Napo Masheane evokes the spirit of Charlotte Maxeke in new play ‘Tsogo’

Napo Masheane. Picture: Supplied

Napo Masheane. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 14, 2021


A new biographical play, “Tsogo”, celebrates the life and legacy of political activist Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke.

Written by award-winning playwright Napo Masheane, and directed by legendary theatre practitioner Mapula Setlhako, “Tsogo” (The Rise of Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke) tells the phenomenal story of Maxeke.

Maxeke is known for organising and leading the historical anti-pass march in 1956. She was also the founder of the Bantu Women's League in 1918.

Tsogo, a resurrection of one of South Africa’s Pan African, black conscious, and feminist pioneers, premiers at The South African State Theatre (SAST) from Thursday, October 14, and runs till Sunday, October 31.

The season of the play will coincide with her date of death, 16 October 1939.

This hard-hitting production draws on “Re-Birthing, Re-Imagining and Re-flecting” on Maxeke’s her-story, which will be echoed through seven female voices on stage.

The ensemble represents seven portraits of Maxeke, focusing on seven prominent milestones of her life, almost symbolising the “seven decades of her tapestry, against not just tradition and religion, but also patriarchy” and politics.

Makgomo Mannya-Maxeke. Picture: Supplied

“I believe that we need the traits of Mama Charlotte Maxeke more than ever before if we are to realise her dreams of gender equality and a future where women will be valued as individuals and members of society.

“Women are still fighting the same fight she fought many years ago. Women still do not feel safe to walk the streets without being afraid that someone will pounce and invade our bodies and minds,” comments Setlhako.

She adds: “Not many know about her as a creative person during her life and activism in the 18th century.

“We need to set up unity of sisterhood in the arts fraternity, which will help raise the next generation of female artists to the next level.

“We need structures that will help shatter the ceilings of patriarchy and gender inequality in the arts.

Through choral and Afrocentric melodies, “Tsogo” brings to life Maxeke’s imaginative childhood, her coming of age, her undying resistance and resilience, her bravery to travel the world as an artist (chorister) in pursuit of a dream to empower the black child.

Maxeke was born in Botlokwa, Ga-Ramokgopa in Limpopo 150 years ago. At the age of 20, she joined the African Jubilee Choir, which toured the UK, US, and Canada from 1891 to 1893.

Following the demise of the choir, Maxeke was awarded a scholarship to study at Wilberforce University in Ohio (USA), becoming the first black South African woman to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree.

Tickets are available for R130 at Webtickets.