focus of this event and why it is so important to relook at all these iconic figures who need to have the spotlight refocused on their work and their achievements:

African American Naomi André, an Associate Professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, first started a collaboration with Professor Brenda Mhlambi (Associate Professor of African Languages and Assistant Dean of Humanities at Wits) and Dr Donato Somma (Senior Lecturer in Music, Wits School of Arts) around 8 years ago (in 2010).

“I was interested in learning more about the opera scene in South Africa, especially after the dismantling of apartheid and had heard about Bongani Ndodana Breen’s Winnie: The Opera,” she says. They saw the premiere (at the State Theatre in Pretoria, 2011) and then published a cluster of articles on it in African Studies something that will also happen with the Khumalo conference to enhance his public profile.

prof khumalo speakers1
Diliza Khumalo, Naomi André, Donato Somma, Brenda Mhlambi

Her focus becomes clear and her interest in Mzilikazi Khumalo and the continuation of her South African collaboration is illuminated with the knowledge that she is the author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement (University of Illinois Press, 2018) which examines race, gender, and sexuality in opera in the US and South Africa.

Following the first collaboration, she was again involved with her two former collaborators in organising a broader conference where she met Dr Thomas Pooley  (from Unisa who served as conference convenor) with a mutual interest in choral and indigenous music. They all decided then that a working symposium that honoured the great legacy of Prof. Mzilikazi Khumalo as a linguist, choral composer, and opera composer would be a good idea.

“My main goal was (and continues to be) to find a way to have Khumalo’s works become better known, become integrated into school curricula (secondary and tertiary education in South Africa and abroad), performed more regularly, and generate scholarship on South African music,” she says. They also wanted to start small with people directly involved either as family, friends or colleagues as well as academics in the field.

In all these endeavours, she knew that collaboration was a no-brainer. “My (South African) colleagues are terrific as they knew that in order to do this, we would need to bring scholars together with members of the Khumalo family, SAMRO, and people close to Khumalo (such as conductors and musicians who had worked with him) as a way to start the process of getting this music out into a wider public.”

They realised that as South Africa is moving to decolonize their curricula and structures of knowledge, it was fitting to shine more light on Prof. Khumalo (as he is familiarly known) and his work in many interlocking areas with language, linguistics, choral music, and large operatic ventures for example Princess Magogo which was also staged at the State Theatre.

Prof khumalo speakers
Themba Msimang (keynote speaker and librettist), Nomavenda Mathiane, a sister, organiser Thomas Pooley and niece, Seloane Matoase

On board were both family members as well as friends and colleagues who could speak about the man and his work giving a very personal insight of how the one informed the other. For those listening it was more than an educational endeavour. The role of music in his life was evident as the different speakers (with audience members) broke into song regularly by way of illustrating a point about the music man under the spotlight. This was after all the best way to tell his story.

What stood out was the central role Prof Khumalo played in this country’s vibrant choral tradition and that, all the speakers agreed was why he had to be in concert halls and in classrooms.

Music was always central in his life and when his family members spoke, (a son, Diliza Khumalo and a sister, Nomavenda Mathiane) they captured the essence of a man whose life revolved around music. “He involved us all in his music,” said Khumalo Jnr, “and when he was involved with local choirs, his children also became members of his choirs.”

He also drew the family into the development of his compositions and when he had finished a piece, they would all have to listen. “He was also a dedicated academic and when he did research, we all did research,” added Khumalo Jnr. His father was passionate about the history and culture of the Zulu nation which explains his compositions UShaka KaSenzangakhona (described as a musical epic) and the opera Princess Magogo for example. “He had one mission and that was to compose music for the people to sing and enjoy,” he concluded.

His sister on the other hand gave insight into their childhood and a family that was always surrounded by music. “We could all play instruments and music was a part of our lives from a very early age,” she explained. Choirs, she believes is where he honed his music skills.

Prof Khumalo
Professor James Steven Mzilikazi Khumalo

“He was a teacher,” says Themba Madlopha who first encountered Prof Khumalo in a lecturer/student capacity but is now a choir master himself. He threw light on how the professor was influenced by the times, for example, his resentment of the treatment of political prisoners. “He was not at home with injustices, but he was such a gentleman, he hid it under a religious cloak. But, he found ways of including the truths in his work like a lament of the black people in apartheid chains,” he noted.

He also explained that Prof Khumalo was deeply obsessed with folk music traditions and he found a way to marry the melodic directions to the Zulu tones. “He was the most prolific composer of our time,” he said. And he agrees to all the above says poet Themba Msimang, the man who was brought on board by Khumalo as his lyricist. First on the list was Shaka which was intended as a rite of reconciliation not only for the Zulu nation (and those who betrayed Shaka) but also for South Africa as a nation. This was followed by Princess Magogo which originated as a commission from Opera Africa as the first African opera and yet, the man responsible for the lyrics had no experience of musicals or opera.

He was puzzled why he was selected but it was because of his poetry, his own love and understanding of the Zulu nation and his writing as a poet. And probably, because he wasn’t steeped in opera, he would approach it with a fresh eye which contributed a unique quality together with Khumalo’s African-inspired tone. Both of these are now considered landmark productions.

As the chairman of the committee responsible for our current national anthem, he is part of the public discourse yet his name, accomplishments and compositions should be a living part of our heritage.

In conclusion André and her collaborators are planning to publish a collection of essays that include papers that were delivered and round out the publication with other essays to provide a strong introduction to Khumalo’s work and materials for people to learn more about him and include him on the syllabi in music classrooms.

“I strongly believe that the arts and culture of a nation are very important in having that nation develop and thrive. I hope this work that brings Khumalo’s accomplishment into a brighter spotlight will also help open up other opportunities for other composers and artists. South Africa has a rich heritage in music—both in traditional and folk music, as well as the syncretic musical traditions that reveal rich intersections with the West and music from other cultures. Khumalo’s choral and operatic works are central to this legacy,” she concludes.

