Nguvu ya Mbegu… eNtabelanga
Tebogo Ditinti: “I have always been passionate about South African history, especially the history I was not taught at school, the history that was buried deep.”
So said Mandla Mbothwe, the director of Nguvu ya Mbegu eNtabelanga.
It is a Swahili phrase meaning “The power of the seed,” as I was told by Mbothwe, a very wise man with a wide sense of humour who was only too happy to talk to me about the work that he does. “Nguvu ya Mbegu is an attempt to water the long-buried seed by walking through the past. We are not obsessed with wounds, we are obsessed with healing those wounds”, said Mbothwe. Nguvu ya Mbegu is about reclaiming our stolen memories and remembering who we are. It is about reclaiming our identity.
The Bulhoek Massacre took place in 1921 in Ntabelanga near Komani. 193 unarmed people were recorded to be shot dead, more than 100 were wounded and 141 arrested, all because they refused to leave their mountain of prayer. This remains one of the most notorious colonial crimes in South African Eastern Cape history.
“Asisango ngcwaba apha, sizo tyala”. A statement that is repeated throughout the play meaning “We are not here to bury, we are here to plant”. Nguvu had us glued to our seats for over an hour, our eyes fixed on the cast of seven that had their way with our emotions. The character of Enoch Mgijima, a lay preacher and independent evangelist who broke away from the Wesleyan Methodist Church and joined the Church of God and Saints of Christ, was beautifully portrayed by the talented Lungile Lallie. His conviction was enough to make everyone uncomfortable with not knowing the story, the language barrier was a non-factor because the story he told was beyond the fluent Xhosa, it was also in his body language and expression.
The rest of the cast consists of Luhle Macanda, Mamello Makhetha, Katlego Lebogang, Luthabo Maduna, Indalo Stofile and Thando Doni. The ensemble is seen in very disturbing appearances. Their makeup and costume is just as haunting as the set they performed on. Nguvu ya Mbegu was held at Theatre Arts which also operates as a church. The burning of mpepho and lighting of candles pierces through the very core of our consciousness. It is in those moments where you hear the aggressive sounds of a whistle blown out of desperation.
This year marks the centenary of the massacre and Mandla Mbothwe says to us: “We are apologetic about the mistakes we will make in telling these stories because we weren’t there, we are here now and acknowledge that the sources of our research are from people who wrote their version on the truth and memory. We don’t claim that what we will portray is the truth.”
Nguvu ya Mbegu ran from 21 – 23 October 2021 in Cape Town’s Theatre Arts produced by The South African State Theatre in association with Mud & Fire Parables. It is my opinion that it needs to run longer in different theatres across the globe.
“I remain hopeful that this story of the Bulhoek Massacre, which left many dead and many wounded, will one day be on the #SAST stages in Tshwane,” wrote Aubrey Sekhabi, the Artistic Director of the South African State Theatre in his note for Nguvu ya Mbegu eNtabelanga.
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