ART is a depiction of life, period. Artists are in inspired by real life events, sometimes in their own life which serves as a cathartic experience for them and those who receive the art.
Makaziwe, a play which opened on Thursday night at the Moses Molelekwa Art Centre in Tembisa tells the story of producer of the production, Dineo Mnyanga. “The play is basically my life story, I was in a relationship and wasn’t getting satisfaction from my partner. I decided to tell this story, also as a way of coming out,” Mnyanga says.
Makaziwe is a story of a married woman who after two years into her marriage, grows sexual dissatisfaction with her husband who is generic, doesn’t seem to understand her body and doesn’t pay real attention on her and the relationship. The story explores gender based violence and sexual relations in heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
A photographer by profession, Mnyanga believes the story is also her way of coming out to the world as a lesbian because she’s been holding it inside of her for a while now. Showing me her wedding ring finger without the wedding band, she says “I just removed my ring now in June. I haven’t completed the divorce process-it’s a hard and draining process. But we’re going through a separation right now. But I feel free,” Mnyanga calmly tells me after the play.
“What really drew me to this story, was the sexuality. Women’s sexuality-I’m one of those people, who isn’t comfortable talking about sex and what you want as a woman. I come from Ga-Habedi, a small village in the North West and such things are talked about only by adults,” says director and co-writer Mphoentle Ngoepe. She was initially cast as the main actress of the play, but then chose to be behind the scene.
The play is co-written by Koketjo Tesh waga Mashedi, who roped in Ngoepe after he wrote the script. “I got the concept from Dineo and started writing. After that, I realised that it needed a female voice because there are things that I don’t know and can’t talk about as a man,” says waga Mashedi.
“I read the story and thought, let me tell it from a female point of view…some of the things I thought were not for us women, or for me as an individual who was reading the story. I was like nah there’s no woman who can say this,” says Ngoepe.
Good as it was, the play is still being developed. After the show, the whole cast and crew had an open floor discussion with the audience to talk about the play and also get feedback, so to improve it. “I really liked what people said. They’re input will help us grow and develop this play even further, because since April we’ve had about six scripts that had to be changed,” waga Mashedi says. He adds that he was pleased that ordinary people were in the audience on the night. “It was not just artists, who’ll only talk about the technical stuff. But these people here are the society, the people who are actually going through this.”
Ngoepe says the idea of an open floor discussion and feedback from the audience wasn’t necessarily planned. “Day before yesterday, we were really challenged because I thought the [last] scene could end this way, while Tesh thought it could be done that way and the actors felt it could done in another way…and we were like, clearly this isn’t an ending show, how about we open it up and hear what the viewers, the people of the story think about it.”
The crew is planning on bringing the story back in December during the 16 Days of activism against gender based violence. But with a fuller and more comprehensible production.
One audience member who wasn’t so assertive in his comments, said he could tell that someone is trying to relay something in particular through this play. “That audience member was right,” says Mnyanga. “I think he can tell that I’m trying to tell my story here.”