Review – Hayani: An idea of home

2012-09-14 08:43

Reflecting on what it was like to grow up as a South African, Hayani (meaning home in Venda) is a workshopped theatre piece written by and starring familiar South African actors Nat Ramabulana and local theatre legend John Kani’s son, Atandwa Kani.

The dynamic duo share their personal stories of growth and change throughout their lives in the country, and the audience is moved from laughter to tears throughout the 90-minute showing as we join them in their exploration of themselves, their country, and what it truly means to be a South African.

The play begins with both men entering the stage as if they were on a train, using nothing but their voices and bodies, symbolising the large amount of travelling both men have done throughout their lives.

Kani begins the play by telling the audience of his earliest memories which took place on the long drive from Johannesburg to New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, which is where he considers home.

The audience is taken on the journey with him as he vividly describes the atmosphere in the car and the changing scenery as they leave Gauteng in pursuit of the Eastern Cape.

This journey is contrasted with that of Ramabulana, who tells the audience how he regularly travelled to Venda in Limpopo to see his family.

Both men, from very different backgrounds, have used that very diversity to create personal narratives against a backdrop of the chaotic transitional years in South Africa.

The performance involves few props; instead the two men use their bodies as much as they can as they morph into a wide array of characters including each other’s parents, siblings and each other.

The stage, which is empty apart from a painted backdrop consisting of recognisable faces including John Kani as well as Kani and Ramabulana themselves, becomes an interactive platform on which their personal memories are displayed.

Despite the rather serious subject of searching for one’s identity and sense of belonging, Hayani is an overall light-hearted and fun look at the experiences of the two men’s lives.

Kani and Ramabulana switch between their three languages isiXhosa, tshiVenda and English, which makes it slightly difficult to understand at times for those who aren’t language proficient, but the expression in their voices and faces tells the audience the story even if the words are strange to some ears.

Both Atandwa and Kani are familiar faces. Kani made his international debut in the American television programme Life is Wild, as well as the British series Wild at Heart, he also joined forces with his father on stage in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Tempest.

Ramabulana graduated in 2008 with a degree in dramatic art and went on to pursue a successful career in the arts.

His most recent work in film includes Blood Diamond (2008), Jerusalema (2008) and The Bang Bang Club (2009). Ramabulana received a Naledi award for his performance in the stage production Master Harold and the Boys, directed by James Ngcobo, he also features in the local drama series, The Wild.

Hayani is a poignant, humorous and touching look at what identity means in South Africa.

» Hayani is at The Nunnery Theatre at Wits until Saturday. Tickets from Computicket.

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