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ZIYABUYA EMKHUMBANE (article first published : 2005-10-29)

Normally Durban audiences see Jerry Pooe’s productions at the Playhouse, the Elizabeth Sneddon or Courtyard theatres. However, he has taken his latest musical Ziyabuya eMkhumbane, to the wider community, as it were, presenting it at Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre in KwaMashu.

Ziyabuya eMkhumbane is directed by Jerry Pooe who has written the story with respected veteran Durban actor Alfred Nokwe. It deals with the history of Cato Manor/Mkhumbane, a history which is close to Alfred Nokwe’s heart. It combines the talents of Jerry’s Eager Artists Company and some of his students at the Durban Institute of Technology along with the Nokwes’ highly versatile young theatre company, Amajika Youth & Children Art Project.

The result is a well-disciplined company of varied ages and all performers from the youngest to the most experienced are to be commended for their standard of focus and generosity of performance. The music is a mix of popular township music of the 40’s with numbers written by Jerry Pooe himself. Patti Nokwe is the musical director and her sure hand can be seen in the quality of the cast’s singing and phrasing abilities. Choreography is by Xolani Zibani and Charmaine Mpofu with an effective but simple set by the Playhouse Company’s Cain Nyembe.

Jerry directs his performers well and there are always delightful cameos to watch in the group scenes. Ziyabuya eMkhumbane is very much an ensemble piece and everyone gets their chance to shine. However, notable performances come from Xolani Henema, Makulu, Maye Mbhele, Sqashi Khumalo, Bhekani Biyela, Gcina Vilakazi, Siphindile Myeni and young Siyabonga Hlengwa who shows major promise. Wonderboy Gumede is the long-suffering priest and Thabiso Ngidi, who plays his son, proves that he’s a very nimble dancer.

A variety concert forms part of the storyline and this offered a good opportunity to showcase skills, I particularly enjoyed a highly amusing section which involved the smallest isicathamiya group I’ve ever seen – all of five singers - but they were right up there with the greats in terms of discipline and focus! The forced removal sequences were handled dramatically and Junior Ngidi’s song had much pathos and sensitivity.

“Johannesburg has Sophiatown and Cape Town has District Six,” says Jerry,” but there hasn’t been much focus on Mkhumbane which has a rich history of mixed cultures.” As an audience member who only came to South Africa after these events happened, I would have welcomed a little more history, particularly as to how the years progressed from the initial confrontation between the African and Indian residents of Mkhumbane to the forced removals by the apartheid government. However Ziyabuya eMkhumbane refuses to dwell in the past and picks up on South Africa’s capacity to learn from the mistakes of the past in order to reinforce the future and ends on a highly positive note.

I was very disturbed to see that many of the seats at Ekhaya are in a bad state of disrepair and trust that this is a temporary setback and that they will be repaired shortly. This venue is too valuable to be allowed to fall into neglect.

The production has received funding from the National Arts Council for rehearsals and performances in KwaMashu. Support has also been received from Ethekwini Municipality’s Department of Cemeteries, Parks, Recreation and Culture.

Ziyabuya eMkhumbane runs at Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre from October 28 to 30 at 19h00. There will be two performances on October 30: at 10h00 and 16h00. – Caroline Smart




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