2011 Spring Arts Festival

2011-09-22 00:00

DEAR Ama, a beautiful monolgue penned by Emmy Award-winning ­Pakistani journalist and maker of the documentary Pakistan: Children of the Taliban in 2010, Sharmeen Obaid­Chinoy, was among the works showcased in A Web of Words: Diverse Voices from Until The Violence Stops, one of the many productions staged during the sixth annual Spring Arts Festival at ­Epworth in Pietermaritzburg.

Lourdes Llobell, dressed in a simple red and gold shawl, delivered her lines flawlessly as she told the story of a young child bride and her pain and fear as she contemplates marriage to a man of 55, and her family’s decision to hand her over to him in payment of a blood debt.

I was also impressed with Anele Masikane’s performance of Darfur ­Monologue, written by playwright ­Winter Miller, which shares the terror of a woman who finds herself at the “mercy” of the Arab Janjaweed, who have been responsible for the murder and rape of thousands of black Africans in Darfur.

Both Dear Ama and Darfur Monologue form part of the book, A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer, edited by Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) and Mollie Doyle. These works —– which ­include Doyle’s First Kiss, playwright Carol Michele Kaplan’s True, journalist Patricia Bosworth’s My Two Selves, actress Kathy Najimy’s Maurice, feminist writer Robin Morgan’s Web of Words and an untitled piece by Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times — examine issues of rape, domestic abuse, human trafficking and loss of innocence.

The idea of staging Until The Violence Stops came from Debbie Olsen, a history teacher at the school and the ­person responsible for the ­Interact Club.

“When I lived in Canada, I saw the Vagina Monologues, and then last year I came across a copy of the book, A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer, which was edited by Eve Ensler. I knew my Interact Club had talented actors and singers, so I suggested a collaboration with the drama ­department to present this item for the Spring Arts Festival,” she explained.

“Epworth is a very protected community, and I think this is a great vehicle to teach these girls an important message and to raise awareness. The girls have put a lot of passion into this… and they would love to take it to some boys’ schools in the ­area.”

The dramatic works were accompanied by music and two songs — Alicia Keys’ Super Woman and Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman — and donations made by those who attended the performance were donated to LifeLine Pietermaritzburg.

Navi Chetty, finance director for the organisation, was impressed with the way the pupils had tackled all aspects of abuse and violence towards women and children.

“In one of the works, the woman says she should have listened to her inner voice. That’s what we try and teach women — trust your instinct, even if it makes you feel like a fool,” she added.

Until The Violence Stops would also have pleased Ensler, who inaugurated ­V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, ­including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery. So far this year, more than 5,800 V-Day benefit events have taken place around the world.

Epworth’s Spring Arts Festival included art exhibitions, a performance by the school choir, a performance of Mandisa Haarhoff’s beautiful one-woman show, Crush Hopper, concerts, dance productions and plays.

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