Indonga Ziwelene: the walls came tumbling down

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Indonga Ziwelene: A love story of the Rhadebe Royalty. Photo: Thandolwethu Gulwa/Cue.

Indonga Ziwelene: the ‘Royal’ walls came tumbling down.

Indonga Ziwelene is directed and scripted by Ntombesizwe Tena. The ululations of the women on stage make one feel as if they are at their uncle’s family gathering. There is a sense of connection that one feels when the performers do umxhentso (isiXhosa Dance). The dramatic exclamations of the women remind you of umama womXhosa xa ekhuza (of any Xhosa woman) exclaiming. The lyrics of a traditional folk-song: “Ye Majola phum’ entilongweni. Ndinengxakangxaka zomzi wam. Hiyho ho! Hayho hayi! Ndinengxakangxaka zomzi wam” (Majola get out of prison. I have my own problems in my household) urge one to tap deeper into the history of Majola and find out, why was the narrator telling Majola to get out jail?)

Kwantu-Emandulo Productions tells a story of the heir of the Rhadebe Royal family, Mahlubandile, who has to take over the throne from his critically ill father, chief Dungamanzi (Ahh! Dungamanzi!). However, the Royal culture of amaXhosa dictates that before a man can take the throne, he must have a wife. More specifically, the Rhadebe Royal cultural practice requires the wife to be from the village of kwaWezo. But, what about Mahlubandile’s preferences?

Sound effects ranging from thunderstorms to dog barks lead to the play’s transitions. These are two important sounds kwaXhosa. Sometimes, thunder is interpreted as something that represents danger, evil or the dawn of a new beginning. The bark of a dog can either be a call from the ancestors or a warning sign of strangers invading premises.

Traditional clay pots and traditional brooms made from grass appear on the stage. Amakhukho amathathu ondlelwe ngasekunene eqongeni. I-emele yencene nayo ayishiyekanga. KukwaNtu nyani apha! (Three traditional straw mats are laid on the right-side of the stage. A metal bucket and a traditional drum stand on the stage. This is a true depiction of amaXhosa).

Chief Dungamanzi sits on stage with umbheka phesheya (amaXhosa smoking pipe) in his hand. “Indoda funeka iphathe intonga yayo esandleni ngalo lonke ixesha” (a man must hold his walking-stick in his hand at all times). These words are followed by an array of representations attached to different people – mainly based on their gender. uMakhulu (the grandmother) is responsible for entertaining the grandchildren through folktale. Abazukulwana are messengers: their role is to be given minor duties and to be sent around the village. uMamawekhaya (mother of the house) is responsible for unifying the family and the extended families. uMakoti (the daughter-in-law) is at the helm of cooking, ukungqusha (a traditional maize milling process) and fetching water from the river and wood from the forest. Indoda (a man): is responsible for carrying his walking-stick.

Femininity is also a strongly portrayed image in the play. Young and older women are dressed in different shapes and sizes. The young women are confidently clothed in short, traditional skirts and crop tops. The older women wear long imibhaco skirts (isiXhosa couture) and cover their heads as a rite of passage, which signals respect to the culture, the traditions of amaXhosa and oneself. The older women’s cheeks are covered with traditional makeup: imbola emhlophe (white clay).

This theatre performance bears different cultural portrayals ,to tell the story of Mahlubandile, which in turn portrays the different roles men and women have within the culture. Major decisions are taken by men. Women are consulted when it is necessary just as Mahlubandile’s mother is consulted by Dungamanzi about their son’s preference of marrying out of the Royalty norms. A love story that stages an exploration of culture – the roles played by the people who participate in its norms, and the relationships it shapes – Ndonga Ziwelene, also depicts the power of individual agency and the love that sometimes sparks it into action.

“Mna ndithi: uthando sisibane esikhanyisela abantu ababini abathandanayo. Nxa ndisifa kuba ndikuthanda, kulungile.” (I say: love is a lamp that shines between two people who love each other. If I die because I love you, that’s fine).

7 July 2018: 12:00 and 8 July 2018: 10:00 at PJ’s.

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