Wits Alumni Momo Matsunyane is a theatre practioner, actress, director and the co founder of the comedy sketch group, Thenx.
What is Thenx??
Thenx is a sketch comedy group which was created in 2008. We wanted to create a voice for ourselves through which we could address pertinent socio-economic and political issues affecting us as the youth.
What’s the one thing you hate about Thenx/directing/acting?
It can be very demanding when we hit a creativity block while in process, but somehow the work is always ready on time. There’s also the desire to tell your story in the best way possible in order for it to affect your audience in the most successful way – that’s why sometimes when an idea isn’t coming together it can be very frustrating.
Your last piece Kulneck was controversial, was that the intention?
Yes. Otherwise why are doing this? We need to remember though that it’s not just about controversy, the play was addressing some touchy issues about race, women, relationships, poverty and religion. These are things that everyone talks about and the play brought them to the surface, we weren’t trying to sugar-coat anything. We wanted to make people uncomfortable get them to deal with these issues. That’s the main function of art, to make us question life and the systems that govern us, as well as to get people talking and probing.
Can you tell us about this new genre you are pioneering?
It’s not really a new genre but more a hybrid of stand-up and sketch – it was meant for the show Kulneck which ran at POPArt Theatre. I was trying to package the show in a way that would slightly differ from the conventional methods we have seen with stand-up comedy performances. It’s interesting, however, that a lot of the audience felt like they hadn’t seen something like that before so maybe it’s a bit futuristic.
The arts scene in SA is struggling and artists aren’t taken seriously. How do we, as a country correct this?
It’s so disheartening to see artists battling similar challenges to those they fought against 20 years ago. I’m realising that artists need to start taking themselves more seriously. By that I mean, we need to stop doing work for free in the name of exposure. The industry needs to regulate who can act and who can’t by establishing whether people are qualified to be in this field. In the same way that I can’t wake up one day and decide to perform heart surgery on a patient as I’m not a qualified surgeon.
How do you choose to take up a role?
It needs to appeal to my aims as an artist and affirm what I stand for artistically, whilst adding value to my craft. At times, one ends up taking work for the sake of putting food on the table due to the increase in non-performers who get more work than qualified ones because they’re ‘cheaper’ or more popular on social media.