Soweto drama group aims to tour National Arts Festival

2017-02-09 08:01
The Ngizwe theatre group from Noordgesig, Soweto. (Kim Harrisberg, GroundUp)

The Ngizwe theatre group from Noordgesig, Soweto. (Kim Harrisberg, GroundUp)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - Every week, 15 youths make their way to the community hall in Noordgesig, a township among the mine dumps on the northern boundary of Soweto. The students are here to practice acting, dancing and singing, and to rehearse for their first show.

The Ngizwe (meaning ‘hear me’) theatre group was formed in January 2016 by Tshabalira Lebakeng, 37, whose passion for drama took him from homelessness to directing, writing, and acting, GroundUp reported.

“When I was pushed on to the streets, I used to survive with the [other homeless] boys. We never used glue, but when we drank Smirnoff vodka, we would sing and act and do imitations of different famous people,” he remembers with a smile.

Ngizwe’s debut performance is based on an event that has haunted Lebakeng. The production is titled The Little One.

“This story is about my life on the streets and our friend, the little one, who we found poisoned. I grew up thinking about him. No one came looking for him, so we had to bury him by the train station.” This was in KwaZulu-Natal.

It will be the first time Lebakeng confronts this traumatic event.

The Little One

The youths, who range in age from 10 to 20, with a cocktail of acting experience between them, use black bags, egg cartons, and polystyrene cups as props.

The oldest and most experienced is 20-year-old Lihle Hadebe. She has known Lebakeng since 2013, when he approached her school as a drama teacher and held auditions. Hadebe went on to do various community performances, adverts, and short films.

“Tshaba [Lebakeng] gave me a pencil and told me I need to become a writer. I even used that pencil in my final year exams, because I didn’t have one of my own,” she says. After school, she joined an acting agency, and wrote and directed a play.

Despite her obvious talent on the stage, Hadebe says her family is encouraging her to pursue a career in medicine, teaching, or engineering. But, she says, “When I am on the stage it is like I have a break from my life. I can be anyone. That is why Ngizwe is my home.”

The youngest of the group, 10-year-old Nobuhle Mbanjwa, who is in the title role, says: “When I act, I feel I am a person I have never been in my life.

“Acting is my dream and my talent, and because of this, my mother supports me, even though no one was there to support her.”

Artistic collaboration

Emma Delius, Ngizwe’s creative director, recently completed her Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and Birkbeck University in London. Delius wanted to apply her thesis, which looked at theatre for education and development, at a grassroots level.

“I am involved in Ngizwe because of these incredible children. Every day I arrive and they have something new to teach me about the world, and there is nothing more inspiring than that,” she says.

Delius heard about Lebakeng through The Homeless Story Project run by directors Harriet Perlman and Robbie Thorpe. They workshopped with a group of homeless individuals to script a film about their lives, resulting in the recently-screened film Vaya at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“I was inspired by Tshaba [Lebakeng’s] personal story, but also by the kind of work he was doing with the kids,” she says.

Delius’s Facebook and Thundafund (a South African Kickstarter equivalent) campaign raised R16,010 for food, transport, and outings for the children.

They hope to raise enough funds to tour the work to the National Arts Festival.

Opening day

On the day of Ngizwe’s opening show, there is heavy rain and some hail. The community hall fills up slowly, awaiting the parents who have been trapped indoors, unable to walk through the storm to see their children perform. The students wait anxiously backstage. For most of them, this is their first performance.

Lebakeng, in a white shirt and bow-tie, begins to tell the story of growing up and surviving on the streets. When the story reaches its climax, the death of the little one, Lebakeng pauses, and says: “I carried my friend’s grave in my hands ever since.” It brings tears to the audience.

“That is why I started Ngizwe, so that no child will ever feel this pain. No child will be robbed of being a child again.”

Read more on:    soweto  |  johannesburg  |  good news

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
Partner Content
How data is changing investments

Technological disruption is rife in many spheres of business and given the quantity of data available, it’s no surprise that the way in which asset managers work is also changing fast.

Behind the sparkle

Alluring, beautiful and timeless - diamonds are some of the most sought after gems in the world and are a true testament of everlasting brilliance. Let us take you behind the sparkle to show you the history behind this coveted jewel.

/News
 

Play with your pet when you're not at home

Many pets are alone at home during the week while their owners are at work. So what do these animals get up to while they’re home alone?

 
 

Paws

How to get rid of fleas
12 Cool cat facts
Chocolate can be fatal for dogs
Spider-man star's adorable relationship with his dog
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.