By CityLIfe Arts Writer
Sibongakonke Mama will be the first winner of the National Playwright Competition, sponsored by HEINEKEN Beverages, to have a play staged before a live audience at the National Arts Festival (NAF) in Makhanda. Her English and isiXhosa work, Ibuhlungu le ndawo, will première June 22, the opening night of this year’s Festival.
The competition was formerly sponsored by Distell, now HEINEKEN Beverages, following the merger with HEINEKEN South Africa. The first prize entitles the winner, a previously unpublished script writer, to have their script staged at the NAF for exposure to leading decision-makers and critics within the country’s theatrical fraternity. This is the first time that such an opportunity has been afforded to the winner. The first winner, Koleka Putuma, was abroad when the time came for her play to be performed. (It was subsequently shown to much acclaim in Johannesburg.) The second winner, Amy Louise Wilson, presented her play with great success as a 360-degree virtual experience at the time of the pandemic.
Makhanda also happens to be the home of Mama’s alma mater, Rhodes University. Says Millicent Maroga, Corporate Affairs Director for HEINEKEN Beverages: “For Sibongakonke it will be a kind of homecoming when the spotlight shines on her remarkable and multidimensional talent as Rhodes University was where many of the crafts of her career were refined.”
After graduating, Mama went on to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of the Witwatersrand.
“There’s huge interest in Ibuhlungu le ndawo, a play that also incorporates instrumental and vocal music, as well as dance. Apart from opening night there will be three additional performances staged over the first few days of the Festival to accommodate audiences,” continues Matsane.
Managed by the NAF, the competition honours the creative legacy of academics and activists Adam and Rosalie Small.
Ibuhlungu le ndawo is directed by the internationally acclaimed Mandla Mbothwe, who teaches at the UCT Centre for Theatre Dance and Performance Studies. He is also artistic director of Mud and Fire Parables and co-artistic director of the Magnet Theatre.
Music is by award-winning musician Siya Makuzeni, while the cast features interdisciplinary artist Nasfa Ncanywa and renowned performance artists Chuma Sopotela and Indalo Stofile.
Mama calls her play a poetic and movement meditation on “dis-ease, disease and alienation, belonging, lineage and inheritance”. Ibuhlungu le ndawo is set in the fictional village of Mzimkhulu, in the limbo between the living and ancestral realms. A woman’s home is “interrupted, and invaded, by a sound”. She faces an internal struggle to protect her dwelling as well as herself and must confront the wounds not only inflicted by society but also those by her own choices.
While the play explores disruption and loss, it also examines the forging of new relationships from old ones. It weaves together oral tradition, grief, cultural and family history and individual and collective memory through storytelling, children’s games, and ritual.
Dates & times:
June 22, 2023 20:30 – 21:50
June 23, 2023 14:00 – 15:20
June 23, 2023 18:00 – 19:20
June 24, 2023 11:00 – 12:20