Wednesday, 4 November 2015
Saturday, 26 September 2015
Living heritage could help to promote a positive African identity in a globalising world, Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa said at the official National Heritage Day celebration held in Limpopo on 24 September.
"We are called upon as a nation to embrace each other's cultures, to practise each other's cultures, to learn and understand each other's languages, so that we can speedily increase the cohesion that we are trying to build," he said.
This year's Heritage Day had the theme "Our indigenous knowledge, our heritage: towards the identification, promotion and preservation of South Africa's living heritage". "We have rich diversity and culture. Let us display to the world that indeed we are a cohesive, one nation," he said.
Song and dance
Heritage Day was observed with colourful traditional clothing and performances across South Africa and by South Africans across the world.
In London, High Commissioner Obed Mlaba welcomed guests to South Africa House and in his address said “living heritage plays an important role in promoting cultural diversity social cohesion and reconciliation, peace and economic development.”
The High Commissioner said “It is important for South Africans to reclaim, restore and preserve our living heritage.”
The event included a diverse panel discussion with Roland Azor a South African Diversity consultant based in Brighton, Souleyman Garcia, who has made programmes filmed in South Africa, Njabulo Madlala, a dynamic South African baritone singer based in London who runs an annual singing competition in South Africa under his Amazwi Omzansi Africa banner, Angela Harvey, a teacher, facilitator, mentor, Film Maker, Performance Poet and Singer, Matthew Hahn, whose play, The Robben Island Bible has been performed in the UK, US and South Africa and who has recently facilitated a pilot 'Ethical Leadership' workshop in Soweto and Catherine Elliot a South African who is writing a thesis based on her ongoing research into the South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland collections at the British Museum. The dialogue was fascilitated by Makeda Coaston, a strong champion for cultural equity in the arts and heritage sectors.
The event was rounded off by a musical performance and guests mingled into the afternoon.
Saturday, 15 November 2014
Click here to listen to a podcast with Professor David Schalkwyk on the Robben Island Shakespeare
Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick last night (13 November) launched Global Shakespeare at a sold out event at the Barbican. The event included a reading of Matthew Hahn’s play, the Robben Island Bible, based on passages chosen from a copy of Shakespeare’s complete works by the prisoners on Robben Island, South Africa.
A research and teaching collaboration, Global Shakespeare aims to shape the future agenda in Shakespeare studies across criticism, performance, history, media and popular culture.
Global Shakespeare critically explores and celebrates how Shakespeare’s work is translated, adapted and performed in other cultures. Global Shakespeare Director, Professor David Schalkwyk says that the partnership is fundamentally about challenging the notion that “Shakespeare belongs to a single language, culture or people”.
“Whether London or Lahore, we aim to shine a light on the truly global nature of Shakespeare’s work. It is our belief that there is no pure or true way to interpret or perform Shakespeare’s text. The meaning and understanding of his work is culturally specific, and Global Shakespeare seeks to understand and celebrate that reality,” said Professor Schalkwyk.
Current Global Shakespeare initiatives include a collaboration with the People’s Palace Projectson Shakespeare in Brazil; a partnership with Dash Arts on a multi-lingual production of King Lear; a celebration in 2016 of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth; and the 500th anniversary of the Venetian Ghetto.
According to Jerry Brotton, QMUL Professor of English and Associate Director of Global Shakespeare, the project “will make it possible to see Shakespeare in his world and ours. Our research, teaching, and public engagement will help us understand the translation of Shakespeare’s work from the Globe to countries, cultures and communities all over the world. Our ambition is unique, as is our scale: no other project brings together such a diverse group of scholars and students working on the global and intercultural nature of Shakespeare.”
Upcoming international activities include a 2016 conference on Global Shakespeare with the University of Cape Town, a 2015 exhibition and series of performances in London of the British Black and Asian Shakespeare’s Multi-Cultural Shakespeare: 1930-2010, and a 2015 symposium on Shakespeare in China.
Future research projects include the use of Shakespeare to investigate the history of the emotions; an extensive “connected communities” project to explore Shakespeare, human rights and areas of conflict; and a series of performance-based workshops with translators to forge closer links between translators, actors and scholars.
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
I am pleased to announce that Maryam Hamdi will be joining the reading again after her performance in Glasgow as part of the opening of the Commonwealth Games in July. Joining Maryam will be actors Richard Peppple and Waleed Akhtar.
Monday, 20 October 2014
Opening addresses by Professor Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford and Professor David Schalkwyk, Academic Director for Global Shakespeare.
There will be a play reading from Matthew Hahn’s play, The Robben Island Bible, based on the copy of Shakespeare signed by apartheid prisoners on Robben Island (including Nelson Mandela), and featured in the British Library exhibition, “Shakespeare—Staging the World” in 2012.
