The poetic play “We Are Dying Here” written and performed by Siphokazi Jonas, Hope Netshivhambe, and Babalwa Makwetu, has been adapted into a film and in succeeding success the film is finally going to premiere and that too at the PAFF.
In a blog post, Loud-Ink reviewed the theatre performance writing that “the successful unveiling of the sacred offering in Cape Town beaconed my eager anticipation for the Johannesburg leg of the production. #WeAreDyingHere – a poetry and music production rendered by writer, poet, performer, producer, and all-around creative, Siphokazi Jonas in collaboration with the poetic pen-genius of Hope Netshivhambe and the supernatural vocal prowess of singer, Babalwa Makwetu – was a definite must-follow, must-attend for me.
The evening of 29 February 2020 went on to mark one of the most surreal encounters of my existence. Upon entrance into the Lesedi Theatre (within the Joburg Theatre), an interest-bidding stage awaited; donned with newspapers all around, as well as crates and packed sacks. As the audience settled into their seats, the theatre lights were dimmed. What followed the silent anticipation of the audience were recordings of women making vivid narrations of their multiple encounters with death from the words and deeds of men. These naked revelations of a daily death of sorts covered the room with an almost tangible feeling of dismay in what has been accepted as reality.
This preceded what, in the words of renowned musician Zolani Mahola, could only be deemed as “… a tremendous work of staggering, heartbreaking beauty.” The production was nothing short of an impeccable offering; an urgent outcry, a bellow as from a bull at the mercy of his slaughterer. As they transported truth on their teary voices, one couldn’t help but be drawn to the edge of their seat – one is I. Tears welled up in my eyes multiple times, their words battered me into a pulp of goosebumps. The reality of a dying species was laid bare on the stage; through the stories, the poems, the stories in the poems, the music, the stories in the music.
They related the heart-wrenching tales of women in whose itinerary, “survive men”, is a daily task to be checked off, women who “live as if preparing for war.” “Every step taken by a woman is a prayer to not be seen, A prayer to turn invisible, A prayer to grow claws in her vagina.” “Every breath taken by a woman upon her arrival is a sigh of relief, is a sigh of ‘I made it alive in one piece today, I hope tomorrow is the same, I hope to be invisible, to not make a sound, to not bother a man, to not bother his demons, to not attract his demons.’”
To call what they presented upon that stage just a performance would be a blatant insult – they made an altar of the stage and laid up truth and vulnerability as an offering. It was because of this honesty and purity of intention that the audience was even more captivated and moved to compassion. Their exit from the stage was followed by immediate applause and a standing ovation from an awestruck audience in whose ears were still echoing the incredible voice of Babalwa (I can’t prove it, but I am certain).
Another round of applause filled the room as they came back onto the stage for the Q&A segment. More than questions, messages of thanks were poured out, coupled with well-wishes for the production and honest testimonies from audience members who saw their stories laid out on the stage. The room became a safe space for vulnerability, with Siphokazi bidding all to give someone a hug on their way out (with permission). I reckon the most important question in the Q&A segment was, “How can we support this?” It showed, not only a desire to see the message amplified but a willingness to contribute to this. “ABUSE TRADES IN CURRENCIES OF SILENCE.” #WeAreDyingHere
While statistics and news headlines scream of a species threatened to extinction, lips remain mum. There is a hush in homes, on street corners, in taxi ranks, bank queues, all around; much so from the perpetrator and his kind. During the Q&A, it was appalling and equally saddening to hear men confess that only now have they been awakened to the reality of the ongoing slaughter (literal and illustrative) of women, as well as the constant fear and disquietude they live in. She, with other female voices in the room, echoed one sentiment; “It is not women’s duty to teach men how not to murder them.” As I was walking out of the theatre, I bumped into the three ladies on their way out, and all I could say was, “May God bless the ministry because I believe that this is indeed the work of the Lord.” “Mother said that these boys… want to heal themselves, but they don’t know how to do it.” #WeAreDyingHere.“
Thankfully if you missed the theatre show it will soon be available as a film for all to hear this captivating message. The movie features Siphokazi and Bianca Vermooten as producers alongside them are executive producers Siya and, Rachael Kolisi and directed by Shane Vermooten. We are awaiting its release eagerly and pray it continues to give a voice to the many voiceless victims. Follow them on social media @wearedyingherfilm or #wearedyinghere and visit their website to subscribe for the latest notifications at www.wearedyinghere.com.
SACHH raises the flag and raises the bars.