Magic realism on stage

By CityLife Arts Writer

If you are the type that enjoys a magical realism style of theatre, you should perhaps consider attending Mandla Mbothwe’s, iKrele leChizathe sermon.

Mandla Mbothwe’s, iKrele leChizathe sermon, presented by ReTAGS (Reimagining tragedy in Africa in the Global South) and Magnet Theatre runs from March 28 to April 2, 2022, at Magnet Theatre in Observatory.

iKrele leChiza takes on a magical realism style which explores a dreamlike state of spiritual ecstasy that is as highly musical and choral as a sermon. It follows the narrative of two siblings, a brother and sister: Luphawo and Mesuli. They find themselves navigating a child-headed home. This is a current reality for many South-African children. Luphawo and Mesuli parents are stuck in respective liminal spaces -between life and death. Their mother (played by Babalwa Zimbini Makwetu) is in an ancestral orientation room. She refused death until her body could no longer go on. Their father (played by Lulamile Bongo Nikani) is in a spiritual exile. Luphawo (meaning: the sign/symbol) is played by Magnet alumnus, Thando Doni. He seeks ways of finding their father as well defending and restoring humanity in their home. His sister, Mesuli (meaning: wiper of tears/comforter) is played by Indalo Stofile. She has to prematurely take on a maternal role in their home.

In a vibrant collaboration with the stellar cast and the talented trainees of the Magnet Theatre training programme, iKrele leChizathe sermon is a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in a visual exploration and vivid African soundscape, performed by contemporary artists and next generation of South African performers who are in their final year of Magnet’s Fulltime Training and Job Creation Programme.

They will be collaborating with Thando Doni, Babalwa Zimbini Makwetu, Lulamile Nikani, Indalo Stofile, Nomakrestu Xakatugaga and Emmanual Ntsamba

Directed by award winning Creative Director at Mud & Fire Parables, Mbothwe is a senior lecturer and researcher at University of Cape Town’s Centre for Theatre Dance Performance Studies and a Director at Magnet Theatre.

Mbothwe asserts that ‘home’ in the play represents humanity, a village spirit that is currently under siege.

He reflects: “For me house and home is the African spirit of Ubuntu. It’s a spirit of socialism that is carried within the heart of Ubuntu.”

 Mbothwe uses iKrele leChizathe sermon, to argue that humanity or the spirit of Ubuntu “bubambeke ngeyesigcawu” – is hanging on by a spider’s web and has become a wound in African society and is constantly under attack.

Through the production, he asks: “How can you heal or tend to a wound while the wound is still being attacked?” Mbothwe draws from Iintsomi, African oral tradition of storytelling and Homer’s Odyssey; terms to differentiate between the ‘good and evil’ characters in the play.

iKrele leChizathe sermon, is part of a 6-year research project, Re-Imagining Tragedy in Africa and the Global South (ReTAGS). The ReTAGS project’s principal investigator is Mark Fleishman and Mbothwe is a co-investigator. This production has already had three iterations: an initial recorded version: Sonic Passages; a Live/Digital Mutation and now the upcoming 2022 live production.

iKrele leChizathe sermon is connected to Mbothwe’s previous productions by a through-line of engaging tragedy as catastrophic loss: A mass loss of human life or ‘isivuma’kufa’ to die so as to be reborn. The production is inspired by Mbothwe’s desire to both retrace, remap and reconnect his work in terms of themes and aesthetics as well as investigate themes of rituals and restoration. The title, in this sense is a deliberate combination of seemingly opposing words in isiXhosa: ikrele is a weapon (spear) and associated with images of fighting, defence and protection. ichiza (herb) is used for healing and restoration.

One wouldn’t use a spear to collect medicinal herbs. In this way, Mbothwe emphasises the juxtaposition and comments on the growing tensions of ‘redressing and restoration’.  iKrele leChizathe sermon is Mbothwe’s “reclamation and celebration of African aesthetics whilst undermining borders [across Africa].”

The 2022 professional cast include actors and collaborators: Thando Doni, Babalwa Zimbini Makwetu, Lulamile Nikani, Indalo Stofile, Nomakrestu Xakatugaga, Emmanual Ntsamba and Nceba Gongxeka. The Magnet Theatre trainees are: Azola Mkhabile, Bongani Dyalivana, Buhle Stefane, Olwethu Qavile, Sipho Kalako, Thabo Mkenene, Bulelwa Mbalo, Gabriel Buis, Khaya Magantsela, Kuhle Myathaza, Lindokuhle Melaphi, Mihlali Bele, Molupi Lepeli, Siphenathi Siqwayi, Wendy Mrali, and Nosiphiwo Ndabeni.

WHATiKrele leChizathe sermon by Mandla Mbothwe

WHEN: March 28 to April 2, 2022 -7.15pm and two matinees on March 29 and April 2 at 3pm

WHERE: Magnet Theatre, Observatory, Cape Town

FEATURING: Thando Doni, Babalwa Zimbini Makwetu, Lulamile Nikani, Indalo Stofile, Nomakrestu Xakatugaga, Emmanual Ntsamba and Nceba Gongxeka and Trainees of the Magnet Theatre Fulltime Training and Job Creation Programme

TICKETS: R100; R50 for concessions (scholars, students, pensioners); R70 (groups of 10 or more)


PRODUCERS: ReTAGS and Magnet Theatre


MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Babalwa Zimbini Makwetu

SET AND COSTUME DESIGN: Linda Mandela Sejosingoe

MOVEMENT DIRECTOR: Jennie Reznek                  

ARCHIVIST: The ReTAGS project is being recorded by Jayne Batzofin

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