Formal proceedings will be following by a drinks reception in the Conservatory Terrace. The event will conclude at 8.00pm.
If you are interested in attending please register your attendance using the following link: http://bit.ly/1pM2BXS
Wednesday, 24 September 2014
The presentation evolved around the play, The Robben Island Bible, by British playwright and lecturer at St Mary’s University in London, Matthew Hahn. Hahn also presented video clips of the interviews he did with former political prisoners of the Island, as well as clips of staged readings of scenes from his play. These included the passages of Shakespeare’s Complete Works, which were marked by the prisoners as meaningful for them, on request of Sonny Venkatrathnam. The book was brought to Venkatrathnam by his wife, Theresa, during his time of incarceration. While on the Island, he disguised it as a ‘religious book’ with Hindu religious motifs pasted onto it. According to Venkatrathnam, the warders feared two things: ‘the authorities, and God’. Hahn introduced his work in conversation with Robben Island CEO Sibongiseni Mkhize, and global Shakespeare scholar David Schalkwyk.
In recalling his ‘first encounter’ with the book, Hahn recollected the detail of the scent of eucalyptus leaves that emanated from between the pages, carrying the trace and scent of the Island. Speaking of the often controversial memories the interviews with ex-political prisoners brought to the fore, Hahn said that the genre of drama is especially able to embrace the multidirectional and, at times, conflicting memories of the ex-political prisoners – ‘since this is (also) what makes a good drama.’
Hahn sees the book as a repository of traces, resonating with hints of the thoughts and concerns of the prisoners at specific moments in time, which he then translated into the staged readings, which we viewedviewed – for instance, SB Benghu’s choice of a passage in Henry V that speaks of tolerance, of different elements that constitute a whole, or Chuk Iwuji’s reading of Wilton Mkwayi’s choice of Malvolio’s utterances from Twelfth Night. At the APC event, Khwedi Mkalipi read his selection of Puck from A MidsummerNight’s Dream.
Of course, Nelson Mandela’s choice was included in the clips, which, as we hear it today, resounds profoundly with his Rivonia Trial speech:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
The CEO of Robben Island Museum, Sibongiseni Mkhize, drew the audience’s attention to the question of how we think of and represent Robben Island today, especially in the light of the deeper history of the Island: ‘Robben Island is not reducible to the Robben Island of the political prisoners under apartheid,’ he said, and spoke of the Island’s first-known political prisoner, the Khoisan leader and interpreter, Autshumao. He also spoke of the location’s history as a place of banishment for people infected with leprosy, and as a place of exile for early political prisoners, including women (such as the Khoisan interpreter, Krotoa), and unwanted persons as far back as the 17th century; of Imam Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, who was exiled to the Island in the 1740s, and imprisoned religious and political leaders from the Eastern Cape during the Frontier Wars of the 19th century – including the much revered Xhosa prophet and leader, Nxele Makana, who drowned while trying to escape with others from the Island.
Mkhize reminded us that, even when speaking of the recent past, we often exclude political prisoners, like Robert Sobukwe, but also internees from Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique. Who, he asked, is honoured as a political prisoner today? In illustrating this point, he drew attention to the large number of detainees under apartheid, many of whom (women and white male political prisoners) were not incarcerated on the Island but on the mainland. Mkhize’s insightful interventions led to a robust discussion of the politics of representation.
The second respondent, David Schalkwyk, distinctively put into perspective the meaning of the ‘Robben Island Bible’ for the political prisoners: firstly, he made clear that it does not appear in any of the memoirs of the political prisoners he knows. Secondly, he recalled the position of an ANC politician, who asserted that the prisoners at the time were: ‘inspired by the Freedom Charter, not by Shakespeare…’
Lionel Davis, who has been a visitors’ guide at Robben Island’s educational centre for many years, asked: ‘What do young South Africans take from the Island?’ He posed a further related question as to whether this World Heritage Site was still an important point of identification for young South Africans.
In answer to this, Khwedi Mkhaliphi spoke of the past struggle as an anchor for identification, of the bravery, faith, deprivation of the prisoners, of ‘not reading the newspaper, not knowing what was happening in the country and in the world’. He also pointed to the role of women in the struggle, as fighters, yet also as the wives and girlfriends of those confined to the Island; of these women being followed and spied on. ‘How come [is it],’ he asked, ‘that now the only person who played a role in the struggle [at least in international discourses] is Mandela?’
Hopefully, as Hahn’s staged readings and play circulate, it will become clearer and clearer to audiences around the world that this was not the reality of South Africa’s broad-based struggle against the injustices of apartheid.