Review – The Suitcase

starring-siyabonga-thwala-and-masasa-mbangeni-image-taken-by-iris-dawn-parker-02.jpg

Text: Xolani Tembu

Photographs: Iris Parker

It is the 1950s, a docile, recently married young couple from rural Natal, evocative of Gaz’lam’s Khethiwe and Sifiso, has resolved to pack the little they own and leave their agonizingly unbearable families for greener pastures. Timi Ngobese (Siyabonga Thwala) had heard of a place called Umkhumbane that was apparently overrun with mushrooms of rooms to rent. As he and his buoyant young bride Namhla Ngobese (Masasa Mbangeni) journeyed to the big city aboard a South African Railway Services locomotive, they arrive to a flurry of human bodies and mystifying stench that is characteristic of cities. Carrying an antique traveler’s suitcase and roll of sponge mattress remnant of enterprising township-street-pounding Zimbabwean and Mozambican merchants, the Ngobeses rest as they attempt to figure out how they would get to Umkhumbane. While they wait, enters Mlotshwa (Desmond Dube), a former rural Natal cum streetwise Umkhumbane denizen who after a short exchange with the Ngobeses, offers them a room in his yard. What follows is a rollercoaster of a life half lived burdened by the pressures of city life and shattered dreams. A true reminder that life is indeed what happens while we make plans.

Adapted from Es’kia Mphahlele’s 1954 short story, The Suitcase features an all-star cast in Siyabonga Thwala, Masasa Mbangeni, Desmond Dube and John Lata to name a few. Under the incredible direction of veteran actor and director James Ngcobo, the cast moves in mesmerizing fashion as it delivers the narrative. A combination of well-timed transitions and apposite supporting music through the voices of Gugu Shezi, Ndoh Dlamini and Nokukhanya Dlamini backed by well-known left handed guitarist Bheki Khoza, effortlessly transported the agreeable audience back to the 1950s when pinstriped suits, two-toned shoes and a selection of Dobbs and Stetson hats were the order of the day. The Suitcase is an indispensable reminder of the pureness of black love; simple, uncluttered and unadulterated. It is also a reminder of how precarious such love can be when left to its own devices.

While a much welcomed breakage of the fourth wall by the two narrators in Desmond Dube and John Lata takes place every so often, it also took away the momentum of the show, a rather rude reminder of the days when SABC channels would go on ad breaks in the middle of a feature film. Some would liken this feeling to an almost sneeze; truly, nothing could be more frustrating. The show could have certainly done well without the narration. With its talented cast, remarkable direction and well thought out set and lighting, it stands well on its own and carries the story with very little need for elucidation.

Congratulations must however, go out to the team, particularly Ngcobo for his refusal to render this show prosaic and pedestrian since its inception in 2006. Returning to The Market Theatre for a 6 week season, it would truly be unpatriotic to miss it after its critically acclaimed sold out season in the United Kingdom. Tickets are available from The Market Theatre Box Office at R90.00 for Tuesdays- Thursdays, R150.00 for Fridays-Saturdays and R130.00 for Sundays. For this season, the curtain will drop on the 26 November 2017.

Twitter: @skrufu

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#Me too? #MeTwo and #ProbablyAllOfUs

 

Text: Athinangamso Esther Nkopo

Photograph: Supplied

If you did not see the many stories shared by women on their experiences of sexual violations under the hashtag ‘Me too’ recently, then you probably aren’t on social media. Sparked by recent disclosures of Hollywood women who experienced sexual violations at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, the ‘Me too’ campaign has impacted women world wide. The crusade was originally started by a black woman and activist Tarana Burke 10 years ago to encourage a conversation and support among women who had been victims of sexual violence, long before the time of hashtags. She was scarcely recognised for it this time round, an issue that resulted in heated conversations about appropriation and solidarity among black and white women, an issue I will later reflect on.

Thinking about this campaign in our own context is perplexing considering that South Africa leads the world in terms of sexual violence. We, of all the countries on earth that are not at war, host among the highest ratio of men who violate, in some form or the other, women.Think about that! If there were, between April 2016 and December 2016, 30 069 cases of rape reported, 3 in 4 of which are not reported, then there are conservatively, 120 276 men raping people in this country every 9 months. This statistic scarcely accounts for the gropers, ‘dirty talkers’, spikers and cat callers.

