Ngema’s Zulu his­tory, in song and dance

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - WEEK­END AR­GUS RE­PORTER

MBON­GENI Ngema does not do things in half mea­sures – and his lat­est theatre pro­ject is to tell the story of the Zulu na­tion as he sees it.

Af­ter a long hiatus from the stage, the play­wright is set to start the in­ter­na­tional tour of his lat­est pro­duc­tion, The Zulu.

The pro­duc­tion, which won over au­di­ences and crit­ics at the National Arts Fes­ti­val in Gra­ham­stown, is set to rock stages across the prov­ince, the coun­try and over­seas.

On what in­spired it, Ngema said he wanted to be able to re­lay some of the sto­ries he was told in child­hood, to pre­serve them.

“I had al­ways wanted to make a mu­si­cal deal­ing specif­i­cally with the rich her­itage and his­tory of the Zulu peo­ple, but I had al­ways been in­tim­i­dated,” he said. “But as you grow, you re­alise that those sto­ries you were told are still im­por­tant and that you must re­lay them, and that is why I made this show.”

Ngema first came to promi­nence on stage 27 years ago with Woza Al­bert.

“I think, above all else, this mu­si­cal is deeper than any­thing I have done be­fore in my ca­reer. With some of my previ- ous shows there is sort of an over­view of things. But with The Zulu there is a lot more depth in the story,” he said.

The hard­est part of piec­ing the pro­duc­tion to­gether was con­dens­ing a long story with­out com­pro­mis­ing nar­ra­tive.

“This is a very big story that we were un­der­tak­ing, and I am on stage from start to fin­ish. So it was a chal­lenge to de­cide on how to struc­ture it and make such a story work,” he said.

No stranger to con­tro­versy, Ngema has pre­vi­ously been lam­basted for hav­ing a frosty re­la­tion­ship with the In­dian com­mu­nity. But he says it is some­thing that is all in the past, and he wants to con­tinue to use theatre as a dia­logue around so­cio-po­lit­i­cal is­sues.

Ngema ex­pressed con­cern about the fu­ture of theatre, which was why he had de­cided to take The Zulu to the heart of KZN, to show­case it in com­mu­ni­ties where there were no pro­fes­sional theatre plat­forms.

“If you look at the his­tory of theatre, it has al­ways been used to bring peo­ple to­gether, and that is what I am hop­ing to do with this show,” he said.

“It must be ex­pe­ri­enced by the peo­ple who are part of this his­tory, and that means we must take it di­rectly to them where they are.”

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