Centre Stage with Napo Masheane (Part Two)

Posted on May 05, 2011

Hair & Comb" is on at the Masker Theatre until Saturday 7 May 2011.

(Click here for Part One of the interview.)

11. Are there any other facts about your career that you would like to share?

I have been a cultural activist for more than ten years, during which I have worked my self from being an actor and poet into being a playwright and a director. I have allowed my self to engage in writers/directing programs and use different avenue to grow confidence in the world that does not make it easy for women to own/tell their stories. I have branded my self as one of the few black female directors in South Africa. I create play, breath life into them until they reach stage. There are stories untold by us… stories that we share when we plait each other’s hair or when we cook and gossip during family gatherings… stories that seem hard to leave our kitchen tables. And theatre has allowed me to give these stories names and voices. I was Residential Director (2003 & 2007) of the University of Johannesburg Drama Society.

12. What Legacy would you like to like to leave to SA theatre?

I have a unique voice, coloured by our diverse South African cultures. I am living my dreams everyday. To be silent will be to committing self-suicide… I know that there is enough space for me to shine… and I always measure my growth, believe I can be more… right now… at this very moment. I create art that I can own and celebrate it so that I can share it with the world. (What people need to know is: I AM LIVING MY LEGACY NOW).

13. Do you think women directors in South Africa face particular challenges?

There is little said about the state of women directors in the South African Theatre. For the past years the theatre industry has been literary dominated by two groups of people: white theatre practitioners and black men. Black women are oppressed as people who have no “Voice of Writing or Directing” Somehow it feels like as a woman director you are always developing even when you work twice as much.

Somehow our country is silently saying, “If you’re an intellectual as a woman it’s okay. If you are a good writer it’s fine. If you are the best performer that’s even better. But if you are a director and the house is empty it’s a fail. Hard and painful as it is South African theatre including its writings and directing forms has not breathed fresh air into the future and growth of women directors.

14. Were there women (directors, writers etc) in South African theatre (from a historical point of view) that you think were instrumental in shaping the landscape of South African theatre as it is today?

I know of Gcina Mhlophe a storyteller, actor and poet, also Fatima Dike a playwright. Their voices were not as loud as their male counter parts. Women like Miriam Tladi; Ellen Khozwayo’s books were banned in the country. The odds of apartheid were against them, so many of us read their books after 1994. Given the state of what South Africa was it is hard to say how much they could have done in shaping our landscape. But were they female directors I knew of then? NO! I can name ten best black women actors and musicians from way back. But directors, no!

15. Could you please provide a list of what you consider to me your most prominent directorial work up to 2011? 

The Gods Are Not to Blame (Fuba School Of Dramatic Arts 1999)
No Mans Land (Gender play for Soweto Youth Drama Society 2000)
Queens Daughters (classic play for Grahamstown National festival 2003)
'94 Pre Primary School
(a celebration of South African Protest theatre 2004)
Colours of the diaspora (an international collective of black USA and SA women 2005).
The African Choir
(Market Theatre Laboratory 2007 & 2008)
Ishoba for USUTHU Dance Company (a traditional healer’s play revised and directed 2008)
Fat black women sing written and directed (produced by Market Theatre and Actors Centre) 2009
Lejwe (Each Stone Has a Home) Directed for National School Of the Arts 2009
Napo & Indigenous Orchestra (PACOFS & SPACE.COM @ Joburg Theatre and Viking Cruise Liners 2010)
Bubbly Bosoms - The South African State Theatre 2010
Mollo (The Woman In Me) - Joburg Theatre 2010
Hair & Comb (for UP’s Drama Department 2011).

Read more about Napo in the forthcoming chapter on women directors in South Africa by Prof Coetzee and Ms Loots (UKZN) in the book International women directors edited by Anne Fliotsos and Wendy Vierow.

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