REVIEW: Interrogating womanhood through performance art

Adriana Cuhna and Bulelwa Ndaba star in The Book of Shade, one of the performances shown on Thursday night. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Adriana Cuhna, right, and Bulelwa Ndaba, left, star in The Book of Shade, one of the performances in the Sex Actually Festival. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Just three actors in two full productions took to the stage earlier this evening to explore, illustrate and explain the various roles and identities of women in society.

As part of the Sex Actually Festival, a double bill of performances took place at the Wits Amphitheatre, featuring few actors and even fewer props. The first, The Book of Shade was created by, and starred, Adriana Cunha and Bulelwa Ndaba and directed by Tshego Khutsoane. The second King of Ghosts, was a one-man-show by Modisana Mabale.

Cuhna and Ndaba, in a relatively short piece, took the audience on a journey through the roles women play through their lives, and the relationships they share with one another.

From washing clothes in a tin basin, gossiping over another woman’s “looseness” with past lovers, exercise routines, and the reaction to sweet nothings whispered by a man on a date, the two talented actresses drew the audience in the familiar lives of everyday women.

The piece was devoid of dialog but the actresses conveyed the tensions of the lives of these women through movement that said more than words could.

The second performance of the night was Mabale’s King of Ghosts. Set in a graveyard, this piece tells the story of King Ubuntu and his struggle to rule his people and accept the heart of his gogo ancestor, in an allegorical play about patriarchy in African culture.

“child of my child, women rule with their hearts, men rule with their heads. I want you to use both.”

Mabale was a kinetic figure on stage, clad in simple black, moving ceaselessly, as he played a number of characters: King Ubuntu, the spirit of the king’s paternal grandmother, the soothsayer and the dutiful servant.

King of Ghosts saw a monarch’s struggle with accepting the heart given to him by the matriarchal character, and the weakness he believed this would cause. A clever allusion to the human condition was carried throughout the play in the form of the king’s advisor, Isintu (translated from Zulu as “humanity”).

The need of balance between the masculine and the feminine was at the heart of this play, summed up perfectly by the gogo as she beseeches Ubuntu to accept her heart as she utters the words “child of my child, women rule with their hearts, men rule with their heads. I want you to use both.”

Both pieces focused strongly on the subject of womanhood, a necessary realm of thought in a festival that hopes to discuss ideas around sexuality.

The Sex Actually Festival runs until August 30, and the double bill of The Book of Shade and King of Ghosts will take place again on Saturday August 23 at 1.30pm in the Wits Amphitheatre.

Each one, teach one

CHARISMATIC CAREER DAY: Wits Speakers with some of the young matric students at the Charisma Ministries Career day. From the left: Katlego Gaborone, Thoriso Moseneke, Bulelwa Ndaba and Thato Rammekwa
Photo: Provided


FOUR Wits students were among nine guest speakers invited to speak at a matric students’ career day in Pretoria North two weeks ago.

Charisma Ministries hosted their fourth annual career day, which gave high school students the opportunity to identify their subject strengths and receive guidance on their career goals.

Thoriso Moseneke, 4th year BADA, who was part of the organising committee, said career days were important for matric learners, especially in townships, where learners did not usually have access to career workshops and guidance.

“Normally you are just told: ‘You’re in matric. Apply’. That’s it. But you are never exposed to career workshops which encourage you to apply for financial aid, scholarships and encourage learners that they have more than one option.”

[pullquote]”[I was impressed by] the dedication of the scholars” [/pullquote] The nine invited speakers represented a diverse range of career sectors such as Accounting, Engineering, Medicine, Journalism, Dramatic Arts and the Sciences. Each speaker was given 30 minutes to talk about their career and to take part in question and answer sessions with the learners.

This year, Moseneke said she encouraged the organising committee to invite speakers who were recent graduates or speakers who were about to graduate.

“I wanted young people, who just recently graduated or were about to graduate. I felt it was important to have young people because the learners could relate a bit more.”

Bulelwa Ndaba, 4th year BADA, who started her first year at Wits as a BComm student, said it was important for her to be involved as a speaker at the career day, as she felt many matric learners made mistakes when choosing their careers.

“I got so scared [when choosing a career] to do what I wanted to do, so I opted to do something I didn’t want to do, just for the money, and I was unhappy.”  She said she wished more interactive career days were hosted for matric students nationally.

Katlego Gaborone, 5th year Medical Sciences, said he was humbled by the learners’ commitment to gain career guidance.”[I was impressed by] the dedication of the scholars and how they pitched up on a cold, wet and rainy Saturday morning.”  He said he was honoured to be among the speakers able to impart so much knowledge to the learners.

Thato Rammekwa, a Wits Mining Engineering graduate, said it was inspiring to see the learners willing to take action towards achieving their career ambitions. After the fair, Moseneke said the learners were more motivated and felt that each speaker had given them hope, despite not necessarily being A+ students.