First-year UKZN Drama and Performance Studies students recently showcased a production of Under the Stars at the Open Air Theatre on the Howard College campus in honour of African storyteller Dr Gcina Mhlophe, who was in the audience.
The students performed their interpretation of some of Mhlophe’s magnificent stories as part of the DRAMA101 course, which focuses on introducing students to the history of theatre and physical performance in South Africa.
Course co-ordinator and lecturer Ms Lliane Loots said: ‘The event involved more than 180 first-year students on stage in celebration of being African and saluted the magic of story-telling and the power of theatre to move and transform lives.’
Loots was humbled by the students’ commitment and dedication saying: ‘I have renewed faith in a new generation of young scholars and up and coming artists who, I think, will change the world!’
She believes that the success of the event was due to the input of Mhlophe. ‘Gcina has a rich and varied history in contemporary South African theatre and apart from her own lexicon of internationally celebrated plays, her history of acting with the likes of Barney Simon and Mayishe Maponya has cemented her into the annuals of theatre history.
‘Her gendered revision of African storytelling is now her legacy to the world. Mhlophe joined the DRAMA101 students in a series of special guest seminars during the semester where she narrated her own struggles and history as a theater maker. In honour of her visit and her inspiration, the DRAM101 course used her African Stories as the base and inspiration for Under the Stars,’ said Loots.
After the event, Mhlophe was full of praise saying she was ‘honoured’ to have her stories re-invented in this way. She also spent time with the students while they took numerous “selfies” with her.
Said Loots, ‘This kind of interface of practitioners and academia is a blue print of new methodologies and pedagogies around contemporary arts disciplines at universities and this course has proved the success of this.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photographs: Albert Hirasen