Magic re­al­ism opens heroic his­tory por­tal

Talk of the Town - - Busi­ness­fo­rum - LEBO­GANG TLOU

WIN­NER of last year’s most promis­ing di­rec­tor award for

Nyanga , Them­bela Mad­liki, has re­turned to the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val with a se­ri­ous, ur­gent and haunt­ingly chill­ing mes­sage to con­vey from the past to the present through her latest pro­duc­tion, Bayephi!

Bayephi! – which trans­lates as “where have they gone?” – fol­lows the jour­ney of Buntu and his baby sis­ter, Siphokazi, and their roles in South African his­tory.

Buntu is one of the sol­diers who em­barked on the SS Mendi to fight for hon­our as South Africans, and sur­vived to join uMkhonto weSizwe.

Mad­liki per­fectly opens a por­tal be­tween the past and the present us­ing a cin­e­mat­i­cally ap­peal­ing earthen set of dirt and boxes with a pair of old boots.

Her cast of Rhodes Univer­sity drama stu­dents Eric Mwenda (Buntu), Nom­pumelelo Kubkeka and Siyab­ulela Javu (re­spec­tively play­ing Buntu and Siphokazi’s mother) and Nandipha Mlati and Eretha Fil­lis (re­spec­tively por­tray­ing Siphokazi), weaves a lyri­cal jour­ney through an al­most for­got­ten chap­ter in the his­tory of South Africa – the story of fam­i­lies which, gen­er­a­tionally, fought for South Africa.

Be­gin­ning with a spine-chill­ing ac­tion se­quence de­pict­ing the deaths of the sol­diers, and a haunt­ing res­ur­rec­tion of voices which have be­come lost to the pages of un­told his­tory, Bayephi! is as much a cel­e­bra­tion of the past in the present, as it is a beck­on­ing of the fu­ture in the present should the past re­main over­looked by the tides of re­al­ity.

Mad­liki, a mas­ter’s drama stu­dent at Rhodes Univer­sity, work­shopped her pro­duc­tion play­ing on sur­real tropes – in­vok­ing voices of a fam­ily wrecked by the im­bal­ances in our so­ci­ety which have been caused by the whips of his­tory awak­en­ing the war­riors in­her­ent in us all.

Bayephi! weaves to­gether the pro­gres­sion of the el­e­va­tion and his­tor­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions of Africans in de­vel­op­ing and de­fend­ing South Africa, beau­ti­fully de­pict­ing scenes from the SS Mendi, apartheid and the chaos from the early ’90s dur­ing the tran­si­tion­ing years into democ­racy.

Pic­ture: LEBO­GANG TLOU

STAND­ING OVA­TION: Award-win­ning di­rec­tor Them­bela Mad­liki’s latest play, ‘Bayephi!’, fea­tures, from left, Eric Mwenda Gi­tonga, Nandipha Mlati, Nom­pumelelo Kub­heka, Siyab­ulela Javu and Eretha Fil­lis

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