Chosi Ntsomi! making a Xhosa theatre identity by adapting Nongenile Masithathu Zenani's folktale about a rite of passage for Xhosa girls

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Inspired by the performativity of Xhosa cultural belief systems, my study aims to develop dignified theatrical roles for African women. This essay explores the potential of perceptions of Xhosa cultural women, configured in oral storytelling, as a means towards developing a base for Nguni theatre. This explication speaks to the capacities of African women models in re-shaping an ancient storytelling tradition for the development of South African theatre. The focus is on the recordings of a late matriarch, Nongenile Masithathu Zenani's storytelling sessions in Xhosa and the possibilities these present for a post-apartheid and postcolonial South African theatre stage. This research traces the boundaries set by the Xhosa culture, first on women, and secondly on performance. It unlocks the meaning and the significance of traditional song and dance, space, audience and stage properties, and the actual and potential uses of each of these aspects in making an Nguni classical theatre. The explication develops a vocabulary for theatrical performance derived from a rural South African perspective and explored in an urban setting. It establishes commonalities between the stories - narrated and performed - and the audience, concerning issues pertaining to (Xhosa) womanhood in post-apartheid South Africa.

Includes bibliographical references.