*The symposium was made possible through funding from an African Heritage Seed Grant from the University of Michigan and from the Department of Art History, Visual Arts and Musicology, Unisa.

 

 

 

 

 

The Bravely Functioning Gauteng Opera Needs Funding to Exist and Caring Friends to Flourish and Survive

Gauteng Opera 2
The hardworking and glorious Gauteng Opera

DIANE DE BEER

 

Money or more pertinently funding is the asset that drives Gauteng Opera and helps them not only to function but to exist.

Following a closure scare in March this year due to lack of funds, Classic 1027 came on board with support and raised R400 000 for the company which allowed them to go ahead with the students who study at the Academy as well as holding on to the interns in the company for the time being.

It is a constant struggle though but quite a few measures have been taken to help financially in the future.

The company created by Neels Hansen and Mimi Coertse in 1999 with the aim of finding and training young talent unable to afford formal education, has achieved much but with their constant struggle for funding and tighter financial constraints all round, they have had to be even more proactive than usual.

Two newfound friends, experienced marketing experts, Collett Dawson and Claire Pacariz, both offered their many years of operating skills recently to put Gauteng Opera on a much more visible stage.

Already an all-round performing arts and entertainment company focusing on opera related productions, concerts and events, their scaling down earlier this year has turned them into a streamlined outfit but that also means fewer hands doing even more work.

Arnold Cloete - Chief Executive Officer Gauteng Opera
Arnold Cloete – Chief Executive Officer Gauteng Opera

This has never been a problem for founding member and CEO Arnold Cloete and his new artistic director Phenye Modiane with their slogan “Opera for Everyone”, encouraging and enthusing them to expose opera to varied audiences with different vocal offerings. This was also what these two women wanted to showcase a few weekends ago.

In the process they also introduced prospective clients to the facilities of the company’s recently established theatre and their base – Tin Town Theatre in Ferreirasdorp, that offers many possibilities as well as rehearsal facilities for everyone from dance companies to theatre.

The company is driven by excellence in vocal performance and theatre and pride themselves in being one of the foremost nurturers of quality vocal performance and theatre practitioners.

The reason their mandates are as broad as possible is to maintain a company at all, notes Cloete. In today’s world, opera companies in South Africa are fast disappearing and the artists of Gauteng Opera have no choice but to challenge the conventions of art while not being confined to the traditional operatic repertoire.

Performance is their endgame but for Gauteng Opera education and the development of South African singers is vital.  Through sponsorships and support for the Academy, they train young talented singers without the financial support to study at accredited tertiary institutions and provide opportunities to develop their talent and performance experience during a three-year internship.

These trainees get tutoring in the various music disciplines such as singing technique, music theory, history of music, repertoire development and piano, the operatic languages, acting and movement. They form part of the Gauteng Opera chorus and perform regularly with the professional singers.

Phenye Modiane - Artistic Director Gauteng Opera
Phenye Modiane – Artistic Director Gauteng Opera

Gauteng Opera artists have performed throughout South Africa in various concerts, events and productions with the best orchestras South Africa has to offer. They are also involved in Community work with schools and charities.

Notable concert performances include Gauteng Opera’s One Voice: An African Celebration, annual Christmas Concerts and Forté in Concert. Opera productions include Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata in 2015, three short South African operas, performed under the banner, Cula Mzansi in 2015 and 2016, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore in 2016 and recently, Puccini’s La Bohème at the Joburg Theatre and Durban Playhouse.

To find and nurture resources to ensure their future, they have come up with a few options: The Friends of Gauteng Opera initiative permits individual patrons and businesses to support the company through monthly donations. Proceeds help Gauteng Opera meet monthly operational costs.

There’s also a sponsorship scheme for individual artists. A supporter builds a personal relationship with the adopted singer and contributes to their operational sustainability by meeting a portion of the artist’s monthly salary. The name of the adopter features in brackets behind the artist’s name in all event programmes and the artist undertakes to perform at an event of the sponsor’s choice, accompanied by a Gauteng Opera pianist. The supporter receives invitations to all Gauteng Opera productions during the sponsoring year.

The Build Gauteng Opera scheme helps to meet or minimize maintenance expenses. Contributors (private and corporate) are encouraged to donate building materials, equipment, kitchen appliances, fabric for theatrical costumes and other items. Facility enhancement also enables them to increase the desirability of the space as a venue for launches, presentations and other events which then develops an income stream by hiring out the Tin Town Theatre when the space is not required by Gauteng Opera.

Any of these will help to save one of South Africa’s leading entertainment and performing arts companies. Simply call Gauteng Opera on 011 067 8001 or make contact at arnold@gautengopera.org / artistic@gautengopera.org.

If you want to support them by attending their concerts, here are the next couple of events:

  • Saturday, 29 September at 1pm; Gauteng Opera City Walk with Flying Cows of Jozie Concert at The Market Shed @ 1Fox – Concert – free entrance.

Bookings for the city walk: Josine Overdevest – josine@flyingcowsofjozi.co.za

  • Saturday, 06 October at 3 and 8pm; The Merrow Down Estate Concerts at the Merry Down Country Club, Magaliesig, R150 per person

Bookings: Vera Harvey – event@icon.co.za / 083 461 0857

  • Saturday, 13 October at 7pm;

Rotary and CCJ Fundraising Event for GO, Country Club Johannesburg, Woodmead, R250 per person, include substantial snacks – cash bar;

Bookings: Denise Cruickshank deni@global.co.za / 011 784 0617 / 083 448 4844

  • Wednesday, 17 October at 7pm, La Trinita Dinner Concert at Kyalami Centre, R200 per person, a la carte menu;

Bookings: latrinita@mweb.co.za / 011 466 7949

  • Sunday, 21 October at 3pm, 4th Sunday Afternoon Concert at Tin Town Theatre, Ferreirasdorp, R150 per person

Bookings: Arnold Cloete – arnold@gautengopera.org / 011 067 8001

Check under season banner for further concerts at http://www.gautengopera.org.

