If you love gripping contemporary drama, then make your way to The Port Elizabeth Opera House for local filmmaker and director Xabisolethu Zweni’s play, #AfterMarikana.
The play made its debut at the National Arts Festival in July and this week has seen PE theatre lovers flood into The Opera House since it started showing on Wednesday, August 31, with each and every show sold out. This is hardly surprising as it is one of a kind.
Based on the infamous Marikana massacre that left over 30 families mourning the deaths of their loved ones in 2012, the play highlights the emotional and psychological impact of the massacre on the victims’ families.
Zweni uses Mavela, a character played by himself, and his family to express his perspective of how the massacre affected families of the victims. Mavela is derived from the story of a real-life miner who survived the massacre but was later found hanged in his shack in Nkanini before testifying in the commission.
“After the massacre, there was a guy [whose] name is Marvellous Mpofana. I read about him some time ago but no one spoke about him. [The story] did happen but then obviously I had to add in more characters to grow and amplify the story,” Zweni said.
The play features local actors Anele Penny as Welcome Sizani (Policeman), Olwethu Mdala as Dabawo Nogolide(Mavela’s sister), Asanda Hanabe as Makoti Nomthandazo( Mavela’s widow), Nomabotwe Mtimkulu as widow 1 and Lungelwa Magqamfane as widow 2.
The narrative overlooks the everyday political conversations surrounding the massacre and focuses on an untold angle; the emotional scars, unanswered questions and despair that the families of the victims have been left to deal with while the political blame game continues in the public eye.
Inspired by the late German professor and creator of docu-poetry, Wolfgang Nitch, Zweni said he chose this angle because, as a film maker, he needed to bring something new to the table, and not what everyone has already seen on documentaries and read about in papers.
“So I thought, the family of Mavela must have felt something because they are not counted in those people who died [in the massacre]. No one speaks about that. He also suffered and the family is still suffering, so I thought let me open up that can of worms,” said the well-spoken creative.
While the name of the play most likely reminds the audience of the tragedy of August 2012, the play reveals different angles to the story. A love story of Mavela and his wife is revealed, a blame game within the family also emerges. However, the audience also gains an insight into the misery faced by one of the policemen who were responsible for the massacre, as he is haunted by Mavela wherever he goes.
Zweni says he also wanted to explore the notion of forgiveness through Mavela’s story.
“I wanted to show that whether we talk about apartheid, the Cold War, the genocide in Namibia or Congo, in all of these things there is an element that’s called forgiveness. How far does a person forgive?”
He also says he wanted the audience to go home after the play and think or ask themselves what the ultimate solution could have been.
He uses Nogolide to pose an essential question that each individual ought to ask themselves. In the scene where Sizani is trying to explain why they (the police) shot the miners, Nogolide asks why blood has to spill before people listen.
“In the play there is a question that says, why must always there be bloodshed in order for man to think. They are willing to kill each other first and then they sit down to think. Why must children toyi-toyi for their hair and rights in order for people to think?” asked Zweni.
The final performance is tomorrow, September 3 at 7pm
For more information contact Cingiwe Skosana, 061-996-0200