Rhodes University Drama Department presents two works at the 2021 National Arts Festival

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The Witch’s Party choreographed and performed by Nokulunga Ncongwane
The Witch’s Party choreographed and performed by Nokulunga Ncongwane

The Rhodes University Drama Department will be presenting two works – Mafungwashe (drama) and The Witch’s Party (physical theatre) – at the 2021 National Arts Festival. Both productions will be available through video-on-demand streaming from 13-31 July.

Mafungwashe – written and directed by Drama Master’s student Siyabulela Javu explores a spiritual black tax: the sins and gifts of those from the past shall be passed on to those in the present. Mafungwashe, the protagonist, finds herself indebted to her two grandmothers who present themselves as both living and spiritual beings. These grandmothers are at odds with one another – yin and yang – and play a tug of war, all while using Mafungwashe as a vessel to store their strength and to share their life stories.

We see Mafungwashe navigate the payment of her debts by taking care of her ill father, confronting an oppressive education system and of course, connecting with the two matriarchs through visions, dreams, and memory. However, this is only an attempt to pay off the tax – the full cost might be her life.

The Mafungwashe cast is Hlumela Mpiti, Loyiso Kosana, Matshawandile Kopele, Nande Siko, Nanza Platana and Thumamna Sibhozo.

Born in the Eastern Cape, Siyabulela is a storyteller who expresses herself through writing, directing, acting, and spoken word/song. A healer, she acknowledges that Akahambi Yedwa; she walks with those from the past, who hold the present and are a compass for the future. This is reflected in all her expressions of “art”, which she calls ‘iCamagu’ – a manifestation of light (in darkness) and life.

Drama Master’s student Nokulunga Ncongwane will be presenting The Witch’s Party, a work choreographed as a real-time event to which she is a Witch and has invited you to her party. This work has elements of physical embodiments of intangible corporeal occurrences, which are often silenced due to their lack of visibility and their womanly exclusivity. The theme of this party is … a curse. The curse of being a woman and the pain that accompanies the title ‘woman’. The curse is represented in a physical embodiment of an experience one fails to capture substantially using words only, thus the added use of sound and visual components to make the experience as authentic to a woman’s truth as possible. The Witch is indeed aware that the curse is something a woman must deal with on her own – sort of a secret – but she would like to show you what it looks like and what it would feel like in your body.

Nokulunga has dealt with painful periods all her life and in the last five years, been dealing with chronic, everyday pain from appearances of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Endometriosis. These “womanly” struggles are generally not well understood so she uses art and performance to communicate the experiences of women who are often silenced and ignored.

For more information on the shows and video access visit https://nationalartsfestival.co.za/show/mafungwashe/ and https://nationalartsfestival.co.za/show/the-witchs-party/