Gauteng Opera 1

A Fight for the Soul of a Cape Flats Family

DIANE DE BEER

 

Jarrid Geduld as Abie
Time out – Jarrid Geduld as Abie

 

ELLEN, DIE ELLEN PAKKIES STORIE

(Afrikaans with English subtitles)

DIRECTOR: Daryne Joshua

SCRIPT: Amy Jephta

CAST: Jill Levenberg, Jarrid Geduld, Elton Landrew, Kay Smith

When Requiem for a Dream was released in 2000, it established a benchmark for movies dealing with addiction. But what has changed in the meantime is the way addiction manifests in specific communities.

Currently in the US they are battling the worst opioid addiction in their history, but back home specifically amongst the coloured community on the Cape Flats (and elsewhere) it is the scourge of tik that holds communities hostage. Theirs is a very particular and personal story because of the past, the history of where they come from and where they find themselves and the never-ending cycle of hardship with those in trouble ripe for the picking.

The Ellen Pakkies story is a familiar one and many will know the bare facts of the mother who in desperation strangled her tik-addicted son. But what Jephta and Joshua have achieved is to disembowel this family tragedy in all its horror. Set in Lavender Hill where it all happened with the community part of the story, Pakkies was involved with the script and stripped her soul to unravel the story of a son unable to deal with the tragedy of his life and then turning to drugs and away from the father and mother who would have given their lives to keep him safe.

Instead, they are the people he turns on, that’s what addiction does, and the people involved, both the user and those around the addict, are not equipped to deal with the fallout of their lives. In this instance, a mother’s past impacts on decisions made in the future and in turn infiltrates a family’s way of dealing with life. When tough issues surface, no one sees their lives spiraling out of control because the fall is fast and before they know it, lives are completely out of control and so often lost.

Pakkies parents in distress
Pakkies parents in distress – Jill Levenberg as Ellen and Elton Landrew as Odneal.

Pakkies knew how to battle the world. She had a battered childhood and was used to fighting her way out of trouble. But this time she would need help, and this is really the dilemma of these communities who are overwhelmed by drugs and the culture that comes with it. Just this week the police again released murder statistics and the highest are gang-related.

With these devastating numbers prevalent on the Cape Flats, the individual families dealing with the addicts have nowhere to turn. The system is inadequate, and they are left to their own devices which is how they got into trouble in the first place. The well has run dry.

But when disaster strikes, people turn on those who aren’t able to cope. That’s the story that is being told and that plays out in these communities’ time and again with no hope of change. What empowers the Pakkies story is the script, the clear direction and dramatic performances from the three main characters that tear at your heart. Levenberg’s Ellen and Geduld’s Abie, the out-of-control son, were awarded best actress and actor prizes at the recent Silwerskerm Fees as a result.

Jarrid Geduld as Abie1
No way out – Jarrid Geduld as Abie

It is their crystallising vision and sensibility that add texture to the work. Watching Abie turn from a promising scholar with a future to someone whose every breath is focussed on the drug that feeds his life, is traumatising. From a loving teenager he turns into something rather than someone as the drug dehumanises every move he takes to ensure a continued fix from day to day. We all know the devastating effects but to watch it happening in front of your eyes is harsh and the only way to deal with that reality.

Levenberg’s Ellen is a tiger mom who goes on the prowl to defend her son. She is determined to fight for his soul but while she and husband Odneal (Landrew in another heartfelt delivery), are in the fight for their son’s life, the outside world turns its back. Turning their home into a prison to keep their son out, having lost most of their possessions, their nights turn into terror as the drug makes their son a thug who devastates them to feed his habit.

Ellen, die Ellen Pakkies Storie is not easy to watch especially because we think we are familiar with the reality of what is happening around this addiction, but with a smart script and direction, Levenberg, Geduld and Landrew tell their story of pain with a poignancy and punch that forces audiences to engage.

The Brilliance of Rachel Botes

Pictures: THEANA BREUGEM

Rachel Botes2
Chef and butcher Rachel Botes Pictures: Theana Breugem/ http://www.thefoodphotographer.co.za

Chef Rachel Botes is all about brilliance. DIANE DE BEER mourns the loss of her much loved Carlton Café Delicious which recently closed its doors after 16 years of excellence but celebrates the potential this unleashes for this genius food mind in the future:

 

Looking back, moving forward was the title of something described as an inspirational discussion presented by Weylandts Kramerville on design and lifestyle trends recently. And the person I was really focussed on was the woman responsible for all the magic at our dearly departed Carlton Café Delicious in Menlyn a few weeks back.

And while mourning all round happened in Pretoria café circles, Rachel junkies like myself, though sad about the demise of this particularly delicious deli, also knew that perhaps the universe was having its way with this forward-thinking chef whose talents were sometimes overlooked by those who should know better. Not only has she been busy writing her first cookbook with venison the topic du jour but she is also knee-deep in studies on the historical background of the iconic melktert (milk tart).

And it was specifically the future venison book that was the topic of her conversation on the day; the fact that it is the cleanest and most sustainable meat available. “Food is my design and my colour; venison is my passion.” That’s how this chef, butcher and future author describes her focus and it’s clear that this is a talent that refuses to go away.

