Sunduza brings Moffat, Mzilikazi back to life
DEFYING local arts’ fixation with the present, arts ensemble Sunduza Dance Theatre is set to go over a century back in time as they explore the captivating relationship between British missionaries and founding Ndebele King Mzilikazi.
The play, a revival of a 1998 production called Matata - The Big Problem - which was originally developed for the George Square Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival and also had a run at the Glastonbury Festival following a tour of Canada then, will have its debut showing a t Bulawayo Theatre on Friday. The show’s first run will be at 1PM while its second and last run of the day kicks off at 6PM. With productions coming out of the city this year mainly shining the spotlight on the current social and political issues of the day, Sunduza’s dig into the past will be a welcome change for theatre lovers. Serving a compelling concoction of song, dance and captivating acting, the group will attempt to re-package the interactions between Moffat and Mzilikazi through the fast moving musical, which was developed after a collaboration between its late founder Simon Banda, who composed most of the music and choreography, the late Mandla Sibanda, who devised much of the text from material gleaned from the National Archives and Philip Weiss, their producer. Led by Artistic Director Charles Banda, who seems to have not only inherited his father’s leadership qualities but his vocal prowess as well, the cast that will attempt to bring to the stage the complex relationship between Moffat and Mzilikazi includes stalwarts Bekithemba Sibanda, Baphi Mdladla, Khalipani Ndlovu, Gugulethe Mhlanga, Peter Ruwanga, Ivy Khoma, Mkhululi Khanye and new members Linda Sithole, Sikhangezile Ndlovu and Ntando Sithole.
Using largely underutilised sources of historical information, the production is derived from the conversations and observations documented in the diaries of Robert Moffat, which are published by the National Archives.
Despite the production having its eye firmly fixed on the past, the larger objective of the play is to showcase how the actions and attitudes of settlers might not have gone to the grave with them but instead continue to shape the problems faced by modern day Zimbabwe.
“We want to show how the actions of settlers like Moffat had a link to the problems people might face today. That’s why we now want to take the production outside Bulawayo to other regions so that people can see their history play out on stage,” said Banda.
Banda, who had to abandon his ambitions of a football career to steer Sunduza’s ship after the death of his father in 2012, said although it had been tough going in the last few years, Sunduza was still striving for artistic excellence.
“Things were hard in the beginning but we had benefactors who encouraged the group to stay on track.’’