Art in 2021 – The Roundup.

Tebogo Ditinti: We can all agree that 2021 started off very shaky, hugged with a lot of uncertainty and wrapped in panic as well as doubt.

Artists in particular had it rougher as most of us live hand to mouth and when the industry shut down, we were faced with the brutality of our reality at the time. Needless to say, most artists took that time as an opportunity to create and produce. I remember very clearly the first play I saw this year around June at The South African State Theatre (#SAST) #Bopha written, directed and starring Percy Mtwa. Alongside his co-stars Tshallo Chokwe and Terrence Ngwila what a way to begin a theatre year I thought. Those three gentlemen changed the game and set the bar higher than it has ever been.

It was that body of work that made me want to see more, which I did. My Children, My Africa was one that followed for me. Even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, I liked what it did for Matriculants who had the opportunity to experience it, also at #SAST.

Same with Kgalagalo Tsa Setu by Mokhale Machitela, adapted and directed by Kgaugelo Tshabalala, known as Set Work, which I find educational and utterly important as it serves as a tool to introduce teenagers to the world of theatre and the many different career opportunities.

It was not long after that when #SAST in it’s true fashion launched the Youth Expression Festival on June 16th. A festival by the youth for the youth to showcase their work creatively in professional spaces. That is where I also got to fully experience the #SAST Youth Choir who continue to impress with their contemporary chorale music with a touch of hood.

It was in the month of June when the most groundbreaking and history making news broke out… Theatre was going to the Big Screen. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news, therefore I will never forget. A definite highlight of the year. The very first play to ever hit movie screens in that manner was my absolute favourite play #Freedom by Aubrey Sekhabi, it remains closest to my heart for very many reasons.

Aubrey Sekhabi is the Artistic Director of The South African State Theatre, the man behind Marikana – The Musical, On My Birthday, Not With My Gun, Rivonia Trial, Kalushi – The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, Mantolo – The Tenth Step only to mention a few. The man who recently assembled a team that represented South Africa at the Dubai Expo with his very recent body of work titled Mother of Freedom which is another undeniable highlight. Sekhabi didn’t just stop there, he also brought the iconic Silent Voice to life for one day only at #SAST. May we please have a season???

#SAST was not the only theatre keeping art alive, thinking out of the box and making major moves this year. Joburg Theatre brought us an online poetry session called Long Night of Poets.

The Market Theatre also brought us Blood Knot by James Ngcobo which I found a little… ai, as well as A Better Life written by Mpumelelo Grootboom and directed by Joseph Komani. The Soweto Theatre presented us with Red on the Rainbow by Monageng Vice Motshabi which I absolutely loved. The Tin town theatre showed us The Movement by Tshepo Ratona.

The industry slowly opened up and in the year of Charlotte Makgomo Mannya-Maxeke as it has been declared in our country, we saw Tsogo that had a season a #SAST, a play that is inspired by the life of Mama Charlotte, written by Napo Masheane and directed by Moetapele Setlhako.

#SAST also brought us the launch of a book titled Lessons from Charlotte Makgomo Mannya-Maxeke by Advocate Modidima Mannya, which was the second book they launched for the book series. The first was Culture and Liberation Struggle in South Africa by Dr Lance Nawa.

If I were to speak of my highlights for the year besides #Freedom and Mother of Freedom. #SAST was in Cape Town for Nguvu Ya Mbegu eNtabelanga. For as long as I live, this play will continue to live rent free in my soul.

The CEO of The South African State Theatre, Dr Sibongiseni Mkhize once said “In October 2016, the SAST deliberately chose to position itself as a pan-African theatre, with the tagline “A Theatre of Africa”, with our vision being “A prestigious theatre of choice for a distinctly Pan-African experience”. This transformation agenda will encompass a multi-pronged approach to turn this theatre into a dynamic and inclusive space for artistic expression through its artistic programme and spatial re-imagination”.

Five years later we see #SAST not only producing and staging plays, but we also see it launching books by our people, we see thought provoking art exhibitions by the youth, children’s theatre is growing rapidly, Women’s day events are getting bigger with each year that goes by. The festivals are beyond our imaginations, I mean Mandisi Dyantjis filled up the Opera Theatre for the very first time, his first time in Pretoria. #SAST takes theatre to the people as well, there was a team in Mafikeng, Sebokeng and local outreach initiatives where a sanitary drive took place.

With all the great and the not-so-great theatre pieces we saw and didn’t see, we cannot forget the very many lives we lost throughout this year. So many shocking deaths left us crippled with disbelief. Those whose names we know and those whose names we don’t know. Our colleagues and beloveds. Rest in eternal peace sons and daughters of the soil.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who have made all my theatre visits and reviews possible. I am because you are. Kea leboga.

I wish everyone a prosperous 2022.

Tebogo Ditinti
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Tebogo Ditinti Art Reviews

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