 

Tapping into the topic of the day, she explained that memories and nostalgia have always been an inspiration for her food. But just in case you think you can pin her food choices down, her recipes for the day and in advance of the venison book to come, include leg of venison with pineapple peels and banana, wrapped in fig leaves; venison rusks; and biltong cheesecake with preserved quinces and goat’s cheese. She also notes that the recipes will all be interchangeable with beef, lamb and pork if venison is not your choice or perhaps not available.

It is to hear her speak about the individual recipes to understand where her food brain wanders. Sheep-fat rusks, for example, is a Karoo special and she wanted to include a version of this in the book. What she has done, because venison doesn’t boast the kind of fat necessary for the rusks, was to include shredded impala in the dough mixture. “It pairs magnificently with coffee,” she says.

Using the pineapple skins and banana as a tenderiser for the meat in her leg of venison and then wrapping it in fig leaves, she loves the way all the flavours permeate the meat. And in case you’re wondering, when your fig tree has leaves, that’s when you preserve them, to have their availability all year round.

Rachel rusks
Venison rusks

The biltong cheesecake was a no-brainer. As South Africans we’ve always liked something sweet with our meat, she confides, so this cheesecake straddles that savoury/sweet conundrum and it could go either way.

This is exactly who Rachel Botes is. She cannot call halt when it comes to imagination and innovation. It is her goal to turn venison into the star she and her sponsor, Sollie Potgieter, believe it should be. His wife (Elize) and his passion is Burkea Wild where they farm mainly with Livingstone eland, buffalo, sable and oryx.

She met the couple when they started coming to her deli 15 years ago and discovered they had similar food desires and dreams.

She points to days when we all knew where our food came from. “There were trust relationships between a client and her butcher or grocer,” she reminds us, and this is something she believes should be part of our food culture again. And while this cannot happen in the way it did in the past, we could still endeavour to create these relationships where we can in the interest of our health and good living.

While there isn’t a regular supply for venison and we cannot just order a kudu rump or a springbok sirloin at will, with a stronger demand it could be more and better controlled. With her book, which will be titled Antelope, she hopes to start an education process that will inform those interested in food and their health. “I would rather opt for these free-range animals than those injected with hormones,” she adds.

rachel melktert2

When she first started investigating the recipes available on venison, she turned to what she refers to as “compilation albums”, those recipe books put together by schools and churches and sold to raise funds. Her starting point has always been to respect what she is working with and when it’s venison, that’s not a tough ask. With her first encounter with an enormous kudu carcass, she had to find a bigger kitchen to accommodate this craziness. It was quite intimidating, but she also realised that she loved working with this extraordinary meat. “I have such respect because I know I’m working with something special,” she explains.

If you think venison is not your kind of meat, Botes will be the one to persuade you differently. Those of us who know and have sampled her food often, understand her extraordinary ability to create something completely different from something we thought we all knew.

And in Pretoria, while Cartlon Café Delicious has left a gaping hole in our culinary chest, Botes will be back. That is already clear with what she has been up to this year without knowing that impossible rentals would unexpectedly rush a closure which would have come in the not too distant future anyway. But with venison and milk tart a part of her everyday thinking at present, it won’t take long before she pulls all her dedicated followers into some kind of version of her food fantasies.

She has many. But she is still mulling about her future with many of her ideas in an early state of osmosis. When she returns, it won’t be quietly.

The book titled Antelope is the first to appear – in January 2019. So, watch out for that and follow news on her progress on Instagram and facebook: @rachelsdelicious.

Blackwashing Homophobia in SA and How Violence is Used as Control

blackwashing coverAuthor and activist as well as adjunct associate professor in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town, Melanie Judge is speaking at the Open Book Fair in Cape Town on September 5 and 7, and then she will also be joining diverse authors at the South African Book Fair in Jozi on September 8 in a discussion titled Feminism – a global conversation. She spoke to DIANE DE BEER about her latest book titled Blackwashing Homophobia: Violence and the Politics of Sexuality, Gender and Race (Routledge, 2018):

 

It sounds like a mouthful, the title, and it is, but what it captures is the essence of what still drives the world – power and how that plays out in the worlds of especially “the other”.

The title, notes Melanie Judge, is an attempt to think about homophobic violence alongside other types of violence and discrimination, not in isolation but to historically situate it in a South African context. “I wanted to know what fuels homophobia” And adds, “given our history, it is impossible to unpack issues of race and sexuality in South Africa separately – hence the title.”

Pointing to the title – blackwashing homophobia – and what emerged from her research, especially how racial and sexual discrimination work alongside one another to produce very problematic ideas about gay and lesbian people in South Africa, and about black gay and lesbian people in particular, is what drives this particular story.

As an activist, she wanted to understand and glean the multiple dimensions of both the causes and effects of violence and its relationship to race, gender and sexual power.

She notes that violence is always an instrument of power and a way to exercise it. How then are lesbians vulnerable to violence – more so than other groups for example – and in what way do they resist.

Power, she explains is a way to exert control over those who don’t conform to sexual and gender norms. If for example, you’re a lesbian, the implication is often that you’re not a “real woman”. In the book, the specific vulnerability lesbians face is described as “double trouble”, meaning that they are stigmatized because they are women, and also because they are lesbian, and that the trouble the gender system in which men are straight people are dominant. In all cultures, sexual and gender diversity is battle ground on which social norms are defined and challenged.

Melanie Judge
Melanie Judge

The book also explores how violence is used to control sexuality and gender. Looking back at colonial and apartheid times, people were governed through violence. “Violence was used to control,” she explains, and that continues to today. “We are a very violent society, so it makes sense,” she argues as she fast forwards to now.

But her focus for the book is on homophobic violence and how it relates to other forms of violence. “How for example does it intersect with racism?” Her argument is that violence props up, establishes and maintains systems of inequality. It is also used to maintain the hierarchy between men and women, gay people and straight people, and rears its ugly head whenever there’s inequality.

