The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WATCHING Mgcini Nyoni in his one-man show, Shuffle, is like watching a wounded animal lick its own wounds on stage for an hour.
While one might feel pity for a wild animal as it attempts to nurse itself back to full health, through only the medicinal power of its tongue, one does not feel the same during the duration of Shuffle.
Perhaps this is because when one watches an animal attempt to heal itself, they do so while wondering what attack, what violence in the wild might have brought on its wounds.
This is not the same for Nyoni because, as he licks his wounds, he does so while narrating the events that brought them on. On stage, Nyoni does not sound like a man that is haunted by his injuries, some of which span his whole life.
Sure, they have shaped his life and character but, during Shuffle at least, he wears them like a badge of honour, treating them like an essential part of his character development.
Nyoni, known to most of the arts loving public as a photographer, gave the latest instalment of his one-man show on Thursday evening at the Oasis.
During the play, Nyoni attempts to dissect the fickleness of identity. He does this with surgical precision but after the presentation, one cannot help but feel that what has been lies on the table, dissected from head to toe, is Nyoni’s own life.
He traces his roots, from the disappearance of his father when he was three years old during political disturbances in the 1980s, right up to his stay in South Africa as an illegal immigrant, where he would benefit from the perception that foreigners are meant to be dark-skinned whereas he is light skinned.
Nyoni speaks candidly about how he is sometimes regarded as an outcast by the major tribes in Zimbabwe, due to the fact that his accent does seem quite fit in, whatever language he uses.
During his presentation, Nyoni also shines a light on the fact that poverty is a thread that seems to run through black communities all around world. From the favelas of Rio De Janeiro to the shacks in Diepsloot, poverty is a burden black shoulders are familiar with.
“There’s a heavy iron jacket called poverty that all black people wear,” he says during the play. “Even when we have ‘made it’ we still count the slices of bread.”
If one is looking for fireworks and theatrics associated with some of the more high-octane productions that come from the city, then Shuffle is probably not the play for you. The small stage at the Oasis allowed Nyoni to “shuffle” about effectively, as picked his brain for fresher insights from his and other lives.
During the play, one gets the feeling that Nyoni delved deep into the dark corners of his own mind, bringing some of his most painful memories to the stage.
After all, Nyoni, believes that art at its core is therapeutic and all artistes are sangomas, healers and seers driven by an inexplicable dedication to their craft. From politics to social media, no topic is left untouched.
During the play, Nyoni also uses the interjection of certain songs to better illustrate whatever point he is going to tackle next.
The songs, which range from Oliver Mtukudzi’s Handirase to Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl, serve as time capsules, transporting the listener to a certain period in Nyoni’s life. Shuffle by Nyoni is an engaging, intelligent rumination on life and pain, a thoughtful piece of work that allows to use his pain to reflect on the world around him.