Award-winning director, Mandla Mbothwe’s acclaimed, iKrele leChiza…the sermon, fires up The Baxter Flipside following its successful debut run last year.
In collaboration with the professional cast and the talented Magnet Theatre Youth Company, iKrele leChiza…the sermon is an opportunity for audiences to immerse themselves in a visual exploration and a vivid African soundscape.
The production takes on a magical realism style that explores a dreamlike state of spiritual ecstasy and, as in a sermon, is highly musical and choral.
iKrele leChiza…the sermon is part of a six-year research project called Re-Imagining Tragedy in Africa and the Global South (ReTAGS). The ReTAGS project’s principal investigator is Mark Fleishman and Mandla Mbothwe is a co-investigator. The production has had three iterations thus far: an initial recorded version, Sonic Passages; a Live/Digital Mutation and the live production.
It follows the narrative of two siblings, a brother and sister named Luphawo and Mesuli, who find themselves navigating a child-headed home, a current reality for many South African children. Their parents are stuck in respective liminal spaces between life and death; their mother in an ancestral orientation room because she refused death until her body could no longer go on and their father is in a spiritual exile.
Luphawo seeks ways of finding their father as well defending and restoring humanity in their home while his sister, Mesuli (wiper of tears/comforter) has to prematurely take on a maternal role in their home. Mbothwe asserts that ‘home’ in the play represents humanity, a village spirit that is currently under siege.
Mbothwe uses iKrele leChiza…the sermon to argue that humanity or the spirit of Ubuntu “bubambeke ngeyesigcawu” (hanging on by a spider’s web) has become a wound in African society and is constantly under attack. Through the production, he asks "how can you heal or tend to a wound while the wound is still being attacked?" Mbothwe draws from Iintsomi, African oral tradition of storytelling and Homer’s Odyssey terms to differentiate between the ‘good and evil’ characters in the play.
iKrele leChiza…the sermon is connected to Mbothwe's previous productions by a through-line of engaging tragedy as catastrophic loss, namely, a mass loss of human life or ‘isivuma’kufa’ to die, so as to be reborn.