The Sunday News
Written by T H Moyo
Directed by Matesu Dube
Preformed by Umkhathi Theatre Works
THE last three years has seen Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo deliberately programming plays with a strong historical link with Bulawayo and its people. This deliberate programming started with the highly successful uMbiko kaMadlela which went on to collect all theatre awards during Nama 2015. Mbiko kaMadlela looked at the succession issue within the Ndebele kingdom — it was a story about Bulawayo and its people.
The gripping drama resonated well with festival audiences. Mbiko was followed by the Christopher Mlalazi-written Warrior directed by Matesu Dube and performed by Umkhathi Theatre. The play was more about the rise of Tshaka Zulu. Again festival audiences were full of praise for the production. In 2017, Umkhathi Theatre were back again the thought provoking play “Ihloka” – a story inspired by the Ndebele uprising against white rule and oppression. Most festival audiences singled it as the highlight of the September fiesta. The play is back again for Intwasa Extra.
Historical plays have been a hit with festival goers because of the issues they deal with and the language they are told in — in this case many have loved hearing stories told in Ndebele. The plays connect with the people, with Bulawayo. They tell the rarely untold stories about the people and the place. They reflect on history, their history, and in the process affirm and acknowledge people’s existence in the world. And that has proved to be very important to Bulawayo. The plays are a serious mirror on which locals come to see themselves and their lives — past and present reflected.
Ihloka is thought provoking, well written, well directed and well-acted. It is also not for the faint-hearted or thin skinned. When it premiered in September one or two people left the theatre complaining that the play was tribal, divisive and inciting. That could be true if you look at it outside the context of which the play is set and the playwright’s motives which were more about retelling the history of the place called Bulawayo and its people.
The play is set at a time when the Ndebele people were angry, very angry, with the white man and his rule. The white man and his rule had brought untold suffering to the Ndebeles — bringing misfortunes to the land. The play is a call to arms — a call to Ndebele warriors to rise against the white man and his rule and reclaim the glory of the past. Viewed outside the contest of history once can easily think it is another idea to support the current debate around the restoration of the Ndebele monarch.
The other plays on Intwasa Extra, though not historical but thought provoking as well, are The Arrangement and Walk With Me. The Arrangement looks at young love in post-Independence Zimbabwe and the fear of commitment. The play is produced by Centre For Talent Development (CTD) and premieres during Intwasa Extra. Walk With Me is a new play by Mgcini Nyoni. The play is a collage of women stories. Stories of love, pain, despair and triumph.
Intwasa Extra is a festive season programme offering alternative family entertainment in Bulawayo. This festive season you don’t have to go to a pub or nightclub to get entertained. Intwasa Extra is happening at Bulawayo Theatre and National Art Gallery of Bulawayo. Away from Intwasa Extra there several events lined up for your entertainment this December. There is SUQEA fashion show, then Kalawa Homecoming and many other events for Bulawayo audiences.