‘So they say’: Honouring the multiplicity of language and communication.

Posted on June 14, 2024

The University of Pretoria School of the Arts, recently showcased the first instalment of their series of productions for 2024 at the UP Hatfield Campus. The production titled, ‘So they say’ was aimed at honouring the multiplicity of language and communication in an effort to undo the privileges of English as an academic language.

The play was co-produced by Dr Kristina Johnstone and Extraordinary Professor Marth Munro from the University of Pretoria School of the Arts Drama Department, who share a commitment and research focus towards an inclusive pedagogy. The multilingual and multicultural reality that characterises South Africa is not always reflected within educational and creative contexts, and it is for this reason that Dr Johnstone and Professor Munro have explored the possibility of a translingual and inclusive practice.


From a planning perspective, the soundscapes and ‘songing’ were created through the use of voice and movement invitations and prompts which Professor Munro stated, ‘allowed for multiple identities to be simultaneously present, while negotiating an 'aesthesis' instead of a predetermined aesthetic lens’. It is through the incorporation of different elements such as animations, colour and sound that multiple stories were able to develop.


The ensemble consisted of second year Drama students who took to the stage to extraordinarily tell stories that highlight prelinguistic ways of communicating, such as the use of voice and movement. In doing so, a language or way of communicating was produced that could not necessarily be claimed, by virtue of being a diverse expression of the students’ lived experiences. The production as a whole placed a large emphasis on giving the students creative freedom and empowerment by offering them the platform to be a part of the creative process as opposed to simply being directed.


Consistent with this idea, Siya Radebe, the production’s Rehearsal Director and Drama and Film Masters student at UP emphasised that, ‘There is great value in the student taking initiative in their learning and creating, whilst understanding that their voices, bodies and lived experiences are also points from which their learning starts and grows.’


Communication is an essential part of our everyday lives and ‘So they say’ specifically aims to highlight the various ways in which individuals can come together to communicate and express themselves in ways that go beyond predominant languages. In his remark about the significance of the youth coming together as agents of the messages they communicate, Siya stated that, ‘Now, more than ever, the youth are at a pivotal moment where we need to bind together and aid each other in navigating the different spaces which we occupy’. This signifies the value of celebrating youth month and the stride young people continue to take as they own their youth.


The creative execution of this production, from planning to the actual performance, certainly reflected the main objective of decentralising the English language within educational and creative spaces while simultaneously recognizing diverse ways of expression and communication.


- Author Naledi Sebetlele

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