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SIZWE BANZI FOR HILTON (article first published : 2006-08-1)

The South African theatre classic Sizwe Banzi is Dead, written by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, will be one of the highlights of the Witness Hilton Arts Festival in September.

The original 1975 Tony Award-winning Best Actor duo, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, take up their roles once again nearly 30 years since they last performed the play together. The play had a successful run at the 2006 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Directed by Aubrey Sekhabi, Sizwe Banzi is Dead also celebrates 30 years of South African youth, offering theatre enthusiasts and audiences a unique and historical theatrical experience. The play premiered at the Space Theatre in 1972 and during the 70s it was performed in black townships, schools and universities throughout South Africa, reviving theatre amongst the black communities.

It is a dialogue that highlights the differences between African innocence and experience, between the rural and urban, and between the masks an African was obliged to wear at the time and the man within. Although the work is set in apartheid South Africa, its truth and humour remain relevant 12 years into democracy. While the play called for political change at the time, it also made its audiences aware that new and better political systems ultimately depend upon a change of heart of all those involved.

Itís the story of Sizwe Banzi (Winston Ntshona), a rural black worker who leaves his home in King Williamís Town to seek employment in Port Elizabeth. He is ordered to leave the district because his pass is not in order. With his friend Buntu (John Kani), he comes across a dead man with a valid pass. Desperate, they steal his pass and forge his photograph. Sizwe assumes the dead manís identity so that he can remain in the city to provide for his wife and four children.

ďIt is an indictment of manís inhumanity to man perpetrated by an authoritarian regime yet crafted through a compassionate, humorous examination of the everyday lives of totally credible people,Ē says John Kani. ďAlthough there is no mention of apartheid throughout the play, it is nevertheless a vivid portrayal of what it was like to have been black in South Africa at the time.

Winston Ntshona adds: ďAudiences will experience life in what is regarded as that dark period in this countryís history.ď

The Witness Hilton Arts Festival runs from September 15 to 17.




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