In an extraordinary moment of history, eight innovative young residents of Sharpeville, descendants of the township which changed the course of history in South Africa, have brought an award-winning piece of theatre, Dikakapa, to the National Arts Festival fringe.
The 11-day arts explosion opened yesterday, with Dikakapa showing to a good crowd at the NG Kerk in Hill Street, Grahamstown.
On March 21 1969, 69 anti-apartheid pass protesters were massacred and 180 injured in Sharpeville by the apartheid police.
Yesterday the eight performers, six of them aged 16 to 18, presented their view of SA as seen from the streets of Phelindaba township only a few minutes walk away from the graves of the victims.
Dikakapa (giants) is produced by Sharpeville’s Generation of Stars, which is a theatre group made up of 40 youths from the township who are using the arts as a way to find new opportunities in life, said scriptwriter-performer Isaac E Sithole.
Last year it was awarded most promising production at the Gauteng Ishashalazi theatre festival 2017, a 2017 Standard Bank Ovation Award at National Arts Festival, and the 2017 Market Theatre Foundation’s 25th Zwakala Festival, held under the theme “from community to artistic excellence”.
Sithole says that in the spirit of true grit and humility – “we worship through talent!” – the performers have produced a story which comes out of the real-life morass of unemployment, drug abuse and general abandonment and stasis in Sharpeville – harsh features which characterise life in too many of SA’s townships.
Drawing on Sharpeville’s history, the story was created in an abandoned old Lethabo power station only a few minutes away from the graves of the Sharpeville victims in Phelindaba (“The issue is done”).
It centres on the life paths of two struggle heroes, one of whom, the antagonist, Sipho Moleko, has chosen a greasy path to political ascendancy, arriving at a place called betrayal, although is still hailed as a “hero”.
Moleko’s character has been pencilled from the story of the traitor “Mr X1” also known as “Comrade September” (Glory Lefoshile Sedibe) as told in Jacob Dlamini’s book Askari: A Story of Collaboration and Betrayal in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle.
The protagonist in Dikakapa, Tebogo Mokoene, draws on the life of Sharpeville’s PAC stalwart Nyakane Tsolo, who led the peaceful protest in Sharpeville, was detained and tortured by the security police, and went into exile where he fought for the PAC until his death in SA in 2001.
He said: “Not much was written about Nyakane Tsolo and his involvement in the struggle and family, so we took it from there and up to now, and how we see political life in our country from our perspective as youth.”
At home in the re-energised power station, Generation of Stars has in its five years inspired the youth to start a boxing club and weight-lifting gym in the hostel.
“It’s been a process of each one teach one.
“We have come a long way.”
Dikakapa (1 hour 20 minutes, VL16) is on at the NG Kerk.
Shows: 12pm June 28, 10am June 29, 2.30pm June 30, 12pm July 1 and 2pm July 2.