It’s important in maintaining the status quo to keep those binaries in place. In other words, if you’re a lesbian, you cannot be a real woman, so you’re always viewed as ‘lesser than’ for not complying with gender norms. And in the end, everyone in society is affected. “Queer becomes a spectacle,” she says, “a kind of anomaly to the ‘normal’ that is sometimes tolerated, just as long as it knows its place and doesn’t disrupt too much”.

If people from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community are systematically excluded on different levels, it creates a form of marginalisation, something the South African society and its way of conducting life is very familiar with. It was important in this sense for example to explore the link between the everyday insults that LGBT people face and the more brutal forms of violence they are subjected to.

This results in a social environment that makes these more extreme forms of violence possible. Already, for example, white LGBT people who are affluent, escape some of the targeting. In trying to understand this violence, she found that it was often ascribed to blackness. “I find that particularly racist,” she says.

There’s a strong discourse for example about violence in the township and this idea that violence is inherent to black people. What she feels needs to be done is to problematise that kind of misrepresentation because it doesn’t tell the full and thus correct story. “No one,” says Judge, “is naturally bigoted, and we must understand the realities facing black LGBT people as a product of centuries of racial and economic oppression and dispossession.”

But she argues, power inequalities produce violent outcomes. “People are kept in their place in the social and economic hierarchy through violent means.”

She argues strongly that if we want to address the violence, we have to address social injustices. Violence is all about building your identity, who you are and how you function in the world. It is time says Judge that we stop asserting our own right over others in terms of race, gender and sexual superiorities. “We have to establish new forms of social relationship,” she says. “How empty is your power if it can only hold its own at the cost of the other?”

That’s why binaries were so essential during apartheid: blackness and whiteness had to be classified and identified constantly. “Yet, we never have singular identities,” she notes. You’re not just a woman, you might also be queer or straight, rich or poor, and this will shape your life prospects. What defines you never rests on one thing alone and in that intersection is where people connect across difference. “We have a multiplicity of identities. Some of these give us power and others make us vulnerable.”

As individuals we are all complicit in maintaining the current state of affairs but she has discovered powerful and positive resistance against discriminatory social norms.

But how does one erase the past patterns of doing and being in relation to others? It is something that we need to confront in this country especially because of our past and with the hope of creating a different future. “We have to undo everything,” says Judge who knows things don’t just happen as a matter of course.

Systems of prejudice are all about exclusion. “It’s about keeping people in positions of inferiority or superiority that lies at the heart of inequality.”

But she is excited about the divergence and vibrancy of queer life in this country. “We are in post-apartheid and to some extent with huge advances, but the law has largely run its course in how far it can take us towards a more equal society.” She believes that with the firm footing of legal equality, the battle ground can, and has, shifted to the religious and cultural spheres. “It is important that we change the way we relate to one another, and that we change social structures to be more equitable and inclusive.”

“We have to think back before we can go forward,” are her sage words of advice. Homophobia is part of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. “We can’t approach the now if we haven’t dealt with the past,” she advocates.

Sasol’s New Signatures 2018 is about Mapping Time and Personal Stories

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From left: Megan Serfontein, Jessica Kapp, Kelly Crouse, Pierre le Riche, Debbie Fan, Peter Campbell, Sasol New Signatures Chairperson, Prof Pieter Binsbergen, and Mulatedzi Simon Moshapo.

DIANE DE BEER

The way people use art to share their personal stories and speak their mind is what makes it such a rare and valuable commodity. Each year when the New Signature winners are announced, and the exhibition opens at the Pretoria Art Museum in Arcadia, the work captures a specific zeitgeist.

Stellenbosch-based artist, Jessica Storm Kapp, 22, the winner of the 2018 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition won the coveted award for her rammed earth columns and embedded object installation piece titled Mapping Time.

Pierre le Riche with Ap(peal) 1 & Ap(peal) 11
Winner Jessica Kapp with Mapping Time.

Personal stories with a universal message was this year’s focus with Kapp’s work following and thus the result of the disastrous Knysna fires. Currently she is studying in Stellenbosch and with the disaster she felt cut off from her home. But on her return, she knew she had to do something with the emotional impact and the effect of the disaster on her personally. “I knew I had to capture the presence of time,” she says as she started collecting soil, charred objects and other traces of the fire which all found their way into the winning work.

The artwork investigates whether fine art can evoke multisensory experiences of home using retrieved objects and materials. These have value both because of the site from which they were taken as well as their intrinsic value as traces of a destroyed dwelling. “It’s only a year on and already there’s hardly a trace of the fire left,” she says. This was her attempt to illustrate concepts such as loss, trace, place attachment and reflection.

She is currently completing her undergraduate degree in Fine Art at Stellenbosch University. Through various print making techniques, photography, sculpture and installation, she aims to create immersive moments in which viewers can experience the essence of a place through their multiple senses.

As the winner of Sasol New Signatures, she received a cash prize of R100 000 and the opportunity to have a solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 2019, which will mark Sasol’s 30th year sponsoring South Africa’s longest running art competition.

Contextualising the winning work, the Sasol New Signatures Chairperson, Prof Pieter Binsbergen, said: “Regarding the pressing issues of land, including pre-, post-, and de-colonial struggles, the work’s ability to ambiguously navigate through and around these sensitive issues makes it worthy of being the winning artwork”.

Peter Campbell with Kaisen in 2nd place
Peter Campbell with Kaisen in 2nd place

In second place, Cape Town artist Peter Mikael Campbell’s work in pencil titled, Kaisen, which means, “change for better” in Japanese, won him R25 000. “It’s about creating beauty,” he says about his art arguing that if you create and make people aware of something beautiful, it will make them more aware of the world around them – and thus the people. “It’s a belief in the value of art,” he explains with a belief that it can contribute to a better world.

For the five merit winners, the personal all came into play in their work.

Kelly Crouse with Medication
Kelly Crouse with Medication : C₂₃H₂₇N₃O₇.

For Port Elizabeth’s Kelly Crouse with Medication: C₂₃H₂₇N₃O₇, it is about a skin disorder she had as a child and the crippling effects it had on her life. “We all have our own personal flaws,” she explains, and because hers is something that she won’t ever be free of because it is part of her DNA, she wanted to investigate how it shaped her life.

Debbie Fan with Cheque or Savings
Debbie Fan with Cheque or Savings?

Also from Port Elizabeth, Debbie Fann used their family business to explore her identity. Her parents own a Chinese restaurant where she waitressed for a while. In her work Cheque or Savings?

She uses something that is easily discarded, a restaurant bill, to tell her story. On the one side of the work is a simple picture of an actual bill and on the other, there’s one she plays with in quite light-hearted fashion. “I use parody for example and change certain dishes like deepfried rice to dogfried or that oft used phrase, Made in China. But she’s also commenting on the customers, our throwaway society, commercialism and simply being Chinese and how she is perceived in this country.

Megan Serfontein with Untitled
Megan Serfontein with Untitled, a work that deals with technology.

Sticking to our current world and the way it operates, Megan Serfontein, another University of Stellenbosch student uses technology to make a point. She wrote a programme to illustrate how we all react differently when we know we’re being watched or filmed for example. Her work which is untitled is a monitor which changes as people stand in front of it. In effect you as the viewer becomes the art. It’s fun but also clever and especially in our technological world, to use something that changes what the camera sees, sharply makes her point.

Pierre le Riche with Ap(peal) 1 & Ap(peal) 11
Pierre le Riche with Ap(peal) 1 & Ap(peal) 11.

Cape Town’s Pierre Henri Le Riche’s porcelain slave bells titled Ap(peal) I & Ap(peal) II can be viewed as museum relics with a play on history, stories that are told by the victors and thus shaping a particular story telling it as it desires to be told.

Mulatedzi Moshapo with The leader shall govern
Mulatedzi Moshapo with The leader shall govern.

With his striking wood sculpture titled The leader shall govern, Mulatedzi Moshapo from Polokwane explains that every work has its own story to tell and his medium isn’t the only determining factor, the people he features are also showing their world and their unhappiness.

Each Merit Award winner received a R10 000 cash prize.

2017 Winner Lebohang Kganye with Lighthouse Keeper
2017 Winner Lebohang Kganye with Mohlokomedi wa Tora (Lighthouse Keeper).

Finally, this is also where the previous year’s winner is given a chance to show their progress of the past year. Winner of 2017, Lebohang Kganye’s first solo exhibition, Mohlokomedi wa Tora (Lighthouse Keeper), runs in conjunction with the 2018 Sasol New Signatures exhibition until October 7 at the Pretoria Art Museum. “It’s an ongoing conversation with my grandmother,” she notes as she keeps on talking in a way that is evolving but all about her family and their stories. It is cramped in its current space, not quite allowing the work to breathe as expansively as it should.

The rest of the exhibition features the 2018 winner, runner up and five merit award winners as well as 87 finalists, all of whom are included in the acclaimed competition catalogue available at the museum.

Charlotte Mokoena, Sasol Executive Vice President for Human Resources and Corporate Affairs urged the artists to continue being fearless in their artistry, challenging society to evaluate the lenses through which it views the world. “It is by doing so that you unconsciously give others the permission to be boundless in their pursuit of their happiness and purpose. Be limitless,” she urged.

 

Pretoria Art Museum times:

Tuesday to Sunday:  10:00 to 17:00 (Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays)

Pretoria Art Museum: Corner Francis Baard and Wessels St, Arcadia Park

 

Brilliance at Work in Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love at Jozi’s Market Theatre

DIANE DE BEER

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Langley Kirkwood (Eddie) and Kate Liquorish (May).

FOOL FOR LOVE

PLAYWRIGHT: Sam Shepard

DIRECTOR: Janice Honeyman

CAST: Kate Liquorish, Langley Kirkwood, Zane Meas, Paka Zwedala

SET DESIGNER: Stan Knight

LIGHTING DESIGNER: Mannie Manim

COSTUME DESIGNER: Margo Snyman

VENUE: Mannie Manim Theatre at the Market

DATES: Until 9 September

With his untimely death last year, it’s been a welcome return to our stages for playwright Sam Shepard with this second production, following Sylvaine Strike’s glorious Curse of the Starving Class at the US Woordfees earlier.

This one features quite a few returns, with Honeyman back at The Market directing after an absence of many years and actors Kirkwood and Meas performing on The Market stage again in quite a while. And they make it work – magnificently.

On no level is this an easy encounter. Even for the two main protagonists, Kirkwood and Liquorish, while these are meaty roles and their performances mesmerising, it’s a tough tale to navigate night after night. Yet, one can hardly blink, so compelling is Shepard’s heart-wrenching story. It deals with failed love yet familial bonds so potent they’re unbreakable, even if they tear the emotions of the two people at the centre to shreds.

It is what makes this so watchable. May (Liquorish) is unexpectedly surprised by a visitor, her old beau Eddie (Kirkwood) in a desolate hotel room somewhere on the edge of life. And what becomes clear lightning fast is that these two lost souls share a history. This is not the first time round for these lovers, even if May declares she has moved on and is waiting for someone to call. Eddie, it turns out, is repeating old family patterns with a woman somewhere in the background hot on his trail.

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Kate Liquorish (May), Langley Kirkwood (Eddie) and Zane Meas (Old Man).

