Play puts crowds in uncomfortable zone.
Lebo Mashile brings the spirit ofSaartjie Baartman alive in Venus vs Modernity this Heritage Month.
The play, produced by Mashile and directed by Pamela Nomvete and Koleka Putuma, forces society – especially black women – to look at what’s happening around them.
The trio took a period of five years to put this production together. Baartman was shipped away from the Cape Colony, as a slave, more than 200 years ago and subjected to harrowing abuse. She was exhibited as a “freak” in London due to her ample posterior. This being Mashile’s first foray into penning a full-length theatrical production, she candidly expressed a side to her that many have not seen.
She embodies Saartjie, taking audiences through a time capsule of history, alongside Ann Masina who plays Venus. The piece has the potential to make anyone uncomfortable at first glance. About the inspiration for the play, Mashile says: “Black women have been reluctant to speak because historically you find that your family silences you, and in today’s world, you get trolled at work and social media.” Nomvete says the production is unique because the cast and directors were able to explore and release the feminine power that had been suppressed for centuries.
For Masina, this is her first play where she is forced to expose her imperfections in a nude coloured catsuit, made by Moonchild Sanelly.
Her vulnerability of the moment grabbed the audience as she danced and moved across the stage. The play is hot, uncomfortable and necessary. It is at the Market Theatre until September 28.
The play will also travel to Holland for the acclaimed Afrovibes Festival, an African-Dutch theatre festival with six performances in five different theatres from October 3-13.
By Nokuthula Zwane