Therapy at the Theatre


By Boitumelo Mazibuko

Around the age of 8, our home was filled with ANC merchandise and at some point we had too many ANC flags that they became our little doodle pages as kids– and I mean that in the most innocent way. I knew my grandfather had some affiliation to the political party. I’d seen photographs of him and political leaders such as J Naidoo and Oliver Tambo.

Once in a while he’d drive with my younger cousins and me to drop off some ‘documents’ at unknown homes that somehow had an air of importance. There were nights where we’d sit on his lap while he enthusiastically tells the whole house about the present happenings in the political party and the nation. However, not sure that it may have been due to the fact that I was so young, I had never heard him speak about his time in exile. I didn’t know he was in exile.

He was a stellar man, poised in everything he did. He was careful even with the cutlery he’d use to make his tea. He was always punctual and had a very strong leadership distinction. He was loved by everyone in our family and the whole neighbourhood. However, now and then, the perfect image of my grandfather would be washed away by sudden waves of anger that burst out of him. I felt there were parts that were missing in my mental picture of him.

I’ve always been inquisitive about his life soon after he died in 2003. My aunt has always been a tool in filling the gaps of his life story in my mind. I now know that he was one of the veterans in the MK (umkhonto we sizwe), the ‘army wing of the ANC’.I knew he fled for Angola once the white government arrested and hanged members of the MK for their activities. He also faced tribulations and trauma in the face of traitors invading their refuge in a foreign land. My grandmother, who was barely in her 20s was left to shield her three young children from the violent knocks and kicking by policemen at two in the morning at her home in Soweto, who shouted and questioned her; “waar is Aubrey, waar is hy!!!”.

Now as a 20-something year old woman, I sat at the Market Theatre watching a multi-award winning play called Dikakapa, directed by Lebeko Nketu. A play that made me feel I had been given a complimentary ticket to watch my grandfather’s story and his role played by Tebogo. Imagery of the Sharpeville massacre and times through apartheid past were projected behind the actors as they begin to tell this same story of my aunt kept relaying to me about him and many unsung veterans.

They set the stage ablaze with their bodies; vigorously creating scenes of the clash between the police and protestors. Out these perspired and panting bodies, a love story, the themes of a betrayal, PTSD and some comic relief emerged. It gives the raw understanding of the trauma that most of our fathers, uncles and grandfathers went through during and after the war. The images of dead bodies, screams, betrayal, longing and loss did not remain behind in those foreign lands as they returned to South Africa. The trauma followed them and lingered on every detail of their lives, and it would be occasionally drowned with beer at the local taverns that sprang up in the townships, opened by mothers and grandmothers to feed their families.

Anger, violence and drunkenness became the channels in which most of our veterans expressed the sore feelings that had embedded themselves in their memories. So the anger we would experience from my grandfather began to make sense as the actors painted a holistic and vivid image for me of his life that not many knew.

Dikakapa became a therapy session, not only to me but to others that we saw leaving the theatre in tears once the actors took a bow. It was a therapy session that really lets you understand the perspectives of our grandmothers’ inconsolable bitterness and our grandfathers’ addiction to alcohol. Or why some of our uncles will never cease to repeat the same story about the apartheid, over and over again. This is because these men and women all had a potent part in our history, they were brave and they triumphed, and they don’t want to be forgotten.

Photograph of Boitumelo's Grandparents Photograph of Boitumelo's Grandmother with her children

Image of my grandparents (left) and my grandmother with her children on the right.

Market Theatre Poster for Dikakapa
The play has been running from the 9th of February will come to a close on the 25th of February 2018 at the Market Theatre.
Book yourself a ticket and enjoy this part of our history replayed with an awesome cast.

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