South Africa

South Africa’s Richest And Smoothest Jazz

Experiencing any show at Brooklyn Academy of Music is as magical as seeing a show at LTC3, only I don’t have to leave my own borough. The opportunity to see South African jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim is magical on its own. Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) allows for their audience to bring back their signature BAM cup and receive a discount on their drinks, as well as drink in the theatre, which means you are already prepared to sit, sip, and listen to some wonderful sounds. The Jazz Epistles is Abdullah Ibrahim’s classics from his Jazz Epistle, Verse 1...

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Birthing A Country: “Womb Of Fire”

The provocative one-hander Womb Of Fire by The Mothertongue Project recently had a three-week run at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre. The play won prizes at the Stellenbosch Woordfees for Best Actor (Rehane Abrahams), Best Director (Sara Matchett) and Best Play (Womb Of Fire). The Mothertongue Project started when Abrahams and Matchett came together over a cup of chai in a Mumbai kitchen in 1999. Actress/writer Rehane Abrahams persuaded Dr. Sara Matchett to direct a piece she was writing. She described the work as seminal and that it would mark a transition into a new way of being for her. Back in...

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Battle Cries For Liberation

At a staging in Kerala in January, Sara Matchett’s Walk: South Africa proved to be a harrowing but cathartic experience, and not very typical, what seemed to be a projection of its closing credits followed the performance. Names scrolled upwards, and at first, the visual was a testament to the reach of this remarkably resonant project, since so many artists and technicians appeared to have collaborated on it. Yet, the roll continued long beyond what one might expect to be a list of those behind a powerful but finite creative endeavor performed invariably as an intimate three-hander. Midway through, one realized...

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“And So You See…”: The Irrational Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

It is as if Mozart were able to capture what death sounds like, in those moments when people run around trying to assert themselves in the face of a body that has just ceased to breathe. Personally, it takes just a few notes of his Requiem for me to deviate my attention from whatever occupies me and place it entirely at the mercy of this devastating tune. The music hits a region of my being where humor meets pain and where normality meets irrationality. The paradoxes and dead-ends of life itself start to make sense, even if I cannot ascertain words...

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Actor Sello Maake kaNcube’s Can Themba Speaks His Truth In Mahala’s “The House Of Truth”

It’s the perfect storm when the playwright, director, and actor all come together this sweetly as it did in Mahala’s The House Of Truth. Telling stories from our past, especially in this country, South Africa, reminds us of where we come from, what we have lost and how many lives were affected, often devastated by the laws in a land functioning for a handful of white people. And while it takes us back to a dark past which we should never forget, that is not what The House Of Truth is about. The focus is on Can Themba, a...

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A Suitcase Packed With Stories: James Ngcobo’s New Play

The audience members were vocal in their approval from start to finish with Es’kia Mphalele’s The Suitcase, a reminder of how important and inspirational stories that reflect lives will always be. This is the third reincarnation of this production, adapted and directed by James Ngcobo, which started at The Baxter Theatre in Cape Town more than a decade ago, evolved for the opening of the Soweto Theatre and now this current production, which was revived for a UK tour with original members Thwala and Lata with Dube and Mbangeni, new additions. And none of its power is lost. If anything,...

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“Die Reuk Van Appels” (“The Smell Of Apples”) at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town

We are surrounded by violence and our country is beset by an ongoing cycle with little ebb and much flow. The search for a source, an attempt to extract some reason seems futile. On stage, we are presented with one of our origin stories, a glimpse at ourselves and the past and perhaps an inkling of how a nation raised in brutality continue to harvest the fruits. Die Reuk Van Appels is less of a lesson in nostalgia and more a remembering of a brutal personal and political past, so closely entwined as to make them indivisible. An award-winning book...

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“King Kong”: Legendary South African Musical Returns To A Fragmented Country

After an absence of over half a century, the courageous musical King Kong has smashed its way back into the collective South African consciousness. On tour in South Africa, King Kong is one of the most successful and controversial musicals ever to have been produced in the country. Back in 1959 the jazz musical toured the country’s major cities to, at times, sold out venues. It was seen by roughly 200,000 people before moving to London’s West End. Set to the music of composer Todd Matshikiza, it launched the international careers of musical greats, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, among...

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All-black South African Cast Explosive in the Rewarding “King Kong” Revival at Joburg Mandela Theatre

It’s about time but perhaps that’s what was needed to do justice to such an iconic show. What King Kong proved again was how important it is to tell our own stories by our own people – and how an audience responds. If anyone dares tells me again that we don’t have enough musical theatre talent in this country, I will have my arguments and evidence handy. The talent that pops on that stage is astounding. There’s not a voice or a step out of place and when counting the performers during the encore and realizing that there are only 22...

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Botho Pan African Arts Festival 2017

Wushwini Arts, Culture and Heritage Centre’s 4th Annual Festival runs from 28 September to 1 October 2017 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Wushwini Pan African Centre will host a four-day arts festival titled Botho Pan African Arts Festival from 28 September to 1 October 2017 at Wushwini, overlooking the scenic Inanda Dam in the Valley of 1000 Hills in KwaZulu-Natal. A packed weekend program includes drama productions; conversations and panel discussions; storytelling; craft exhibitions; dance; music; poetry; culinary; film; sound experimentation; CD launches; and workshops. The festival provides the opportunity to re-launch the much-loved and busy Arts Centre to include...

