The spirit of Sophiatown lives on in the play. Photo: AFP
Fifty-six years ago, on February 9, 1955, Sophiatown was brought to its knees, bringing to an end its vibrant cultural, social and political life.
The tragic events of Sophiatown are commemorated every year on February 9, when people come together to remember the destruction of the legendary multicultural suburb.
This year’s unique addition to the cultural line-up includes Kofifi Youth Theatre, a Sophiatown-based company, inspired by the legends and struggle of Sophiatown and Martindale residents.
The company will stage a performance of Zanandule – Spirit of the Elephant dedicated to, says Dineo Moumakwe, “the legacy of Sophiatown’s heyday, when the rich mix of urban and traditional cultures meshed to create new urban trends of music, fashion, theatre, literature and life which still influence us today.
“Zanandule was inspired by a production called Elephant, which was devised at the Market Theatre and toured the UK in 2008,” says Moumakwe, who works for the Trevor Huddleston CR Memorial Centre. “Like Elephant it portrays the fate of an African chief involved in the slaughter of elephants for profit. Before he can die, he has to revisit his past life to see just when and how the rot started to set in. The chief’s atonement involves him in a painful journey of self-scrutiny as he watches his past crimes – his betrayal of his people, his forced marriage and the murder of his brother.”
The cast comprises mostly actors under the age of 25 from Sophiatown and Soweto.
Based at the Trevor Huddleston Centre in Sophiatown, Kofifi Youth Theatre is a collective of youth from across Johannesburg, who have been working together for almost three years. They took Zanandule to the UK last year, during the World Cup, “to great acclaim” Moumakwe confirms.
The play was well received by audiences in London, the Midlands and Manchester, where it featured in the Contact International Youth Festival. This will be the first performance of the production in South Africa.
The play will run from Wednesday to Saturday at the UJ Arts Centre, Auckland Park, at 7.30pm. It is directed by Adrian Locher from Gloucester and choreographed by Makhomo Tsepa.
Tickets are on sale at Computicket.