ARTLOOKS & ARTLINES

Creative Feel - - CONTENTS - Artlooks & Artlines is a monthly col­umn writ­ten by IS­MAIL MA­HOMED, CEO of the Mar­ket The­atre Foun­da­tion.

Is­mail Ma­homed ex­plores Nel­son Man­dela’s legacy and how we cel­e­brate it through the arts.

When South African the­atremaker Je­nine Colo­cut pro­duced her play, Mak­ing Man­dela, in 2015, one of South Africa’s most sig­nif­i­cant the­atre re­view­ers, Robyn Sassen, wrote on her blog, ‘Telling Man­dela’s story to young people is a mas­sive chal­lenge as it is a tale so rich with val­ues, con­tra­dic­tions and real-life ad­ven­tures. In the hands of this tal­ented cast and cre­ative team, it needs a lit­tle more mas­sag­ing, but prom­ises to be the play that will touch and ig­nite many a young per­son’s re­flec­tions on one of the big­gest his­tor­i­cal heroes who was a part of South Africa’s big­ger nar­ra­tive.’

The pro­duc­tion, which tells the story of Nel­son Man­dela’s child­hood, fea­tured the tal­ents of Jaques De Silva, Mlin­deli Zondi and Bar­ileng Male­bye. It went on to win the 2015 Stan­dard Bank Ova­tion Fringe Award at the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val and the 2016 Naledi The­atre Award for Best Youth Pro­duc­tion. The cast was also nom­i­nated for the Naledi Best En­sem­ble Award. The play also had a sea­son at the 2014 ASSITEJ Congress in Den­mark.

In her re­view, Sassen com­mented that it was ‘a lovely work, al­beit with a few dents that af­fect its clar­ity’ but over­all she summed the pro­duc­tion as hav­ing the po­ten­tial ‘to hold a whole gen­er­a­tion’s imag­i­na­tion.’

Cape Town Opera’s story of Nel­son Man­dela, Man­dela Tril­ogy, brings to the stage an epic and orig­i­nal mu­si­cal trib­ute. It is an in­spi­ra­tional mu­si­cal retelling that reaches far be­yond any bound­ary, re­flect­ing on a life of ex­traor­di­nary con­trasts and un­flinch­ing courage in the face of ad­ver­sity.

Man­dela Tril­ogy is a spec­tac­u­lar por­trait of a man who touched hearts and minds around the world. Pre­sented in three parts by a cast of over 60 per­form­ers, in­clud­ing three dif­fer­ent in­car­na­tions of Man­dela, the con­trast­ing phases of his jour­ney are recre­ated through strik­ingly di­ver­gent styles of mu­sic, rang­ing from tribal ini­ti­a­tion rites on the banks of the Mbashe River and heady and re­bel­lious jazz-fu­elled days in Sophi­a­town, to in­car­cer­a­tion and re­flec­tion on Robben Is­land, and fi­nally free­dom and lib­er­a­tion.

Since 1994, South Africa has not been short of the­atre pro­duc­tions about the iconic leader. Nei­ther has South Africa been short of con­tro­versy associated with pro­duc­tions about the leg­endary po­lit­i­cal leader whose life is cel­e­brated across the globe.

In March 2016, The Tele­graph in the UK car­ried huge head­lines read­ing ‘Man­dela the Opera: South African cre­ator van­ishes with pro­duc­tion money’. The news­pa­per wrote that Man­dela the Opera, a state-funded pro­duc­tion that was meant to cel­e­brate the early life of Nel­son Man­dela and draw big crowds, was be­set with cri­sis when the pro­ducer (a dis­tant rel­a­tive of Man­dela who is now de­ceased) dis­ap­peared and fled the coun­try with the money.

Even though sev­eral in­ter­na­tional the­atre man­age­ments were as­tounded by the story in The Tele­graph, two years later they’re still at­tracted to pro­duc­tions that will cel­e­brate the cen­te­nary of Nel­son Man­dela’s birth.

Lead­ing up to Man­dela’s 100th birth­day on 18 July 2018, pri­mary and se­condary school pupils and a massed com­mu­nity choir, as­sem­bled to cel­e­brate and per­form African songs, dances and drum pro­gres­sions at the New The­atre Royal in Portsmouth.

The per­for­mance in­cluded a spe­cially-chore­ographed dance by in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned South African bal­let dancer Dane Hurst, which was orig­i­nally cre­ated in hon­our of Nel­son Man­dela and first per­formed in his pres­ence dur­ing Man­dela’s visit to Lon­don.

Other fea­tured South African artists in the pro­duc­tion include Chris Lubbe, Man­dela’s body­guard af­ter his re­lease from 27 years of im­pris­on­ment, and Colin Cham­bers, Man­dela’s spir­i­tual guide, con­fi­dant and a trusted friend.

Their me­dia re­lease states they ‘are cel­e­brat­ing the cen­te­nary of Nel­son Man­dela’s birth by re­vis­it­ing the val­ues en­acted by the rev­o­lu­tion­ary po­lit­i­cal leader dur­ing his life and time as Pres­i­dent of South Africa, through their Man­dela 100 project.’

The pro­duc­tion is cre­ated by AWF, a non-re­li­gious and apo­lit­i­cal group with fi­nan­cial sup­port from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund sup­port from the Portsmouth City Coun­cil, Vic­to­ri­ous Fes­ti­val, and the Univer­sity of Portsmouth.

On Nel­son Man­dela’s birth­day on 18 July, The Har­lequin The­atre will present their pro­duc­tion, Amandla! The Story of Nel­son Man­dela. The pro­duc­tion will chart the re­mark­able life of Nel­son Man­dela from his tribal boy­hood and ed­u­ca­tion in Methodist mis­sion­ary es­tab­lish­ments, to his time as a free­dom fighter, through the Robben Is­land years, to the peak of his fame as pres­i­dent of South Africa.

Re-imag­ined by the Free­wheel­ers The­atre Com­pany of dis­abled and non-dis­abled per­form­ers, this mo­men­tous tale of strug­gle, hope and in­spi­ra­tion will find new res­o­nance with a cast who them­selves un­der­stand ‘strug­gle’ ev­ery day.

Dur­ing May this year at the Tourism Ind­aba held in Durban, the Mar­ket The­atre Foun­da­tion’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, James Ng­cobo, was com­mis­sioned to pro­duce the 100 Faces of Madiba. His pow­er­fully poignant and vi­brant pro­duc­tion re­ceived a rous­ing stand­ing ova­tion when the Mar­ket The­atre pro­duced this iconic work out­side of its own premises.

Known for his unique style of cre­at­ing nar­ra­tives in­ter­spersed with mu­sic, dance and dig­i­tal me­dia, James Ng­cobo’s pro­duc­tion was a tes­ti­mony to Nel­son Man­dela’s in­cred­i­ble legacy as more than just one of South Africa’s great­est po­lit­i­cal sto­ries. Nel­son Man­dela’s legacy is by far one of South Africa’s great­est tourism re­sources. It can at­tract visi­tors to our coun­try and take our coun­try to the rest of the globe. The Tourism Ind­aba could not have found a more sig­nif­i­cant way to tell South Africa’s story in this very sig­nif­i­cant cen­te­nary year.

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