As the Grahamstown National Arts Festival draws near, Bay playwright, drama teacher and poet Xolisa Ngubelanga is working extra hard to get not only himself but his drama students ready.
Ngubelanga is taking two of his plays; Izim le Toilet and FlameBook to the festival in Grahamstown, which runs from June 29 to July 8.
Izim le Toilet is a story inspired by the death of little Michael Komape, who drowned in a pit toilet at a Limpopo primary school in 2014.
“The extremeness of the incident was shocking to me.
“Yes, we’ve become used to filthy toilets but it was the first time I heard of one resulting in death,” Ngubelanga said.
He was further shocked by then Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s “blatant arrogance” in her response to the ordeal, he said.
The play comprises a cast of four pupils from Woolhope, Ethembeni and Lungisa high schools.
The pupils all form part of the Artworks For Youth Programme based in Joe Slovo. Ngubelanga plays the only character in the second play FlameBook, directed by Simphiwe Kaya.
The play depicts how fire plays a role in society during times of unrest and protests.
While making reference to the #FeesMustFall movement, Ngubelanga said the play dealt with several other movements that had led to fires being used as a form of rebellion.
“A lot of mysterious events and fires have been at the centre of people’s struggles.
“No one ever knows who started the fire, but the fire is always there.” In November last year, Ngubelanga pioneered Our Writers’ Network (Own), a platform aimed at allowing creative and academic writers in Nelson Mandela Metro to exercise their skills and voice their views in a space they can own.
At the event, Ngubelanga had Izim le Toilet and three of his other scripts read and analysed by fellow creatives.
Ngubelanga, who moved to the Karoo late last year, came back this month to hold daily rehearsals with his drama students from the Artworks For Youth programme. This will be the first time he is taking the students to the festival.
FlameBook will be staged at Brick’s at 10am on July 4, 1.30pm and 8.30pm on July 5, noon on July 6 and 4pm on July 7.
Izim le Toilet will be staged at Masonic Front at 10am on July 5, noon and 10pm on July 7 and 4pm on July 8.