On 25 November 2017, (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), the international 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign kicks off yet again. President Zuma has suggested that we should make this a 364 day a year campaign, but we keep pace with the rest of the world in observing it until Human Rights Day on 10 December. This includes Worlds Aids Day on 1 December.
The National Children’s Theatre has always been very proactive in teaching young people to protect themselves from sexual abuse, and their plays travel extensively around Gauteng and other provinces, playing in school halls, school rooms and even outdoors to age appropriate groups.
The current play on circuit is a work entiled “A Short Cut to a Short Life” and its schools tour is funded to the tune of US$10 000 by the US Consulate General’s program to support South Africa in its efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence.
The work is graphic, harrowing even, but at the end of the hard-hitting work the children are debriefed by the actors. The fastest growing transmission of HIV/AIDS is from older man to younger woman, and this is because young women are often tempted to accept “blessers” or what the older generation knew as “sugar daddies”.
The young people of schools in Soweto, Diepsloot, Alexandra, Mamelodi, Sebokeng, Tembisa and Cosmo City ask questions, put forward their thoughts and engage with the cast in such a way that it is clear that they are evaluating their options and making life decisions for themselves based on the new understanding of the issues tackled in the performance they have just witnessed.
Some of the consequences explored include missed schooling, infection with STIs including HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, the alienation of parents and other valued family members and the community.
The hardest hitting moments in the play, however, come at the end, where there is a powerful depiction of the violation of the right of these young women to choose where they are headed. The particular theatrical device used here is an apple, with which the young and innocent girl plays. At the point at which she voluntarily enters into a flirtation with an older, rich and married man, the apple passes into his hands. At the end he viciously bites, chews and spits out the apple in a horrifying enactment of what he is doing to her body and mind. The apple is destroyed and the young women picks up the pieces and leaves the stage.
One part of me screamed that no child should see this work, while another part me reasoned that every child should see this work. We need to be presenting the facts of life to young people and allowing them to engage with them in theory before they have to do so in real life.
The CEO of the National Children’s Theatre, Moira Katz, thanked the US Embassy and the Consulate General for their financial support in this quest.
A Short Cut – To A Short features Gamelihle Bovana as Papa T (Terrence), the older lover of Banothile, Primrose Cele as Mama Mtshali, Fisiwe Kubeka as Banothile aka Naughty – a friend of Nombuso’s, Kenneth Mlambo as Big D (David) and the lover of Nombuso (although he has trouble remembering her name), and Kgaogelo Monama as Nombuso Mtshali, an honours student with leadership potential. The work was directed by Siphumeze Khundayi.
Production dates are 23 November – 01 December 2017.
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