Magic realism opens heroic history portal
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.
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