Over the past week, the many women who shared their stories of sexual violation represent only those on social media and capable of expressing their suffering through these means. But as many as did share demonstrates that not many of us, if any, are untouched by the ugly and routine reality of men to violate us at will and often with impunity. In South Africa then, the revelation of ‘Me too’ does not have the shock value it does for the many who clutched their pearls upon seeing the hashtag. There is no surprise when statistically, out of the 1 in 4 cases of rape that are reported, 1 in 5 of us will be raped in our life time. Add to this the cases of sexual harassment in the work place, on university campuses, at our schools and so very often in our own homes. We are, in Hortons Spillers’ famous formulation, marked women.

Issues of sexual violation are further compounded by the racialised disparities of sexual violation in our country. This may be how my timeline on Facebook was lit with arguments about how my ‘Me too’ and that of a white woman, do not have the same powers of communicability. If that were the case, white liberal feminism in this country would not have ‘chilled out’ once Affirmative Action had helped them exceed their quotas in the work place, for example. Many made the case that there can be no solidarity between black women and white women when considering the ways in which they are violated at the intersections of racism and patriarchy. When white women only recognise the possibilities of violation only at the point where they are able to say “MeToo”. This is reminiscent of James Baldwin’s experience in “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy”.

In this essay Baldwin takes us through a friendship with a white boy and those moments when his state of blackness inspires, in the white boy, emancipatory dreams. In the end he expresses how it felt for him to suddenly realise the impossibility of these dreams emancipating him. “[T]he really ghastly thing about trying to convey… the reality of the Negro experience has nothing whatever to do with the fact of colour, but has to do with this (the white person) man’s relationship to his own life. He will face in your life (the black person) only what he is willing to face in his” (1961, 175) brackets mine. Baldwin is speaking to relations among men but what is analogous here is the racial factor that mitigates these relations of solidarity. He demonstrates that their solidarity was fruitful only to the extent that the white boy was able to say, “Me too.”. Beyond that was absence and glaring silence.

No silence is more glaring on the part of the South African feminist movement (The feminist movement as it REALLY matters, the white liberal feminist movement) than that on sexual violations enacted, amass and by the hour, on the bodies of black women. When black women, young and old are routinely raped and killed, white liberal feminists are silent, that is if they are not cashing in. When black lesbian women are brutalised, ‘correctively’ raped’ and murdered the white LGBTQ+ movements cannot even spare a moment of silence at their suburban Pride parties. When young black women are raped harassed and violated at, say, Wits Junction, Azania house(UCT), the UCKR (Rhodes), at NMMU or literally every institution of higher learning at disproportionate rates in this country, white feminist academia is mum. No #RapeMustFall marches to shut down cities, no days off work, no ‘Zuma Must Faaaaall’ grannies choreographing lit moves against the sexual violation of black domestic workers in their kitchens or the endemic rape affecting the majority of black women in this country.

Understandably, black women are skeptical of saying ‘Me too’ with white women when the champion of that very healing crusade cannot be acknowledged as Tarana Burke but credit is given to Alyssa Milano. What happens when they are no longer as affected? What happens after their research is concluded? Where is their cause without our bodies to vivify it? What refuge do we have with whiteness? What solidarity as ‘just’ women?

Sadly we have no refuge in the arms of our own self-identifying black movements either. Not only because black men are, in the main, the ones raping black women, or that black men comrades are raping black women comrades. But because black men continue to protect each other at the expense of our bodies. Yes even those black men who are suddenly ‘shook’ because it is happening to women they know on Facebook (sisters, daughters, friends and family) as though sexual violence against women they don’t know matters less. Supposedly good men and cadres laugh at the jokes made at our expense, they defend and play devils advocate when we come out and say we have been violated and they turn a blind eye at violent behaviour from other men, euphemistically calling sexually violent behaviour ‘tendencies’.

There’s nobody but ourselves to ‘Me too’ to. For us it’s not just patriarchy, it is the structural power of both Whiteness and Patriarchy that compound our experiences as denigrated forms of life. For us it is both; #MeTwo.

