Powerful play gets prisoners thinking, talking

2015-11-24 15:25
Inmates at Pollsmoor watch the play Die Glas Ennie Draad

Inmates at Pollsmoor watch the play Die Glas Ennie Draad

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A group of young actors recently performed Die Glas Ennie Draad, which tells the story of gangsterism in Lavender Hill, for the prisoners of Pollsmoor Prison

Staged by students from the University of Cape Town, the play explores modern South African gang culture. It examines the causes and effects of a system that continues to attract thousands of young men from the Cape Flats into a life of crime and probable incarceration. A complicated system based on years of segregation, oppression and economic exclusion, gang activity in these areas continues to devastate communities and rob their youth of opportunities. Die Glas Ennie Draad combines poetry and movement to examine the lives of these young men that are often destroyed before having a chance to begin. 

Earlier this year, director Sandra Temmingh and actors Daniel Richards and Gantane Kusch brought Die Glas Ennie Draad to Cape Town's Pollsmoor Prison, one of the most infamous maximum-security facilities in the country. Hundreds of members of the notorious Numbers gangs are imprisoned behind its walls. Performing for the very people whose lives they are  exploring, Richards’ and Kusch’s goal is to drive positive social change and affect transformation through their art. 

"I think theatre is the beginning of the conversation," said Richards. "It allows people to feel something, to think about something .... to have that conversation and really bring out how what you watched has kind of changed the way you see how you are feeling."

The glas and the draad refer to two types of gang members. "Die glas" (the binoculars) is a senior member of the gang. The glas' job is to conduct gang business in die bos (the bush), the parts of the prison where the 28s are not active, and communicate the gang's decisions. The draad (intelligence officer) is the eyes of the gang.

"It was great; inspiring. It had a great message. The message was that, for young children, not to follow the path I followed, because I know about pressure in life, and when the pressure comes, you have to make the right choice," said Chester, an inmate and gang member.

The production which was produced by Chritie Hollander’s Revel Productions is affiliated to the Ruben Richards Foundation, a South African non-profit organisation with a vision to facilitate healing in traumatised communities. On November 26 the Ruben Richards Foundation will be honoured with a reconciliation award from the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

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