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Shakespeare and Decolonization: #ShakespeareMustFall?

The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016 provided ample room for celebrations and commiserations on Shakespeare in South Africa. The quirky title of the article stems from a 2016 student theatre festival at the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal (South Africa) with the same name. The festival was followed by a colloquium on Shakespeare and decolonization. Decolonization has become a hot topic and the subject of vehement debate in South Africa over the past couple of years. South Africa’s university spaces are hotbeds of debate, dialogue, and dissension around the topic. In South Africa, universities operate against the historical backdrop...

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We Can Know More Than We Can Tell: “L.I.F.E: A History of Distance”

Stark white light from bulbs hanging in a straight line against a white backdrop greets audiences in the black theatre space. Stark white lines running parallel with each other cut up the black floor. A line of black chairs runs along the backdrop, emphasizing the linearity and two-dimensionality of the stage design. Between the lines lie possibilities on the brink of enunciation. A black net, strongly angled on the diagonal, covers the space directly in front of the audience from the floor to the catwalk. The interplay of line and dimension that the net offers not only literally distances...

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Collusion of Cultures in Neil Coppen’s “BuiteLand”

Now and then a stage production is mounted supplying more than entertainment, albeit intellectual or humorous, becoming a ‘total’ theatre experience. Seen at the recent Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (Little Karoo National Arts Festival) in 2017, playwright, designer and director Neil Coppen’s BuiteLand  (foreign country) was an addition to my small but precious collection of jewels in my heart and memory.  Let me rush to add that I can’t recall any other production touching me this much in all the corners of my psyche, mind, soul and solar plexus. It deserves my unconditional applause and I’m grateful for...

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Why Decolonization Means The Possible End Of Shakespeare In South Africa’s Schools

South Africa’s education authorities are reviewing the school curriculum. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has confirmed that the review will feature a focus on “decolonization,” reflecting the need to move towards the use of more African and South African novels, drama, and poetry. This might spell the end of William Shakespeare in the country’s classrooms. The Conversation Africa’s education editor Natasha Joseph asked Professor Chris Thurman about the implications of the proposed review. How much Shakespeare currently features in the South African English curriculum? I’m not an authority on the current arrangements nationwide and it’s difficult to generalize; in...

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SANCTA Let’s Community Theatre Thrive in South Africa!

This year the South African National Community Theatre Association (SANCTA) held its 36th Annual One Act Play Community Festival and SATMag attended the event and was amazed at the efforts of these community theatre groups as they surely can compete on any professional stage! We also had a conversation with Noel McDonald on the history of community theatre in SA through the efforts of SANCTA. SANCTA burst onto the mainstream of the SA theatre scene when the 2002 Naledi Awards recognised that SANCTA was bringing up the future talent of all races to the Professional theatre and therefore creating...

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Bodyscaping Landscapes and Perceptions: An overview of South Africa’s My Body My Space Rural Arts and Culture Festival

Cows moo, cocks crow, doves coo, twigs snap, dancers dance, and choreographers dream. Personal and socio-political narratives seeped into and out of the rural Mpumalanga landscapes in the third edition of The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative’s  (FATC) My Body My Space (MBMS) Rural Arts and Culture festival. Whether  performed in venues like the landmark  tourist attraction Millys Trout Stall, located on the main National Kruger Park / Mozambique road in Machadodorp, or at Waterval (waterfall ), the festival HQ , the Sabbagha family’s  cattle, trout and timber  farm, or  various  local halls –  South African artists and their guests ...

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Home Is where the He(art) Is: Flatfoot Dance Company’s “Home” Trilogy

Durban, South Africa. Flatfoot Dance Company’s Home trilogy created and presented at different sites over 2016, consisted of three collaborative works conceived and facilitated by Artistic Director Lliane Loots.  Loots is no stranger to collaborations, and her Home trilogy continues this tradition of drawing together some of Durban’s finest, to create and perform together.  Homeland (security), the first installation in the trilogy, was included in Flatfoot’s collaborative season Homeland, which saw Loots team up with sister choreographer Sbonakaliso Ndaba, at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, in delivering a season of powerful and dangerous contemporary dance performed by the six resident Flatfoot Dancers....

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“Macbeth” Brings Double, Double, Toil and Trouble From DR Congo

Third World Bunfight‘s Macbeth has been touring around the world since its premiere in Cape Town in 2014. Most recently, the show played in Vancouver, Canada as part of 2016-2017 season and inaugural Vancouver Opera and PuSh International Arts Festival. The company relocates Giuseppe Verdi’s opera (based on Shakespeare’s play) to the ongoing bloody conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The common link forged between an 11th-century Scottish king and a Central African army commander are greed, ambition, and a thirst for power – Macbeth here is a murderer and tyrannical commander responsible for mass rape, civilian massacres,...

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“Synaesthetics”: Gopala Davies’ Explorations In Intermediality

South African Indian actor and director Gopala Davies’s production of Les Cenci: A Story About Artaud premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2016. The production celebrated the 20-year partnership between The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and the National Arts Festival (NAF). The production was staged at the Con Cowan Theatre in Johannesburg later in the year. Davies’ production was a semi-autobiographical exploration of the life and ideas of Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) and centered on Artaud’s turbulent encounters with mental illness. Davies specifically explored the distortion of memory in/through mental illness. Davies drew inspiration from Artaud’s The Theatre...

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