 

Ankobia – Essential Theatre

Introduction
Blacks should flock en masse to see Ankobia, a labour of black love written by Monageng “Vice” Motshabi and Omphile Molusi. Motshabi also donned the directorial hat on this production that wrestles violently with the psyche of an assimilated, indoctrinated and ultimately, a dominated people. This is honest theatre that conceals nothing, forcing the audience to deal with their continued complicity in their dispossession. The production equally forces the oppressor to see their sustained privilege play out on stage as they continue to hold onto the levers of power through a puppet government. Tis dem forces of evil (“white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy”) that attempts to suppress what seems to be a perpetual state of rebellion for black folks in this play set in 2041. The play will leave you shook, discombobulated and feeling some typa way. – Kulani Nkuna. Continue reading “Ankobia – Essential Theatre”

An Open Letter to Prof Ngidi: The Decolonisation Rhetoric at CUT

 

Dear Prof Ngidi

“The unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.”

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Continue reading “An Open Letter to Prof Ngidi: The Decolonisation Rhetoric at CUT”

Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe 90 Years of Struggle, Suffering & Sacrifice

Text: Thando Sipuye

Photograph: Wits Historical Archives

Today, 27th July 2017, marks the 90th birthday anniversary of Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, the forgotten, ignored and erased ‘Mother of Azania’ who has endured unspeakable suffering, struggle and pain.

She will celebrate her 90th birthday, as usual, in private, at her humble home, with family and close friends. There will be no glamour, no journalists, and no live broadcast. And quite frankly, the saddest part is that most people aren’t even aware that she’s still alive. Continue reading “Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe 90 Years of Struggle, Suffering & Sacrifice”

Imperialists First Capture Your Leaders Then Your Country

Text: Veli Mbele

Photograph: Supplied

Those who know me more intimately, know that one of the revolutionary movements and revolutionary leaders, I admire-is Hamas and its leader, Khaled Meshaal.

One of the things that fascinates me most about Hamas is their emphasis on internal security-as the first and last line of defence of a revolutionary movement. Continue reading “Imperialists First Capture Your Leaders Then Your Country”

Response to Richard Pithouse

Writer: Athi Mongezeleli Joja

Image: Africa Research Institute

In a recent Mail & Guardian Richard Pithouse published another of his dishonest articles titled, The ANC is Misusing the Land Question. Pithouse prefaces his thesis by way of a sequencing of historical events that trace collective resistances against the commodification and dispossession of land. Perhaps his voyage from antiquity to the present isn’t only to refresh our memory of the historical longue duree of the struggle against privatisation of public and conquered land but also to pepper his annotations with a dash of scholarly vigour it deserves. This kaleidoscopic choice of events typically begins with running commentaries on the histories of the mother countries and towards the end somewhat climaxes, as always is the case, with the classical discourse on how in Africa these dreams explode into nocturnal monstrosities. Suppose Pithouse’s earnest inclination is to compose a trace of shared struggles and that it is inconsequential that his departure point is the colonial centre, the West. In fact, through this universalist reach, a systematic mission of elisions and falsifications is under way – a deadly ideology of conquest hiding behind a semi-conscientious objection. Continue reading “Response to Richard Pithouse”

Erasing Black Women From Her-story: June 16 Student Uprising & The Erasure Of Women

Writer: Thando Sipuye

Photographs: SA History Online

Two weeks ago marked 41 years since the Soweto Students’ Uprising that took place on the 16th of June 1976, a day that ushered a decisive turning point in the liberation struggle in Azania (SA).

Today the day is a celebrated national holiday re-branded as ‘Youth Day’, a day in which contributions of young people in the liberation project are usually evoked and celebrated. In fact, the whole month of June has become christened as ‘Youth Month’. Continue reading “Erasing Black Women From Her-story: June 16 Student Uprising & The Erasure Of Women”

A Beautiful Struggle

Text: Flo Foundation

Photography: Flo Mokale

Thabo “Flo” Mokale, father and founder of the Flo Foundation has always been a lover of images. Whether it’s through his poetry or performances, he always strives to capture the mind with the magic of his visual and spoken imagery. Continue reading “A Beautiful Struggle”

The Brutal Murder Of Matlhomola Jonas Mosweu


Text: The Black Power Front Statement
Photograph: The Black Power Front

Reacting to the murder of the 18-year-old Black boy, Michael Brown Jr, by a white police officer, Darren Dean Wilson in August 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Jeffries wrote:

“…anti-blackness more accurately captures the dehumanization and constant physical danger that black people face. The “anti” in “anti-blackness” is denial of black people’s right to life.’ Continue reading “The Brutal Murder Of Matlhomola Jonas Mosweu”