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Thursday, February 8, 2024



(Mpume Mthombeni and cast)

Tracking history and re-imagining futures in Northern Zululand.

The acclaimed theatre production Umkhosi Wenala (The Festival of Abundance) an Empatheatre collaboration with Northern KZN-based Mbazwana Creative Arts (MCA) will tour to venues in Mbazwana, Hluhluwe, Nibela and St Lucia from February 10 to 17, 2024, and will be free of charge to audiences.

Well-known television and stage actress Mpume Mthombeni heads up the cast which features a range of young performers from The Mbazwana Creative Arts Programme. The production is directed by award-winning director Neil Coppen with design by Dylan McGarry in collaboration with craftsmen and women from the Sodwana bay region.

The 80-minute musical (told in isiZulu and English) tells the story of twins, a brother Nkosana and sister Makhosazana who inherit a kingdom after the disappearance of their grandmother, a queen, said to have drowned in the ocean. The two Nkosi’s, destined to rule together, are divided by circumstance and political forces beyond their control. After two decades of betrayal and conflict between their competing kingdoms, the situation further escalates with the arrival of a fence which cuts the communities off from their village and resources and resurfaces past tensions and new resentments.

( Local actor Nolwazi Zulu. Picture by Casey Pratt)

Umkhosi Wenala weaves together many relevant moments from the last century of Northern Zululand’s history and uses humour, pathos, satire, puppetry, ritual and song to tell its story.

Umkhosi Wenala is a theatre-making/storytelling project that aims to create an innovative democratic decision-making space for youth in northern KZN, South Africa, through the process of restorative public storytelling. Over a period of 18 months, the team has been listening to stories of elders, youth and everyone in between in Northern KZN to surface the rich and diverse histories of this region. With the legacies of apartheid many perspectives and histories have been excluded in decision-making, and this play aims to re-map these lost histories and memories through the leadership of KZN youth.

At the conclusion of each performance, audiences are invited to remain behind for a facilitated conversation and discussion with the performers and creative team.

Neil Coppen, Empatheatre Co-Founder, explains:The musical features 13-young theatre-makers and storytellers in the region, and works to mobilize their existing capacities and talents towards democratic governance and social-justice issues arising for them. We have specifically entered into a collaboration with aims to support, nourish and mobilise these capacities with these young activists/artists. Our two organisations share a combined vision for forging inclusive creative processes and spaces where community artists/writers/musicians and performers are located center-stage of their own stories and histories.”

(The cast of Umkhosi Wenala create a powerful image in the final scene of the show. Pic by Casey Pratt )

The production features the talents of Mpume Mthombeni, Sphamandla Mzobe, Dumasani Ngubane, Phindile Gumede, Njabulo Zikhali, Mbali Ntuli, Siphamandla Vusi Mafuleka, Noxolo Thandeka Mlungwana, Nokubonga Zikhali, Nolwazi Zulu, Thembi Nxumalo, Busisiwe Nxumalo, Nomthandazo Nxumalo. 

Umkhosi Wenala was devised and co-created by the award-winning Empatheatre team of Mpume Mthombeni, Dylan McGarry and Neil Coppen in collaboration with Mbazwana Creative Arts members.


Umkhosi Wenala has been made possible through generous support from the Bertha Foundation (Bertha Artivism Award), NAC (National Arts Council), The One Ocean HUB and ACEP DEEP CONNECTIONS project.

Touring dates 

Sat 10 February- Mbazwana Arts Centre (15h00)

Sun 11 February – Nibela - Ntulabakayise Schooll Hall (11h00 and 15h00)

Mon 12 February – Hluhluwe - Hluhluwe Primary school (17h00)

Wed 14 February – Mbazwana Arts Centre (12noon)

Thurs 15 February -St Lucia- Ezemvelo Auditorium (11h00 and 17h00)

Sat 17 February Manguzi - 1 Manguzi Multipurpose Centre (11h00)


Entrance to the production is free.

For more information contact Neil on 0837811459 or

To watch a short documentary of the making of the production visit