SONATF Reviews 2/5: The Cursed Vagina


Director: Paul Noko

Cast: Hannah Nokwazi van Tonder and Sifiso Ngwane


When you first hear the title of Noko’s show what comes to mind? In my (admittedly dirty) mind the first thing I thought of was the risqué and erotic. And yet, when you allow yourself to be consumed by the authentic narrative unfolding before you, the idea of the erotic is but a minimal aspect.

Crafted intelligently through innovation that seems too simplistic, this intricate tale managed to transport audiences to the land of Zania, inhabited by the people of the earth and the people of the water. We follow the journey of the first girl born of both peoples and watch her transition from a child to a woman. This transition is captured through the lens of the body becoming a site which is claimed by patriarchal traditions and cultures, objectifying the woman’s body.

The stage design is the first thing that caught my attention, as what started out as a symbolic representation of an unmarked vagina became the land upon which the story was told. The imaginative use of props by actress Hannah Nokwazi van Tonder created powerful visual aesthetics that were emboldened by sound-scaping by Sifiso Ngwane. The entire experience was both visually and aurally stimulating, although at times the performers’ voices were out of sync, which made it difficult to hear certain parts of the story. Another let down of this otherwise brilliant production was the feeling that it all ended too quickly. Perhaps an expansion of the choreography by Teresa Phuti Mojela could lend a hand to adding to the layers so carefully selected to create the landscape of this production.

The power of imagination and the intelligent directing in The Cursed Vagina have made one thing crystal clear, if it was not clear before: Paul Noko has arrived and his team are definitely on to something worth developing further, because this work is truly meant for the people of Africa.


Katlego Chale ©


SONATF Reviews 1/5: Shiwelele

SHIWELELE by Naledi Chirwa

Writer & Director: Naledi Chirwa

Cast: Palesa Olifant, Gabriel Malose and Nelisiwe


In the race against time to liberate ourselves, who gets ahead and who gets left behind? In the fight for equality and equity, do some figures get treated more fairly than others? What will our generation be known for? What keeps us moving forward?

These and other questions swam through my mind as I sat and experienced Naledi Chirwa’s love letter to the Fees Must Fall movement, titled Shiwelele. The story follows the struggle of a young student whose story seems to represent Chirwa’s own real life experiences. She navigates the systems of her university, coming to terms with the reasons for her expulsion, while realizing the lasting value of old friendships and the fickle fleeting nature of some new connections formed on false ideals. Interspersed with themes of sexuality and masculinity, Shiwelele not only played to full houses on both days of its run at the State of the Nation Theatre Festival, the production also managed to move audiences to the point that they sang along in spirit to Chirwa’s song of lamentation.

The chemistry between the performers added to the intensity of certain moments of heightened emotion in the story, however, directorially there was some work to be done in terms of the transitioning into different performative states and certain choices in terms of blocking. The truth of the story was not lost, although I got the feeling that there were multiple endings to the show. Despite these elements, the audience was not left feeling short-changed. In fact many of the attendants, some of whom were garbed in red, were in agreement with a lot of what was stated, even forming mini caucuses, quietly, during the show to share knowing nods and glances.

Shiwelele is a contemporary production that asks difficult questions of the current establishment, and contextualizes, effectively, the sentiments of the Fees Must Fall compatriots. Chirwa expresses herself without holding back, as she invites us into the inner sanctum of her soul.


Katlego Chale ©


Ode to SONA TF ’18


I let the Black Ink from my black pen run onto the Blank Pages on my black desk… I wanted to write a tribute to my back theatre making fraternity and shorten my gratitude to a simple TX! I have visited my theatrical GP and she has cleared me of all ills making the State of My Nation quite clear to me: My young black people are angry…

The short end of the black stick has been rubbed down to a black stub

We have seen the ruse for what it is and now we’re fighting, no more gloves

We have inscribed on our souls the names of our own heroes, Malema and Chirwa

Old folks and new breeds alike, we have seen the cracks  within the system

We have eked out a passive existence, living far beneath the poverty line

We have evolved past our sadness and confronted our demons

And now, we are angry

We are taking up arms and girding our minds with righteous ammunition. We are ready for the fight and we are willing to die to carry forth our inherited mission. When a revolutionary is killed, it is her body that ceases to be. The spirit that invigorated her to take action against her pains  lives on today in the souls of the fees must fallists.

My independence is my own

And I will beat my drum until it explodes

And when we beat our drums together we are not alone

And when we beat our drums together we are not alone

And when we beat our drums together we are not alone

We will break the walls that have kept our people from their promised land and rightful home!


Katlego Chale ©

To me at 23

A letter to my 23 year old self

Relax. Pause. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Your friend just landed a career making gig. Your other friend started a business and you can already see the profit accumulating. You look at yourself and feel like you don’t even know what you want to do with the next five minutes of your life, let alone the next five years. You’re anxious. You’re feeling like time is running out. You feel like you’re getting left behind. Well, relax, pause and don’t put so much pressure on yourself.

Remember the picture of the iceberg. You see the white tip sticking out of the water and it looks like a small floating piece of ice, and yet beneath the water is a huge boulder so big that you can’t see where it begins or ends. This is a metaphor for the friends you are comparing yourself with. You see only the surface. If you go deeper, you will find that there is a lot more to what you see. There is luck, there is privilege, there is circumstance and there is sacrifice. The same is true for you. You have been through a lot that only you know about and yet when people see you they only know the little you are willing to show them.

The truth is that you cannot compare your journey to that being travelled by another person. You are made to be strictly unique. Even if you had a twin, a carbon copy, you would not be the same. Your beauty is in your difference. So, allow yourself to breathe and do not compare yourself to anyone else. You’re only racing against yourself. When you reach your finish line, you will be the only one who can account for the journey.

So, make it count. How? Slow down. Take stock. Appreciate your blessings. Think about what you really want. Decide. Plan. Don’t be afraid to wait. Stillness speaks volumes. Allow yourself to listen. There are lessons to be learned here. Try move at someone else’s pace and you could learn the hard way. Take it easy on yourself for a bit. Life will test you when the time comes. Be prepared.

The best is yet to come. Keep the faith and work on your routine. It will all make sense soon.


Recycle me

​I have been hurt many times by a woman

And yet it is not women that I fear when I walk through the city streets in the middle of the night to withdraw my money

It is not women that make my heart jump up and down as I wait for those notes to spit from the machine

It is men.

Men who look like me

Men who walk like me and talk like me and smell like me

It is my reflection that terrorises me in a land where I am supposedly free

And if I fear my own, what happens when a woman is in the same situation? 

A free woman in her own land cannot walk where she wants to when she wants to

Because, just like me

She fears becoming a victim to men who look like me

Can I blame her when she looks at me and feels that I resemble the men she fears?

I cannot.

For in truth

I fear them too.