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Thursday, May 13, 2021


A team of vibrant and diverse talent has been assembled by The Playhouse Company to celebrate Africa Month with an exciting festival of arts scheduled for May 13 to 21 at the Durban city centre arts complex.

Incorporating The Playhouse Company’s annual New Stages event that showcases fresh theatre work, the Africa Month celebrations fittingly reflect the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s theme for Africa Month: “The year of Arts, Culture and Heritage in the year of Charlotte Maxeke”.

The Playhouse Company, an agency of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, which embraces the government’s principles of social cohesion and nation-building, has scheduled a feast of drama, music and interesting topical discussions for May.

The first big attraction will be Refugees, a gripping and hard-hitting play focused on the harsh realities of people living in refugee camps in Africa. Refugees is directed by Durban theatre stalwart, Jerry Pooe, whose drama focuses on people reduced to statistics while trapped in a refugee camp. It relates personal stories of pain, sadness, soul-searching, humiliation and hope – and also questions and explores the power of religion and spirituality. Told through movement, song, images and narration, Refugees is also a tale questioning the state of freedom.

The play’s cast includes Xolani Henema, Nhlakanipho Maphumulo, Bongumusa Shabalala, Nxege Ndlovu, Stella Zuma, Zanele Zulu, Sfundo Mbanjwa and Qiniso Mngoma. However, show is now sold out.

On Friday, May 14, Test Driving the Arts – a popular Playhouse Company initiative providing performance opportunities for upcoming artists – will feature Amajalimane and Grateful Singers, performing maskandi and gospel music. This fun event is free and will be held from 13h00 in The Playhouse Cellar.

(Right: Mighty Rooted Gospel)

A new drama, Azania, will be presented at the Playhouse Loft, as part of the New Stages Fringe, from 12h00 to 13h30 on Saturday, May 15, when there will also be a performance by gospel group Mighty Rooted Voices. 

Azania tells a story of hope and disappointment through flashbacks. It is centred on a man called Bantu Africa, whose search for a daughter who disappeared when South Africa gained democracy in 1994 continues for two decades. During his search, Bantu meets a white woman who wants to marry him, but an hour before the wedding, Bantu unveils a secret.

Community Conversation, a free event in which lively discussion by a diverse panel of experts will focus on the topic, Innovation and Creativity During the Covid-19 Pandemic, has been scheduled for Saturday, May 15. It starts at 12 noon in the Playhouse Grand Foyer.

The dialogue will be facilitated by actress, author and activist Ayanda Borotho. The panel will include actress and fashion designer Sthandiwe Kgoroge, actor Tony Kgoroge, actor Thabo Mnguni as well as musician and businessman Zakes Bantwini. Numbers are limited, so booking a free ticket is advised. Email

Jazz fans are sure to hotfoot it to the Playhouse Opera theatre at 19h00 on Saturday, May 15, for the Playhouse Company’s proud presentation of an eagerly awaited father-son spectacle, The Themba Mkhize Jazz Experience. Tickets for this one-night-only performance cost R100 each and are available via Webtickets.

(Left: Themba Mkhize)

Award-winning jazz pianist, arranger and composer Themba Mkhize and his equally talented pianist son, Afrika Mkhize, with share the stage with Empangeni-raised Afro-jazz and gospel vocalist Nokukhanya Dlamini, to offer a glittering celebration of South African jazz. A son of KZN, Mkhize was born in 1957, started classical piano lessons at the age of seven, discovered and performed jazz in his teens, and has gone on to be a popular draw on the local music scene. He enjoyed a decade with popular band Bayete and, before that, was a member of the legendary, chart-topping group, Sakhile. Mkhize is also noted for his popular solo recordings – albums highlighting gospel-flavoured, post-bop jazz and jazz-pop.

Mkhize is also of note for having been the musical director of Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba’s 1994 tours of America and Europe, while he is held in high esteem, too, for his work as executive producer of Ancient Evenings, the debut album by Sibongile Khumalo.

Themba’s son, Afrika Mkhize, has worked as a musical director and pianist for Miriam Makeba, and also contributed arrangements, on her request, for the Roma Philharmonic Orchestra in Italy. He has performed with Dorothy Masuka, Khaya Mahlangu, Zim Nqawane, Musa Manzini, Vusi Khumalo, Sibongile Khumalo, Judith Sephuma, Oliver Mtukudzi and Jimmy Dludlu, among others.

Another free Community Conversation event, this one focusing on Entertainment Under the New Normal, is scheduled for The Playhouse Grand Foyer at 12 noon on Friday, May 21. This dialogue will be an open-community conversation that aims to offer solutions to artists, business owners, companies and entrepreneurs that are experiencing negative effects of the global pandemic.

(Right: Zanele Mbokazi)

The discussion will be facilitated by Sipho Sithole, a widely respected expert on music and culture, and will include panellists DJ Tira, popular recording personality Mdu Ngcobo, and the founder of the SABC Crown Gospel Music Awards, Zanele Mbokazi. To book a free seat, email

There will be more drama and song in The Playhouse Loft between 12h00 and 14h00 on Friday, May 21, with a new stage work titled Usphetho and music by kwaito group Showkillers. Presented as part of the New Stages Fringe, Usphetho is inspired by the true story of an elderly security guard at the South African National Graveyard. He becomes a suspect when, in 2018, a coffin containing the body of a well-known community member is stolen.

(Zoe the Seed)

At 17h00 on May 21, The Playhouse Company will present a free Sundowner Concert in the Grand Foyer, featuring exciting Durban singer-songwriter Zoe the Seed, who has worked with Ernest Dawkins, Salim Washington, Africa Mkhize, Ernie Smith and Nduduzo Makhathini. The concert will also spotlight seasoned Durban bassist Bongani Nkwanyana, who has performed alongside Sipho Gumede, Busi Mhlongo, Tu Nokwe and Mbongeni Ngema, among others.

Another sampling of the effervescence of African culture will be showcased in the Playhouse Opera at 19h00 on May 21, with Mbuso Khoza: iJadu Le Africa, featuring the powerhouse that is Mbuso Khoza, an award-winning vocalist, composer, writer and widely respected proponent of African culture and heritage.

(Right: Mbuso Khoza & Ensemble)

The one-night-only performance, for which tickets cost R100 each at Webtickets, will have Khoza accompanied by a 16-voice a cappella group, The Afrikan Heritage Ensemble. It promises to be a joyous celebration of Afrocentric music, the programme featuring original compositions and seminal works by African giants. Khoza, from Eshowe, has a rich and unique sound that has become popular on the World Music circuit. He has toured extensively with his mix of traditional and jazz music, including to Switzerland, Senegal, Portugal, Burkina Faso, France and The Netherlands.