Interview with Linda Ngele: Dramatising Serote


Renowned poet, comrade Mongane Wally Serote is working with the Jozi Book Fair (JBF). The JBF does organising of working class people around reading and literature. Serote gave his works to the JBF to work with. The Tsohang Batjha (TB) youth are hard to perform the some of Serote’s poetry to dramatic form and theatre. In doing this, these youth are working with the talented and vibrant facilitator, Linda Ngele. They are working on the poem titled History is the Home Address.

According to Ngele, the youth did not see the importance of history at first. They said that history did not have any meaning for the present day situation. Ngele said that she did not try to oppose their views and instead gave them the poem History is the Home Address after which the transformation in the way in which the TB youth thought about the present began to change. She was happy with this as she says she wants to work with people who are trying to bring about change.

Serote’s poem is in the form of a dialogue between two lovers who evaluate the impact of colonialism on the way African people carry themselves. At the same time it looks at social issues such as the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, racism and slavery. Ngele told us that after the reading session and discussion, one of the learners said that he needed to do more research on the subject.

Asked about the challenges of dramatising the epic poem, the facilitator said that she herself had never before worked with a poem as a source of the story and that the main difficulty is “trying to get them out of their mindset, make them believe they are the writer”. She said that the youth needs to know that they cannot portray the poem without believing they are the characters in the writing. Ngele added that she is not worried about the emotions when the drama is being performed because once they have become one with the writer, they will naturally feel the emotions.

To overcome the stumbling block, she said she did a focus exercise with the group and wants them to memorise their lines by 17 August 2019 when they next meet in their preparations for the upcoming JBF Festival (to be held on 29 August to 01 September, at Mary Fitzgerald Square and the adjacent Workers Museum on one side and the Africa Museum on the other).

As a facilitator of the process, Linda Ngele said that she is happy with seeing transformation happening but said that they need to work hard to be ready by the time the Festival starts. They will perform on the 1st of September at the Fair.

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