Jewels in the Crownby Bongani Kona / Images by Paris Brummer / 13.03.2013
Everything in the city intensifies after 5’Olcock. The knock off hour: sound, smell, movement. “Ndiya goduka,” I’m going home, is a common refrain you might hear from the snippets of dialogue as thousands of workers begin their daily march to the train station at the bottom of Riebeek Street or the taxi rank just above it. The march is accompanied by the sound of countless car horns blaring like amateur trumpeters out of sync with each other. And on summer days like this, all manner of birds can be seen circling the clear blue sky.
In the midst of this chaotic business of coming and going, on the corner of Longmarket and Parade, a woman, Nozuka Tshisa, is sitting in a washtub, washing her clothes and hanging them out to dry on a line of wire a metre or two away. From the speakers, a mournful song comes forth and a small crowd of onlookers gathers around her. Its day two of Infecting the City and curator Jay Pather steps forward to announce that we’re about to see a piece of theatre by Mhlanguli George, Fourth Person in the Yard.
The play rests on the idea of shadow worlds; worlds which exist beyond or underneath what we’re able to see. The idea grew from the playwright’s curiosity about what goes on in people’s backyards and from this he’s written a genuinely moving story of pain and strife. It gets heavy at times because of the themes the play deals with (child abuse, poverty and madness) but the performance by the four-person cast is so transfixing that for the 30 minutes Fourth Person in the Yard takes, the fact that we’re standing on a busy street becomes an afterthought.
From there we move on to the Homecoming Centre in Buitenkant Street where writer Henrietta Rose-Innes reads two passages from Green Lion, a novel she’s still busy with. It’s a subdued affair, as all readings tend to be, but the audience is receptive to Rose-Innes. Soon after, in the same venue, Jay Pather introduces Being, a dance recital choreographed by Owen Manamela. It’s a complex piece and it’s difficult to work out what it’s all about, but it turns out to be one of the crowd favourites. Maybe it’s to do with the strong sexual overtones. “Show me your ass!” The narrator (Chuma Seopotela) says at one point to one of the female dancers, and she obeys.
We then make our way to the District 6 museum to take a look at Aeneas Wilder’s Under Construction. Working with thousands of small pieces of wood, Wilder is in the process of building what looks like a giant jenga block and it’s really something to marvel at. Once it’s done it will be kicked down to the ground, a reference to the apartheid-era displacement of the residents of District 6.
The jewel in the crown of the evening’s acts, however, turns out to be Neo Muyanga’s Thoriso le Morusu. Inspired by Antjie Krog’s poem, Country of Grief and Grace, the 25-minute musical performance with the Siyaya Chorus is played in five movements: prayer, confession, the mantra, a manifesto and catharsis. The only thought that remains after the last song is how beautiful it all is. And maybe that’s the only thought that matters.
*Infecting the City runs until 16 March 2013. Check the full program here.
– VOX POPS –
“Oh I like it, I’m enjoying it a lot, I’ve never done this before.” – Lerato Thakholi
“Oh shit I don’t think I’m the right person to comment because I haven’t seen anything.” – Raphaela
“Absolutely brilliant!” – Angel on Neo Muyanga’s Thoriso le Morusu.
“It was wonderful” – Theo.
*All images © Paris Brummer.