By Sinenhlanhla Ngwenya
It was almost an unbelievable sight to see: a live performance by one of South Africa’s best actors embodying high emotion and tears in their eyes. The focus was all about changing a student’s life.
The cast of the Mzansi Magic TV series, Lockdown, made a surprise appearance at the UJ International Festival, which occurred in the institution’s APK Campus on Friday contiguous to the fields outside its Student Centre. The scene transformed from an exciting hype of the opening sequences as the topic of deaths on campus was raised.
The theatrical performance began with a brief act from the prison warden character who had already caught the eye of many. However, the brief voice of international artist Nelisiwe Sibiya sent a wave of excitement and all immediately rose to their feet.
“Wemama kabafana,” Nelisiwe sang.
What a sight it was when the first of her backup singers walked slowly on stage; the sight of them excited the eager audience. Nelisiwe stole the attention of many yet again when she sang her famous hit single titled weMama ka Bafana.
When she took to the stage, those who recognized her voice as well as appearance rose to their feet and began singing along. Clad in a denim prisoners outfit from the Lockdown prison Thazimba as she sang, the atmosphere in the air changed.
The police warden struck her down as he would a prisoner and a soft groan travelled through the audience. He remained above her with his hand pressed on her collar, but she continued singing softly.
“Bengingafuni ukumbulala, namanje ngisazisola,” she sang quietly.
“Ekse ma se Kind!” roared the character of Megan Thomas known as Tyson, acted by Lorcia Cooper, as she ran on stage. Tyson is one of the female prisoners, a lover of women and a bully. She stunned yet attracted many with her violent actions and wild eyes.
“Young people who are you? Young people who are you? Are you the next hit? Are you still getting high? Think of our fore fathers that died for our future and look at you today!” Tyson said, accompanied by the soft background singing from Nelisiwe and her back-up singers.
She spoke a different message that had related well with the recent death of UKZN student who was allegedly stabbed by three fellow students at an on-campus party, as reported by The Citizen on 17th September 2018.
It was on this that she based her talk about bettering ones future. Thereafter, she detailed clearly on how to remain in a straight path forward for the future.
“You think South Africa is part of the African continent but you forget that it is a part of a global world! South Africans, we are global citizens. Our forefathers have died and lost their lives! UJ what are you doing? You are our future,” Tyson said.
She highlighted that it was in students’ hands to bring about change and further advised that everyone was to “put down the pipe, put down the sniff and put down the line”. Rather people should choose their dreams and instead of fearing the fulfilment of one’s dreams, we ought to have the fear of being hooked.
“You think you’re invincible, but you’re not and some people never come back from being high and that’s all they chase down the line,” Tyson said.
“Many of you think you’re partying but you’re addicts! You think you’re partying having a good time but you’re an addict and if that is you today, you have a choice to turn around,” she said, rousing a roar of cheers from the audience.
She went on to give a warning about how easily a future could be lost and that it is not a pleasant thing to be a prisoner. She said that what mattered was where one was going and to complete the plan God had set.
“UJ, rise up!” Tyson shouted, fist pumping and the students joined simultaneously.
Jumping up and down, Tyson summoned one of her own, the character of Ma Z acted by the popular uZalo star Thandeka Dawn King, to come on stage. The audience went wild at the sight of her. She walked in slowly, a deep frown on her face and a blue checked bucket hat settled askew on her head. She looked gangster.
With her stage presence so intense and deep in character, she began to retell the unfortunate story of Ma Z as per the Lockdown script. Most listened and held their smart devices up to capture the story on video.
“Umhlaba uyahlaba ‘ngane zami,” she said, meaning that the world is unkind.
The character of Ma Z had been raped while she was young by a fellow family member, who at the time of the ordeal decided to disclaim her as part of his family.
“I don’t know how many times he did it because at that I let my spirit stray from my body. When he was done . . . he threw a R10 note at me!” she said with tears in her eyes.
Family members and neighbours, the community and even her aunt did not believe her story. Had she known that she was depressed, because such matters are not accepted and discussed in most black communities, she would have dealt with it at that point.
Continuing her story of Ma Z, she explained that one night after going out to relieve some stress she returned home to see her daughter straddled on her relative’s lap as he unbuttoned his pants.
“At that very moment, guys I lost my mind, I lost my mind! Everything turned red and at that point I decided this dog should die. I felt I was in a war and a voice told me that ‘Makunyiwe!’” she said, raising her hands in the air, head back and veins popping out her neck.
She explained that after her trance her daughter and aunt were close-by crying but she soon realised that the ‘dog’ had died.
Although a sad story to hear while witnessing the emotion in the teller’s eyes, Thandeka highlighted that Ma Z went to jail afterwards. She said that it was because of the depression and anger that had been kept in for years that turned red in Ma Z’s eyes.
She advised that it is best to speak to social workers, counsellors and even pastors should a person be in trouble.
Much more could have been said, but the voices of just two spoke the loudest. The message was clear, that the youth had to change, UJ had to rise up. TOJ
Reporting by Sinenhlanhla Ngwenya; Editing Gaby Ndongo
Image courtesy to Sinenhlanhla Ngwenya