by Lalu Mokuku.
On 15 July 2021, I went to listen to an audio reading of Dipalo at the vNAF 2021.
For certain occasions, like “going” to the theatre, I like putting on makeup. Perhaps it softens my being, and reminds me of the many selves I am capable of becoming. Sometimes my makeup gets messed up from joy, especially after experiencing a good work of art. Sometimes, from the power of the truth I have been confronted with.
One time, my makeup got messed after experiencing the storyline of Gina Scmukler’s The Line. Informed by the interviews of those affected by the xenophobic attacks, she creatively unveiled ignorance and manipulation disguised as hate.
One time, it was while listening to Mme Sibongile Khumalo’s song; U Ea Kae. Sprinkling the cultural pearls almost getting buried by an arrogant order that discards that which it does not understand.
One time, it was after watching Lulu Mlangeni’s choreographic performance of Chiffonade for the early years, when she allowed the young people to touch her props and be in her performance space. I recalled shared sentiments with Brazilian Theatre Maker Augusto Boal when he talks about a need to collapse the divide between audience and performers. He even denounced the word spectatorship and introduced “spectactorship”.
One time, it was after viewing Khehla Chepape Makgatho’s artwork, where he create stories through prints to visually speak of women and their role in shaping society. He argues that through his work, he has “no intention to save women, but to highlight fundamental principles that women are the keepers and primary custodians of human conscience”.
One time, it was after watching Reggie Yates’s documentary film on Prophet for Profit? South Africa’s Millionaire Preacher (wealth Documentary). After spending a week with Pastor Mboro, he said while he might not understand why people would wave their underwear and hold their private parts in church, he had begun to think deeply about faith and what it can do.
Sometimes it’s when I am reflecting on words and matters of the world, looking at memes that capture an essence that may cripple or pull us towards our desired being. Or social media commentary that is well-informed or ill-informed. Sometimes cringing at possible outcomes, intended or unintended.
Sometimes, my makeup gets messed up from sadness, especially after hearing the rhetoric of slogans and cries of the people weighted by a cloud of death following them everywhere due to environmental degradation, or a stench of human flesh burning with a building that houses the life blood of others, now razed to the ground. Or those debating the semantics of a language that has ripped the minds of so many, leaving the scent of monolingual accents, that often usher in no sensible discourse.
At such times I am drawn to Zoom’s mute function, especially if voices trade on populism at the expense of children, distorting history to blur what matters.
Perhaps you guessed right, my make-up was messed by joy and sadness after experiencing a work of art recently; Dipalo, at vNAF 2021. Not because I already know something about the play, but there was something that pierced my heart here. Perhaps it’s the pain of listening against a background of anarchy and Delta variant inflicting trauma on communities or…
Nevertheless, after listening to Dipalo, I remembered that more than five decades ago, Wole Soyinka wrote The Trials of Brother Jero, a play that explored the exploitative prophets. And yet here I was, listening to similar sentiments AGAIN. This time, of women being sexually abused by a God fearing man. The question that sat on my tongue was WHY. How willing are we to rise about hashtags and endeavour to answer HOW it is possible that more than 5 decades on, charlatans masquerading as prophets still exist and that their ways of selling hope have not changed? HOW it is possible that more than 6 decades ago, women of South Africa demonstrated unimaginable courage to confront the oppressive Apartheid pass laws and yet, they are still today bearing the heaviest brunt of violence in spaces that are supposed to offer solace? HOW is it possible that young people are being abused in spaces that are supposed to bring solace? Boal once suggested that “those who try to separate theatre from politics try to lead us into error – and that is political attitude”.
For certain occasions, like “going” to the theatre, I like putting on makeup. Perhaps it softens my being, and reminds me of the many selves I can become, if I am willing to be political and more. Perhaps this is a wake up call. What about you?
– Lalu Mokuku co-wrote Dipalo with Ginni Manning. The play won the 2019 ASSITEJ Africa Playwriting competition. She recently penned I Simply Cunt as a way to engage on discourse toward kindness in relation to gender.
Dipalo is currently running at the National Arts Festival. It is a listen on demand offering, so you are free to access it any time until the end of the month. https://nationalartsfestival.co.za/show/dipalo/
Please engage with us on some of the issues emerging from Dipalo, and more importantly, please offer alternatives: