Young actors get a taste of history

Sivenathi Macibela in G7: Okwe - Bokhwe

The production G7: Okwe-Bokhwe, based on the historical records of the Gugulethu Seven (G7), seven young members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) who were ambushed and killed by the South African security forces during apartheid, will be staged at the University of Cape Town’s Hiddingh Hall campus in Orange Street, from Wednesday June 12 to Saturday June 22.

The Gugulethu Seven memorial was built on the site of the ambush, which took place on the morning of March 3, 1986, to commemorate the life and death of Zandisile Zenith Mjobo, Zola Alfred Swelani, Mandla Simon Mxinwa, Godfrey Jabulani Miya, Themba Mlifi, Zabonke John Konile and Christopher Piet.

Drawing on the language of the body, song and ritual, G7: Okwe-Bokhwe honours the Gugulethu Seven and celebrates the power of theatre’s ability to heal.

The Magnet Theatre production, which is directed by co-author Mandla Mbothwe from Nyanga, stars eight Magnet theatre trainees.

Mr Mbothwe says the goal of the Magnet Theatre, based in Observatory, is to excavate the stories which have been buried.

He says when he visited the Gugulethu Seven memorial, he asked himself: “ How do we breathe life in commemorating seven people who died to fight for freedom? This production is part of remembering them, it is not only to open wounds to cause pain, but to open wounds to help in healing.”

The young actors performing in the play were not born when the Gugulethu Seven were slain and this was a learning experience for them.

Abigail Mei, 23, from Salt River, says she did not know about the Gugulethu Seven before she started working on the play.

“It made me do research and go deeper into the story. This story touched me more as a youngster going into our history and reliving that experience. It is not just a story, it is part of me, it stretches me as a performer.”

Abigail plays multiple roles in this play, including the mother of Christopher Piet.

Sivenathi Macibela, 21, from Khayelitsha, plays the mother of Zola Alfred Swelani.

“When I first heard about the Gugulethu Seven I had no idea who these people were,” she admits.

She and the other cast members went to the monument in Gugulethu to find out more about the history.

“This story is very hard to act in, we try our best to pay respect to them and also to do justice to the story,” says Sivenathi.

Both Abigail and Sivenathi are third-year Magnet theatre trainees and they previously collaborated together last year at the Magnet Theatre in The Visit.

Mr Mbothwe says the young actors were eager to learn about the history of the G7.

“It is those stories that feed into our identity,” he says.

He says this play will ask various topical questions.

“What happens when we interact with the past as young people of today? How does it reflect into us today? How do we make people realise that the past is not that far from us today? What are the miscommunications?”

G7:Okwe-Bokhwe will be performed at the P4 Studio at Hiddingh Hall Campus in Orange Street, Gardens, from Wednesday June 12 until Saturday June 22. They will have a preview on June 12, at 7.30 pm. It will be staged at 7.30pm on June 13, 14, 18, 19 and 20 and there will be matinee performances at 2pm on Sunday June 16 as well as Friday June 21 and Saturday June 22.

Tickets cost R80 and R50 for students. Book at Webtickets via www.webtickets.co.za