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Monday, August 13, 2018


(Pic by Val Adamson)

The cast works extremely well as an ensemble or as individual characters, each putting in powerful performances under Motloung’s strong direction. (Review by Caroline Smart)

In August 1956, over 20,000 women of all races marched in unison to the Union Buildings in Pretoria protesting against unjust apartheid pass laws. The phrase “You Strike the Woman You Strike the Rock” comes from the famous resistance song of the time, symbolising the courage and strength of women. This event was dramatised in a stage production in 1986 commemorating the 30th anniversary of the march.

Keeping the characters’ original names but changing a major portion of that script, director Matjamela Motloung has brought this production up to date with Wathinta Abafazi, Wathint’Imbokodo which formed part of the Playhouse Company’s 2018 South African Women’s Arts Festival from August 7 to 11.

The new production was adapted by Motloung for the Playhouse Actors Studio and combines elements of fashion and photography, asking how far have women’s rights progressed, and how much is still to be achieved?

Motloung impressed audiences and colleagues alike in May this year with his production Touch My Blood, placing it in the Playhouse Grand Foyer, an area not often used as a performance space. He has now decided that this is his choice of venue and, as he did with Touch My Blood, has once again transformed the area.

The audience enters a completely white space - chairs covered in white on white podiums and white draping surrounding the area. This draping also works effectively to carry the audiovisual material created by digital curator, Mandisa Buthelezi which feature images of the time including the appalling and shameful posters such as “Caution: Beware of Natives” or “This area for Whites Only”.

There is a white shallow box filled with stones containing a structure covered in red indicating a cluster of rocks. Beside it is a white bucket.

The cast is made of those who were in Touch My Blood: Phumelele Majola, Fezeka Shandu, Ayanda Nyawo, Simphiwe Dladla and Thobani Gama. The new member is Ntando Madlala. The cast works extremely well as an ensemble or as individual characters, each putting in powerful performances under Motloung’s strong direction.

Gama enters and stirs the blood that is contained in the bucket, stating with passion “I am Fed Up”, going on to complain about how traditional men talk and boast about their greatness but there is never any mention of women and their achievements. He’s determined that those present will now listen to the women’s story.

The play then follows a historic story-line from the march to Pretoria in 1956 through the British Prime Minister’s speech about the Winds of Change and the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 and the State of Emergency in 1985. Each of the female characters tells her story, revealing the horrors of the apartheid era and the issues that still exist, such as the abuse of women and homophobia. While the subject matter is disturbing - as it should be, because we need to be reminded of these times - there is also wry humour in comments like: “Why did they make tear gas white?”

There is also much poignancy such as “How do you keep a child born from rape? How do you love it?” says a mother, holding her child fathered by her rapist. Another very telling comment is: “It’s 2018 and all I can see is gravestones.”

Costumes have been designed by Thandeka Madikizela and a most memorable feature is a knotted length of fabric. Initially used as an umbilical cord, it then gets divided up and becomes headdresses and then used effectively in the struggle and rape scenes.

Nkosingiphile Dlamini’s lighting design adds to the changes of moods and movements of what is a compelling theatrical experience. – Caroline Smart

For more information on the Playhouse Company’s South African Women’s Arts Festival visit