Musical puts spotlight on township families

The cast of musical Out of Africa, set to be staged at the PE Opera House on Saturday
The cast of musical Out of Africa, set to be staged at the PE Opera House on Saturday
Image: Werner Hills

Social ills that stem from dysfunctional family dynamics are so rife in the townships that some actors from those communities hardly have to rely on a script to tell the story.

This is what Nelson Mandela University lecturer and director Akhona Nkumanda discovered while directing the musical Out of Africa, set to be staged at the PE Opera House on Saturday.

Through the musical, Nkumanda aims to educate and start a conversation about the link between broken family relationships, mental illness, gangsterism and various other social ills swamping communities, with a focus on townships.

“It’s very rare to find a family with both parents present for children in the townships, and children’s behaviour is affected by the family’s [functionality], so much so that children start using drugs and getting involved in crime because they grow up in a broken society,” Nkumanda said.

Nkumanda has gathered a cast of actors from Port Elizabeth townships to bring the story to life. Due to having been exposed to township life, the actors found it easy to portray the story during rehearsals, he said.

“The cast is mainly people from the townships who know the life we are trying to portray because they live it every day, so they relate so much to the story that they know exactly how to portray their characters,” he said.

Nkumanda aims to educate all age groups, especially township pupils. He has invited pupils from Helenvale, Shauderville, New Brighton, Kwazakhele and Zwide to attend a matinee of the production at 1pm. 

“We want to use our platform to educate, empower and entertain people by creating awareness while sending a message of hope and letting people know that they are not alone because this is something that is faced by a lot of people,” Nkumanda said.

“While there is a lot being done to raise awareness about diseases like cancer, not enough campaigning around mental illness is being done and people are not aware of why certain things happen.

“Not only do we highlight what happens in township homes, but we provide solutions to the issues at the end of the show.”

Nkumanda and his team have organised sponsorship to transport the pupils to the show and back.

Bayview Primary School teacher and coordinator Faranaaz Caderbegg said they were grateful for the opportunity and for their pupils to be exposed to the positive impact the arts community had.

“Our children live in socially and economically deprived areas and most of the time they don’t get the opportunity to go to theatres. So this is a chance for them to be exposed to what happens at the Opera House and learn how things are done.

“There’s always a story to learn from in every play, and this specific story will speak to our children who mostly come from broken homes and grow up in dysfunctional communities overwhelmed by gang violence,  and subsequently teach them that they can still rise from their circumstances,” Caderbegg said.

She said 45 pupils from Bayview and 10 from Helenvale Primary School would attend.

Out of Africa starts at 5pm.

Tickets for the evening show cost R50 and R30 for the matinee.

Contact Kim Nkumanda on 078-956-1729 to purchase tickets.