On the periphery, only intruding on occasion, is a character referred to as Old Man (Meas), who steps in and out of our consciousness, commenting on the tragedy that is seemingly playing itself out. He doesn’t fully participate in their lives yet seems desperately to be seeking absolution.

Hovering in the room, is the knowledge of the arrival of someone that seems to determine the erratic mood swings between May and Eddie. Theirs is no idle chat. It’s explosive and deals with a history that is rough to unravel as they turn towards and from one another with alarming alacrity. Star-crossed lovers perhaps, or is there more to what seems to be a battle between two people who cannot live with – or without – each other?

Honeyman’s probing staging is enhanced by cohorts Knight, whose set contributes to the bleakness and the claustrophobic atmosphere and Manim’s lighting which adds yet another dimension to the upheaval in the room.

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Kate Liquorish (May) and Langlley Kirkwood (Eddie).

More than anything though, it  lies in the text and the performances – relentless – between especially Kirkwood and Liquorish – as they wear each other down in their coming together for what seems yet another showdown.

Denial runs through this family’s dealings and determines every move they make as they embrace scarily tight before sharply turning away and then suddenly falling to the floor in a rough tumble of harsh words scratching at old wounds.

It is their nuanced performances as they try to still the storm that draws you into the room with no way out. These are two lost souls trying to find solace which they both know is not available in this encounter and yet, they can’t walk away. It’s about going back and finding a life with few options and if there were any to begin with, those are long gone.

Both May and Eddie have been here before and know exactly how their emotional rollercoaster will land while on the side, Old Man (Meas making his mark with a few pivotal scenes), is glaring at the children he declares he can’t recognise. This isn’t his legacy, nothing is familiar.

But this is tour de force Sam Shepard territory – a desolate, bleak landscape, both physically and psychologically, a father figure dominating any dalliance, and two people embroiled in an emotional dance that has no beginning or end.

And then the outsider steps in as a catalyst, with Zedwala giving a fine performance as the baffled prospective suitor who is kept hanging as everyone leaves.

Once again, no one is left standing as this brilliant team (on and off stage) persists.

 

Honeyman Directs Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love with Stunning Cast at the Market

PICTURES: Brett Rubin

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Fool for Love with Kate Liquorish and Langley Kirkwood.

 

Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love with Janice Honeyman as director and a cast including Kate Liquorish, Langley Kirkwood, Zane Meas and Paka Zedwala opens this weekend at the Market’s Mannie Manim Theatre for a short run until September 9. DIANE DE BEER spoke to the director and some of the cast about this explosive play by a playwright not featured much locally yet has so much to say about the lives we all struggle to lead:

 

For Janice Honeyman, it’s all about the text, the Sam Shepard words and the meaning in every little detail.

Sitting through an early rehearsal, it’s clear that this is where the focus lies as the actors slip into this world hardly noticing when someone enters the room or the passing parade at the large windows of the rehearsal room.

While juggling at that time, the second season of The Color Purple which has opened in the meantime, and these rehearsals for a new play, Honeyman, the seasoned director she is, takes things in her stride. But she’s also working with a seasoned cast and one that has taken this grueling play by the scruff of the neck.

Described in the publicity notes as a “relentless emotional conflict”, this is tough yet exhilarating work – both from a performance and viewing point of view. But it has huge rewards – for all involved.

fool-with-langley-kirkwood-and-kate-liquorish.jpg

Liquorish in the role of May opposite Kirkwood’s Eddie, is pleased that they at least knew one another. “It makes it easier to get to feel comfortable from the start with this intimate performance,” she says. And Kirkwood is thrilled to be back on the Market stage for the first time in 20 years. He moved to Cape Town a few years back where in recent years he has spent most of his time performing in film, for obvious monetary reasons. But this is one he relishes.

It’s about exploring Shepard’s masculinised landscape while dealing with a clash of male and female qualities in a play of heightened realism yet with a dash of theatricality as the father figure steps in and out of the story, says the director. And with her own brand of storytelling, she’s not only in love with the Shepard words but also with this mix of reality and fantasy inherent in this play. “It’s about making sense of the play and then turning it on its head,” she says.

For her it is all about detail, the rawness, the visceral quality of the work and the layering which is already visible especially with the two main protagonists, this early in rehearsals. “The stage is really where we all want to be,” says Kirkwood as he talks about the gift they have been handed by being invited to participate in this particular production.Fool Kate Liquorish, Zane Meas and Langley Kirkwood

It’s easy to see why. It is a play that asks much from its cast but with the mastery of the Shepard language and what he plays with, there’s so much to work with. This is storytelling that dives right into the eye of the storm and demands that you deal with everything it throws at you. “Even though I haven’t been on stage for a while, I felt physically fit but perhaps the emotional side was something tougher,” explains Kirkwood.

With Shepard, that’s a huge ask. “It’s real and it’s raw,” agrees Liquorish who has just spent an hour rolling on the floor and tackling her lover in a way we don’t see too often on stage. This is about digging deep as you scratch around family lies and secrets which impact not only on the people directly involved, but also those who move around on the border of these lives. It is about how we affect others with what is happening in our lives and how we navigate our childhood into adulthood and the often-devastating impact.

Fool for Love with Kate Liquorish, Paka Zedwala and Langley Kirkwood

Shepard wrote much about family life, especially the way the men obliterated anyone who dared enter their space, and in the process themselves, as Sylvaine Strike so masterfully illustrated in her Woordfees production of Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class earlier this year which will hopefully still be performed in Gauteng. And again, it is this never-ending cycle of abuse that clutches with maniacal strength that is again observed here with such power and insight.

“It’s one of those where we have to let it all hang out,” says Liquorish but one suspects, it is the harshness of the emotions that allows the actors to lose themselves in this hellish world they have entered for just a moment in time.

