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Tuesday, November 11, 2014


(Neil Coppen & Dylan McGarry behind Menzi Mkhwane, Mpume Mthombeni & Simo Majola)

A collaboration of award winning theatre makers are creating an isiZulu theatre piece titled Understanding Fuleni which aims to inform the many thousands of community members in the iMfolozi area of the tragic social / health and environmental consequences that will occur if they decide to vote in favour of the Fuleni coal mining company.

The effects of the proposed mine will not only have extensive social implications but horrific environmental ones on the northern Zululand terrains.

A dynamic team leads this collaborative project that brings together young South Africans as writers, performers, researchers, story-tellers and social development practitioners with the goal to participate actively in sustainable rural development, and social justice. The team comprises Neil Coppen; environmental scientist Dr Dylan McGarry and actors Mpume Mthombeni; Simo Majola and Menzi Mkhwane.

Neil Coppen is a multi-award winning writer, director and designer. His collaborations include works with film-makers, visual-artists, writers, community-groups, sound-designers, authors, animators, choreographers and musicians.

Dr Dylan McGarry is an independent researcher, practitioner and artist. His artwork and creative practice is particularly focused on empathy and imagination and applying it to conflict resolution, ecological citizenship and social development contexts.

Mpume Mthombeni is an actress, dancer and performance artist who has performed with numerous theatre companies. In 2012, she returned from a highly successful run of Neil Coppen’s Tin Bucket Drum in New York, where she received sterling reviews for her one woman tour de force performance.

Mpapa Simo Majola works as a writer, director, actor, and choreographer; his collaborations include works with various production companies, playwrights, humanitarian organisations, community groups, filmmakers and musicians.

Menzi Mkhwane is the son of actor Bheki Mkhwane and best known for his role as V12 in the Mzansi Magic soap opera Zabalaza. His recent script Last Cow Standing won a script development award in the The SCrIBE Scriptwriting Competition, coordinated by the The Imbewu Trust.

The team has managed to source a small amount of money to pay the actors for research and rehearsal but are still R30,000 short of being able to fund their daily expenses, the transport of the company, translation, documentation and accommodating of them (to and from Zululand over the next month.) etc.

This project is not just an isolated event, but rather a first step in developing a long-lived sustainable ‘community-of-practice’ that can ensure the future welfare of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi region. This initiative is also seen as the beginning of longer collaboration with these four communities, as well as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi parks, African Conservation Trust and other parties. This project does not aim to stop development in this region, but rather find the most sustainable and appropriate form of development.

Those interested in supporting this project in any way – however large or small - are invited to visit the website which clearly articulates the goals and outcomes of the project.

For more information contact Neil Coppen on email: