Zwakala Festival announcement

Ntambo Rapatla and Lesego van Niekerk

Woman-power leads as the Market Theatre Foundation (MTF) announces its festival director and administrator for the 31st iteration of the Zwakala Festival taking place later this year at the Market Theatre in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Award-winning singer/actress Ntambo Rapatla will occupy the director’s seat after doing a sterling job as the co-coordinator last year. She brings to the table musical theatre experience having graduated from Technikon Pretoria (now Tshwane University of Technology). She has since appeared in lead roles both nationally and internationally including in King Kong: The Musical in 2017. For this she garnered herself a Naledi Award for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical in 2018.

Other notable roles include playing Killer Queen in the show; We will rock you, in Singapore and Matron Mama Morton in Chicago: The Musical in China. Her arts administration skills can be seen in her current positions as an adjudicator for the Naledi Theatre Awards in the category of plays and musical theatre and as a project coordinator for the Makhado Educational Programme, amongst others.

Rapatla also teaches Acting and Technical Singing and Ensemble at the Oakfields College. As last year’s Coordinator of the Zwakala Festival, she brings invaluable experience to her current role of director.

Joining the Zwakala Festival team as Administrator this year is dancer/choreographer Lesego van Niekerk. Her accolades include a decade-long participation in the Bidvest Annual Awards, the country’s largest annual corporate theatre show. Van Niekerk has also coordinated and curated the inaugural Joburg Moves Dance Season 2024 hosted by the University of Johannesburg Arts and Culture.

As a performer she has been seen on both local and international stages in shows such as Chicago: The Musical, West Side Story, and African Footprint, amongst others. She has also been part of the South Africa’s Year in China in 2014.

Van Niekerk’s administrative and policy advocacy skills have been displayed in roles such as being a board member for the Sustaining Theatre and Dance (STAND) Foundation; a dance panel judge for the Naledi Awards and as a theatre and dance representative at the National and Dance Policy Conference 2022.

The two women join an illustrious list of past Zwakala leaders.

Speaking on the importance of the Zwakala Festival the Artistic Director of the Market Theatre Foundation, Greg Homann, says, “The festival’s aim since its inception in 1992 has been to showcase the best of community theatre groups chosen through a process of rehearsals and fieldwork.” The shortlisted groups come to the Market Lab to showcase their work for the title of Zwakala Festival Winner. The artistic skills sharpened through this process include playwriting, directing and acting.

The winning group is then given a limited season at the iconic Market Theatre. Past winners include MoMo Matsunyane with Thabiso Rammala for Tau and Prince Lamla for Coal Yard. The most resent winner, Prayers, was written and directed by Malapile Solly Ramatswi with Vusi Pedros Nkwenkwezi as the performer. Prayers will enjoy its upcoming season in the Barney Simon Theatre at The Market from 25 September this year.

Last year’s festival goers experienced a varied programme including panel discussions touching on issues such as The State of Community Theatre and The Rise of Alternative Performance Spaces. This year promises to live up to similar initiatives with the main event being the performances of the top 4 productions that come through the selection and mentoring process.

This year’s festival is once again made possible by the Department of Sports, Arts and Cultures Incubator Programme.

For more information contact Lusanda Zokufa (Brand and Communications Manager for the Market Theatre Foundation) at or 011 832 1641 or 072 367 7867.

Sannah Mabokela
011 832 1641
The Market Theatre Foundation