And yet, even if this sounds relentless, it is the Shepard script which is often as funny as it is harsh, and the performance by the actors at the centre of the action as well as the two, Shepard’s obligatory and iconic father (Meas) and a prospective yet unsuspecting lover (Zedwala), on the sidelines, that makes this such compelling viewing. There’s no pussyfooting around. Everyone jumps in and tears this story to shreds. “It’s obviously not for chilkdren,” says Liquorish and Kirkwood is delighted that his two children are old enough to see this one now – and their first experience of him on stage.

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Kate Liquorish and Langley Kirkwood in Fool for Love as May and Eddie.

And it’s a play where audience can jump right in emotionally and get their hands dirty.

It might seem extreme but as families go, it will also be familiar. “It’s about confronting issues,” says Liquorish who has lost her heart to Shepard’s haunting words. For Kirkwood raised by a single mother and more recently divorced from his wife, this family and their lives also resonates deeply – and it shows.

For those of us watching, it will be a coming together of all of the above – the performances and the production – all aimed at telling this Shepard story in a way that will resonate with as much force and as strongly, as it did when it was first written and performed more than three decades ago. It is a universal story though and there’s no chance of it ever losing its potency – now or in the future. That’s what Shepard is all about.

*Fool for Love opens this weekend (August 18) with a few preview performances, the official opening on August 22 until September 2 at the Mannie Manim Theatre at the Market in Newtown.

Brilliantly Bold Color Purple Soars Beautifully a Second Time Round

Pictures: @enroCpics 

Sisters Celie and Nettie
Sisters Celie (right) and Nettie at opposite sides of the world on different continents.

 

DIANE DE BEER

 

THE COLOR PURPLE

DIRECTOR: Janice Honeyman

CAST: Didintle Khunou (Celie), Lelo Ramasimong (Shug Avery), Aubrey Poo (Mister), Neo Motaung (Sofia), Sebe Leotlela (Nettie), Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri (Harpo) and the rest of the 20-strong ensemble

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Bernard Jay

PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Sarah Roberts

LIGHTING DESIGNER: Mannie Manim

SOUND DESIGNER: Richard Smith

MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Rowan Bakker (with an orchestra of 8)

CHOREOGRAPHER: Oscar Buthelezi

VENUE: Nelson Mandela at the Joburg Theatre

DATES: Until September 2

Celie and the women in celebration
Celie and the women in celebration

It’s rare in this country that big musicals like this one get a second season but so popular was The Color Purple first time round, it has returned with huge fanfare in Woman’s Month. And that’s a good thing.

This is quite a show and with one major change, Lelo Ramasimong as the sassy Shug Avery, (previously one of a trio of church ladies who has been replaced by Masego Mothibakgomo, who slips seamlessly into this powerful threesome) the rest of the cast has been given the chance to finetune their performances and even though, first time round, it was already spectacular, Khunou as Celie, for example, has grown magnificently in what was the first time round, a debut performance in such a huge and iconic role.

It feels as if she has slipped into Celie’s shoes more comfortably than then with a confidence that allows her to soar and in the quieter songs, it’s as if she trusts the moment and just is who she should be.

But so are the rest of the cast, from the much more experienced Poo who revels in his portrayal of Mister because of the arc he travels in every show as the one who probably has the most extreme turnaround – from the abuser to one who finally sees the value of the one he never cherished and lost.

Seeing a musical again that the first time round had so much impact is always a time to reflect and reassess but if anything, the effect is even more dramatic because this time round, there are no surprises, it’s just the show and the performers.

One must remember the genre and how much it allows. The story is grave and as much of its time as it is of now. That’s the horror, that so little has changed for women, the lack of power they often have over their own lives and the abuse they face on a daily basis. It sounds as familiar now as it did then and the murmuring and cheering from the audience affirms that. They know and understand these women and their circumstances and are also rooting for change.

Aubrey Poo as Mister
Mister (Aubrey Poo), Shug Avery (Lelo Ramasimon) and her beau and Celie (Didintle Khunou)

Celie is a woman who as a child is abused by her father who rapes her resulting in two children who he gives away. She is then passed on to another abusive man who does with her as he pleases while she cares for his children and his home with no say in the matter. It’s heavy stuff and without delving too deeply, it is the performances and the songs that tell as much of this tragic story as possible. The emotions run high and while abuse tops the list, many other issues are dealt with in this story of redemption.

The music is quite extraordinary and there are many showstoppers, some because of their emotional message like Celie’s Somebody Gonna Love You, Sofia and the women’s Hell, No and Celie’s I’m Here with the titles almost the only explanation necessary but then there’s also Celie and the women’s triumphant Miss Celie’s Pants and the show stopping Any Little Thing by Sofia (Motaung) and Harpo (Mahaka-Phiri).

Shug Avery and her admirers
Shug Avery (Lelo Ramasimong) and her admirers

Ramasimong brings the house down and her sexy Shug to life with her show number and Nettie (Leotlela) lets the tears roll with African Homeland.

It’s a musical where all the elements hold together starting with an imaginative set that is enhanced by luminous lighting while Honeyman has picked and honed her performers – each one of them – to perfection, to tell a story both powerful and poignant.

Once and for all, this glorious cast has made their point. It is all about storytelling. You have to engage, listen to the lyrics and allow the performers to come alive with their emotions in full flow. Like the first time round, it’s high notes and low in song and understanding, and the story is delivered with heaps of humanity first trampled on and then celebrated.

That’s life as we know it but sometimes deny and this is yet another way we can grapple with it and come to grips with the horror of abuse.

And it sounded as if the row of Singaporeans behind me with Bernard Jay in tow, were certainly planning to make this an extended traveling season. This is talent we want to export.