Nelson Mandela, the iconic character who changed the face of South Africa, rose to political activist, the persona of the political prisoner and finally the first president of democratic South Africa. Everyone knows (of) him. As a brand he is just behind Coca Cola.
This charming work, Making Mandela, by Jenine Collocott and Nick Warren (a husband and wife creative team), looks at the young Mandela.
The work received research and commissioning funding from the National Arts Council in 2009. It was on at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. It is beautifully contrasted with an organisation born in the same year as our beloved Madiba, the Afrikaner Broederbond and it works its way through the events of the first half of the 20th century with some aplomb. The use of masks, humour and dramatic pathos paints the journey from baby to boy to young man – from the Eastern Cape to Johannesburg. The works ends there. One is almost disappointed. Then one takes a breath and realises that this is how it should be. The rest we know. It is legend. It is history. What we have just sat through is a human drama exquisitely presented by a very, very slick team. This personal journey of the boy who gets himself into trouble (his very name, Rolihlahla, means “troublemaker”) while aspiring to serve his people and his king (he has royal blood) is contrasted by the birth and the rise of the Afrikaner Broederbond.
The talented cast that brings this wonderful tale to life comprises Jaques de Silva, Barileng Malebye and Mlindeli Zondo – becoming, with the help of magnificent masks, all the characters who contributed to the making of Mandela.
I saw Making Mandela at the Auto and General Theatre on the Square where it is just ending its run on 3 October 2015. You will regret it if you miss this because it is an absolute pleasure to watch.