REVIEW: Interrogating womanhood through performance art

by Robyn Kirk

Adriana Cuhna, right, and Bulelwa Ndaba, left, star in The Book of Shade, one of the performances in the Sex Actually Festival. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Adriana Cuhna, right, and Bulelwa Ndaba, left, star in The Book of Shade, one of the performances in the Sex Actually Festival. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Just three actors in two full productions took to the stage earlier this evening to explore, illustrate and explain the various roles and identities of women in society.

As part of the Sex Actually Festival, a double bill of performances took place at the Wits Amphitheatre, featuring few actors and even fewer props. The first, The Book of Shade was created by, and starred,  Adriana Cunha and Bulelwa Ndaba and directed by Tshego Khutsoane. The second King of Ghosts, was a one-man-show by Modisana Mabale.

Cuhna and Ndaba, in a relatively short piece, took the audience on a journey through the roles women play through their lives, and the relationships they share with one another.

From washing clothes in a tin basin, gossiping over another woman’s “looseness” with past lovers, exercise routines, and the reaction to sweet nothings whispered by a man on a date, the two talented actresses drew the audience in the familiar lives of everyday women.

The piece was devoid of dialog but the actresses conveyed the tensions of the lives of these women through movement that said more than words could.

Adriana Cuhna, a Brazilian actress, in The Book of Shade, the first performance of the double bill.

Adriana Cuhna, a Brazilian actress, in The Book of Shade, the first performance of the double bill. Photo: Robyn Kirk

The second performance of the night was Mabale’s King of Ghosts. Set in a graveyard, this piece tells the story of King Ubuntu and his struggle to rule his people and accept the heart of his gogo ancestor, in an allegorical play about patriarchy in African culture.

“child of my child, women rule with their hearts, men rule with their heads. I want you to use both.”

Mabale was a kinetic figure on stage, clad in simple black, moving ceaselessly, as he played a number of characters: King Ubuntu, the spirit of the king’s paternal grandmother, the soothsayer and the dutiful servant.

Adriana Cuhna and Bulelwa Ndaba share an embrace. The double bill on Thursday night focused heavily on the roles and identities of women in society. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Adriana Cuhna and Bulelwa Ndaba share an embrace. The double bill on Thursday night focused heavily on the roles and identities of women in society. Photo: Robyn Kirk

King of Ghosts saw a monarch’s struggle with accepting the heart given to him by the matriarchal character, and the weakness he believed this would cause. A clever allusion to the human condition was carried throughout the play in the form of the king’s advisor, Isintu (translated from Zulu as “humanity”).

The need of balance between the masculine and the feminine was at the heart of this play, summed up perfectly by the gogo as she beseeches Ubuntu to accept her heart as she utters the words “child of my child, women rule with their hearts, men rule with their heads. I want you to use both.”

Both pieces focused strongly on the subject of womanhood, a necessary realm of thought in a festival that hopes to discuss ideas around sexuality.

The Sex Actually Festival runs until August 30, and the double bill of The Book of Shade and King of Ghosts will take place again on Saturday August 23 at 1.30pm in the Wits Amphitheatre.

 

Originally published August 21, 2014 on the Wits Vuvuzela website

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About robykirk

Robyn was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, still isn't dead and despises writing in the third person. She received her undergraduate degree at Rhodes University, having completed a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, History and Journalism at the end of 2013 and completed her Honours in Journalism (career entry) at Wits University in Johannesburg during 2014. From April 2015 until March 2016 she worked as the Communications Intern for the MRC/Wits Agincourt Research unit in rural Mpumalanga. This blog is a collection of the work produced: - for the Wits University student newspaper and website Wits Vuvuzela during 2014 - during her internship at MRC/WIts Agincourt Research Unit (2015/2016) and independent blogging (2014-present). Robyn is interested in everything besides sports and mean people. In the past she has specialised in photojournalism and television journalism, and considers visual media to be one of her strongest skills. She decided to become a journalist because learning about other people’s lives was more fun than putting on pants and having her own. Follow her on Twitter: @RobyKirk

Posted on August 22, 2014, in Online stories, Wits Vuvuzela and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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