Wednesday 2019-05-22

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PRODUCTION IN ESWATINI: A RISING WORLD

By Nokwanda Sibandze | 2019-03-16

Ever since the opening of the Eswatini Theatre Club, the performing arts industry was very poor, mainly because it was not recognised by people as a profession, but as just a hobby.

With no form of arts taught within the national curriculum, performing arts were transmitted in alternative and often intangible ways outside of this framework. For a long period, the arts did not improve as artists in the industry were still not supported or even respected by other people. Artists did the arts because of love as artists were not paid for their acts and often performed free of charge.

For a long time, the industry was non-existent, it did not have any form of direction until a few years ago, where we started seeing artists producing new material and doing shows around the country.

It has since changed in the last years as more and more artists were coming into the industry, and thus being recognised in the country as a profession, seeing TV shows such as ‘Kusa Kusa’, only then, people started watching and became more accepting of the industry.

Even then, the industry was still at inception stages as artists did not have appropriate equipment to produce quality work. This led to the slow growth of the industry. Through efforts to improve the arts in the country, EUNITED ARTS OF SWAZILAND was born, a programme designed under the project professions in music and the visual arts, culture as a tool to empower civil society and the creative engine to support economic and social development in Eswatini, headed by the Italian non-profit organisation Minerva, co-funded by the European Union and implemented with the organisational support of the Alliance Francaise in Mbabane and with the Eswatini Theatre Club.

The Minerva EUNITED ART OF SWAZILAND has launched the first multi-disciplinary laboratory of Eswatini to serve as free space for artists and cultural operators. The access to the Laboratory is for free for “Eunited Arts of Swaziland Association” members. Membership is for free, as well and the registrations can be requested at the laboratory Desk to the Swaziland Theater.

Improvement

Some notable people in the country who, every day, work towards the improvement not only the industry but the artist in it as well, include Maswati Dludlu, ENCAC President Stanley Dlamini, Nqaba Tsela and Sindisiwe Nxumalo, who is the Chairperson of the Eswatini Theatre Club to mention a few.

Dludlu, who is Arterial Networks Swaziland Secretary General, is one of the many people who continually strive to better the industry. Dludlu has been, in the past and present, seen supporting youth development in the arts, such as coordinating events that promote arts in the country. His participation has been beneficial to the industry as it continues to grow.

Not to leave Tsela out, he has also been one of the people who strive for the success of the industry. Being an actor himself, Nqaba Tsela is involved in projects in the country that help groom young and aspiring actors.

 Nominated for the NACAs, Nqaba’s roles on international screens confirm also that the country is improving in the arts industry. Sindisiwe Nxumalo, Chairperson of the Swaziland Theatre Club, is without a doubt one person recognisable in the development of performing arts in the country. She works together with her team to ensure continuous growth of the industry.

BUHLE BUYEZA

You might be familiar with it and you might have seen from a friend and did not exactly understand what it was, but luckily we got your back.

Buhle Buyeza is one of the few of Eswatini’s very own theatre productions.

This production is directed by Sindisiwe Nxumalo.

In 1998, it was suggested that Sindisiwe Nxumalo write a play based on the histories they had been told as children about how Eswatini came to be.

In the oral tradition, grandparents and parents passed on the stories of ‘the birth of the nation’ but the forums for such story-telling were no longer being utilised. Western style stages were dominated by western stories or even Swazi stories as told by Westerners.

In consultation with her family, particularly her father, Sindisiwe wrote Buhle Buyeza. Due to a number of constraints, not least the subsequent death of her father, the play was not performed until 2004 at the Swaziland Theatre Club. Despite the amateur cast at the time, the play was very well-received. Although many of the scenes may have lost their historical accuracy in the effort to make them dramatically engaging, however, a number of commentators have remarked that ‘these are the stories we grew up on’.

BUHLE BUYEZA OUTLINE

The action takes place between the reign of King Sobhuza 1 (Somhlolo) and his son King Mswati II. It is a turbulent era in Swazi history as the nation searches for safe land to establish the Kingdom of Eswatini. At the opening of the action they are being pursued by the armies of Zwide from the South and being pushed North towards the Sotho clans they are not entirely familiar with. For dramatic effect the action follows their engagement with the powerful Zwide leading to the choice of LaZidze to be a queen among the Swazis. The action ends with the defeat of Zwide by the Zulu and the establishment o f the peaceful Kingdom of Eswatini.

Contemporary relevance

Last year the kingdom of Eswatini celebrated 50 years of independence. Although the colonial era is not explored in this drama, the celebration of the nation in its original form is relevant. It is also noted that last year marks the 50th Birthday of King Mswati III whose focus is also on a peaceful nation-growing forward as is expressed in the drama.

A number of the original cast have gone into the entertainment industry, as a direct result of having been involved in the original performance. There is now a pool of professional actors, presenters, producers and technicians who will take part in the revival. This is also the first time that the new state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment installed at the theatre club by the European Union will be used for a full drama production.

Although the original script is in English, the Swazi cast will adapt at bringing an indigenous flavour to the piece. This makes the play accessible to a wide audience.

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