Nomzamo

Seen on July 10, 2015 @ National Arts Festival, Grahamstown

With the stunning performance of Hillbrow Theatre Project Isaro only a few months away and the way director Gcebile Dlamini was able to tell a horrifying story of searching for a home with a cast of young people from one of the toughest innercity neighbourhoods raised expectations when I learned that she would visit the National Arts Festival with a Nomzamo.

A gentle song is quietly sung and enfolds into a morning ritual, washing with clear water. The neighbours chat. Nomzamo gets reputed by Gogo, who looks after her after her parents have divorced,  as it is shameful for a girl to sit and do nothing. Tears of happiness flow as Nomzano meditates on her life in a village in Swaziland. the peace and grace of everyday life around the village where the hills are shaped like an African woman. In these very first moments we get a taste of some of the important themes and symbols in this story. Washing. Shame. Tears. Silence. Chatting.

A cousin takes her Nomzamo out for a walk and rapes Nomzamo. It happens so quick, but leaves long scares. There is the threat not to tell anybody what happened. The family decides to silence it as it would bring shame. Nomzamo is a piece to break that silence for all who have gone through similar experiences. Storytelling to halt the repeated abuse.

The power of the play can be felt in its imagery language: carrying a bucket that can not be spilled, still in the bosom, a shot bird that left me every morning in tears, an empire of fear instead of protection. the center of attention, the secrets behind clean clear water. And the small attributes that speak a thousand words like the stillettos used as microphones.

The repeated refrain ” Don’t walk – stand – no I can’t – I need to walk – the bushes – risky, deep and scary” gets a deeper meaning everytime it is pronounced.

Figures of speech to defeat the silence that suffocates. Neliseka Malinga, Thobeka Malinga and Tsholofelo Pouline Mmbi sing, dance and act powerfully and show how a community of family, neighbours, pastors, churches and traditional healers all have their ways in not addressing the deep hurt.

The performance won the Naledi Award for Best Community Theatre in 2014.